Lobby lusts for attack on Gaza’s main hospital

The pro-Israel lobby is threatening violence against al-Shifa, the largest hospital for referrals in Gaza City. 

Omar Ashtawy APA images

Imagine having a job where you try to sell the idea of bombing a hospital as reasonable.

Daniel Schwammenthal has such a job. He is one of the top pro-Israel lobbyists in Brussels.

Over the past few days, Schwammenthal claimed that “Hamas has its headquarters” either in or under al-Shifa, Gaza City’s largest hospital for referrals.

His claim was a reply to eyewitness testimony from the humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders (known by its French acronym MSF). A nurse working with MSF had observed that the huge numbers of people taking shelter in al-Shifa “think the hospital is a safe place but there is no safe place.”

There is only one possible interpretation of Schwammenthal’s comment. He is implicitly contending that it would be justifiable for Israel to target al-Shifa based on allegations that Hamas is active in the vicinity.

Schwammenthal made his comment shortly after Ehud Barak, a former Israeli prime minister, dropped a strong hint that an attack on al-Shifa is being prepared.

It is not the first time that Schwammenthal – who heads the AJC Transatlantic Institute (an office of the American Jewish Committee) – has made an argument like that.

During Israel’s 2014 offensive against Gaza, he offered excuses for Israel’s mass killing of civilians by referencing the seventh paragraph of a Washington Post article.

The paragraph in question branded al-Shifa “a de facto headquarters for Hamas leaders, who can be seen in the hallways and offices.”

In Schwammenthal’s view, The Washington Post did not seem to realize “the enormity of this information.” He added: “The leadership of one of the warring parties is hiding in a hospital, a clear war crime validating Israeli accusations.”

Contrary to what Schwammenthal inferred, The Washington Post is not an exemplar of impartiality. It is a publication which reflects the thinking of the US establishment – an establishment then as now siding vociferously with Israel.

The paragraph which caught Schwammenthal’s eye did not validate Israel’s accusations.


Even if “Hamas leaders” were spotted in a hospital – an allegation which any independent journalist should treat skeptically – that hospital remains civilian infrastructure. And targeting a healthcare facility – as Israel has done repeatedly – remains unforgivable.

Schwammenthal should be strongly denounced for his incitement to violence against Gaza’s medical system. Data from the Gaza health ministry cannot be treated as reliable, in his mind, as that ministry is really Hamas.

It is not hard to see what Schwammenthal is driving at here. He is smearing the entire medical system – or at least the administrators of that system – in Gaza as terrorist, the catch-all term Israel applies to acts of resistance against its military occupation.

Despite signaling that he would be in favor of an attack on one hospital, Schwammenthal appears adamant that Israel could not be guilty of attacking another.

Investigations by Channel 4, Al Jazeera and the organization Forensic Architecture all suggested that Israel’s denials of responsibility for last week’s explosions at al-Ahli hospital lacked credibility.

Schwammenthal, though, has amplified Israel’s clumsy attempts to exonerate itself. He has referred to the “hospital fiasco” – indicating he is far more perturbed at how anyone could doubt the veracity of Israeli claims than how patients were killed in their hundreds.

Schwammenthal has been careful to display a modicum of compassion lately by calling Palestinian civilian deaths “terrible.”

In doing so, he has sounded a slightly different note than he did on 13 October. Then, he tweeted that “Western allies killed up to 80,000 civilians” so they could defeat Islamic State.

Schwammenthal indicated that it would be hypocritical to berate Israel for bombing civilians, when the US and its European partners also have civilian blood on their hands.

The truth is that Israel’s crimes cannot be separated from those of “Western allies.” The US and the European Union are directly complicit in Israel’s genocidal war against Gaza.

Schwammenthal is a cheerleader for that genocide.

Israel’s mass evacuation orders have horrified everyone with the most basic understanding of international law. For Schwammenthal, displacing a million people or so is “obviously legal and humane.”

The team headed by Schwammenthal has a declared annual budget of nearly $600,000.

That may help to buy support for Israel among the Brussels elite. But the massive Palestine solidarity demonstrations in various European cities prove there are many ordinary people who refuse to be hoodwinked.