The French have an expression: when you want to determine who committed a crime, answer the question: A qui profite le crime?—Who profits from the crime? In the case of the explosion at a Gaza hospital, Hamas reaped a major PR profit. And MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace and correspondent Raf Sanchez did their part to help out during Tuesday evening's Deadline: White House.
Denunciations of Israel for its alleged responsibility were ringing out across the Arab world and beyond, demonstrations at US embassies, etc. President Biden's visit to Israel and the region has come under a cloud. Jordan canceled a summit at which Biden was scheduled to meet with Jordanian and Egyptian leaders, as well as Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority.
Even so, Wallace brought on Sanchez, who proceeded to express skepticism over Israeli claims that it was a failed Palestinian rocket attack that hit the Gaza hospital, not an Israeli airstrike. Sanchez never expressed a whisper of doubt over Hamas's accusations of Israeli responsibility.
According to Sanchez, "The Israeli military at this point is not providing any evidence to back up its claims that this was a Palestinian Islamic Jihad rocket."
"This kind of death toll is not what you normally associate with Palestinian rockets," he proclaimed as if the numbers provided by Hamas were true. "These rockets are dangerous, they are deadly. They do not tend to kill hundreds of people in a single strike in the way that Israeli high explosives, especially these bunker buster bombs that are used to target these Hamas tunnels under Gaza City, do have the potential to kill hundreds of people."
Despite the fact, that Hamas was a terrorist organization with a history of playing games with death tolls in Gaza, Sanchez argued Israel was the real liar. "We should say, finally, that there are instances in the past where the Israeli military has said things in the immediate aftermath of an incident that have turned out not to be true in the long run," he said
Questions for Sanchez and Wallace:
- Has Hamas provided "any evidence to back up its claims that this was" an Israeli attack, or does Sanchez's skepticism only work one way?
- As to the ability of a Palestinian rocket to kill many people, according to Sanchez's own report, people were huddled in a courtyard. In any case, Sanchez suggests that an Israeli "bunker buster" bomb could have caused this. But this wasn't a bunker under Gaza City: it was a hospital. Sanchez offered no evidence that a bunker buster was involved.
- Finally, as to Sanchez's statement that the Israeli military has made statements in the aftermath of an incident that turned out not to be true in the long run, has Hamas ever lied about its responsibility for an incident? Rhetorical question, Raf.
To her credit, Wallace did offer pushback to Sanchez's pointing of the finger at Israel. Applying the "a qui profit le crime?" approach, Wallace pointed out that "Israel seems to have zero incentive structure to do anything to jeopardize this visit from President Joe Biden."
And in the light of day, we learned that only the parking lot was hit.
Here's the transcript.
MSNBC's Deadline: White House
4:11 pm EDT
NICOLLE WALLACE: What are the different things you're hearing to explain this tragic loss of civilian life in Gaza?
RAF SANCHEZ: Right. Nicolle, so this is a very fast-moving and chaotic situation, but here's what we know.
The Palestinian health ministry is saying the Al-Ahli hospital, which is in Gaza City in the northern half of Gaza, took a direct strike from an Israeli aircraft. They are saying, at minimum, hundreds of people are dead at this hospital.
This strike, or the explosion, let's say, the explosion seems to have taken place in a courtyard in front of the hospital where families were gathering, believing, fatally as it turned out, that they would be safe if they were within hospital grounds.
Now, as you said, the Israeli military is saying that at the time this hospital was hit, Palestinian Islamic Jihad. which is a smaller terrorist group that operates alongside Hamas in Gaza, was in the midst of firing a barrage of rockets into Israel, and the Israeli military says intelligence from multiple sources that we have in our hands indicates that Islamic Jihad is responsible for the failed rocket launch which hit the hospital in Gaza.
So, Nicolle, this is an absolutely classic fog of war situation, and we should be really clear, NBC News is not able to get into Gaza right now. The Israeli border is sealed. The Egyptian border is sealed. Our teams are not able to get there and to verify this directly.
We should also say that the Israeli military at this point is not providing any evidence to back up its claims that this was a Palestinian Islamic Jihad rocket. They are citing intelligence that they have not yet made public.
We should also say that this kind of death toll is not what you normally associate with Palestinian rockets. These rockets are dangerous, they are deadly. They do not tend to kill hundreds of people in a single strike in the way that Israeli high explosives, especially these bunker buster bombs that are used to target these Hamas tunnels under Gaza City, do have the potential to kill hundreds of people.
And we should say, finally, that there are instances in the past where the Israeli military has said things in the immediate aftermath of an incident that have turned out not to be true in the long run.
. . .
WALLACE: Raf, you know, fog of war has such a historic connotation, right? But we don't live in a world that allows for it anymore. And that is the most factual thing I think we probably can know for sure, right?
My question, though, and I appreciate all of the -- all of the context and all of the background. Israel seems to have zero incentive structure to do anything to jeopardize this visit from President Joe Biden. What are they saying about the importance and how -- I mean, it seems that everything, including a possible ground invasion, has hinged perhaps on some of these high-level visits, two trips from U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, high level trip with a counterpart of U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. And as you said, the hours-away arrival of U.S.President Joe Biden.
SANCHEZ: Yeah, that's right. And, Nicolle, we should be really clear. The Israeli military says it does not target hospitals. It would not target hospitals. That doesn't mean that there couldn't accidentally be a strike on a hospital. Hospitals have been hit in Gaza in previous campaigns.