What we learned, and what now.
I’m Isaac Saul, and this is Tangle: an independent, nonpartisan, subscriber-supported politics newsletter that summarizes the best arguments from across the political spectrum on the news of the day — then “my take.”
Let me start with something important: Most of what I'm about to write is going to be focused on media failures over the last couple of weeks.
Why is this important? Because I don't want anyone to misunderstand this piece as downplaying what has happened — or is currently happening — in Gaza. In a 24-hour period between Monday and Tuesday this week, the Israeli military struck over 400 targets in Gaza, including at least one refugee camp.
The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry — which is almost certainly lying and inflating the number of dead — said those strikes killed 700 people. That number is impossible to verify because, tragically, an estimated 27 journalists have also been killed in this conflict, mostly in Gaza by Israeli strikes (that number comes from the Committee to Protect Journalists, not the Gaza Health Ministry). As you might expect, the number of dead journalists makes a lot of the journalists who haven't died want to get out of Gaza. All of this makes finding and reporting accurate information extremely difficult.
Almost everything I feared most when I wrote about this two weeks ago is coming to fruition. Israel’s military is a sophisticated and advanced force with the backing of the most powerful military in the world — the United States’ — and it is now bombarding densely populated civilian areas. Gazans are struggling to flee while humanitarian aid is trickling in or being blocked entirely.
Some leaders of Hamas are being killed, which is part of Israel's goal, and which I think reasonable people should support. However, civilians — including women and children — are likely dying by the hundreds, if not thousands. While Hamas is firing rudimentary rockets into Israel that are often intercepted by the Iron Dome, fall harmlessly in rural areas, or land somewhere in Gaza, Israel is literally turning entire city blocks into rubble.
I don’t think calling this a "war" captures the reality of the situation. Instead, what is happening there continues to be an ongoing humanitarian disaster and tragedy, which is why so many nations are unified in calling for a ceasefire.
At the same time, Hamas still holds over 200 hostages that the Israeli and American governments are trying to free. Israelis continue to mourn the deadliest day in the nation’s history. And the hatred toward Israelis and Jews that was already being engendered in Palestinian children throughout Gaza and the West Bank is now being cemented by the horrors of this bombardment. That hatred is spreading across the Arab world and even to some American college campuses. A new generation of Israelis, Jews, Palestinians, and Muslims who view each other as mortal enemies is forming right before our eyes.
With a ground invasion reportedly coming, water running out and hospitals overwhelmed, things will only get worse. Israel is going to attempt to destroy Hamas, which has embedded itself deeply into civilian infrastructure, ensuring more horror. All the while, we are barrelling toward what could be a regional war that could draw in Lebanon, Iran, and even our own troops.
That is the current state of affairs, and as events unfold we should be careful not to lose that plot.
However, today I am not going to report on the violence; I am going to talk about the al-Ahli Arab Hospital explosion from earlier this month. Because I think it’s also very important, and I don’t want it to be overlooked.
A quick rewind: On October 17, The New York Times published a headline that read "Israeli Strike Kills Hundreds in Hospital, Palestinians say." In the body of the story, The Times reported that Israel had bombed a hospital where civilians were sheltering, killing 500 people. It cited the Gaza Health Ministry, and included a sentence that the Israeli government was investigating the claims.
The event they were reporting on was, without question, an unmitigated calamity. A horrific tragedy of war. But 10 days later, it is clear almost every detail of those initial reports was false.