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Opinion/Atrocity Propaganda and Nefarious Bloodbaths

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U.S./E.U. actions and policies have this primary characteristic: they “[strive] consistently and without intellectual scruple to put a good face on [the neo-fascist state of Israel 1 2, a client state within its] sphere of influence. The bias is so great, the willingness to accept factual claims and verbal promises of [the Israeli government] so blatant, the down-playing of the claims and pain of the victims of official terror [(i.e the Palestinians)] is so obvious, that these actions and policies are themselves solid evidence of the primary official commitment to the dispensers of terror [(i.e Israel)] rather than its victims. They constitute a defense of client fascism, not of human rights.” 3 (p.16) The whole atrocity propaganda elicited by Israel must be understood in this context.

As a reaction to the unprecedented incursion of Hamas resistance on October 7 2023, the state of Israel instantly portrayed its brutal response and violent aftermath to “appear [as] a war of defense against a menacing, murderous[, and barbaric] aggressor. There must be no ambiguity about who the public is to hate”, following well established propaganda principles first elucidated by American political scientist and communications theorist Harold Lasswell. 4 It might be noted, incidentally, that Israel’s harsh response is in line with fascist ideology; with its stated goal to promote the right of a supposedly superior people to dominate, while purging society of supposedly inferior elements. 5

Two months into the conflict, sufficient evidence is available to assess Israeli claims about nefarious bloodbaths 6 allegedly perpetrated by Hamas, that have been employed as emotional, seductive, and engaging narratives to maintain public support for Israel’s sadistic assault on Gaza. Israel’s atrocity propaganda has been so effective, that even U.S. president Joseph Biden ominously expounded that it is “vital for America’s national security” to ensure it expands Israel’s “qualitative military edge”, to prevent spreading Hamas “threats to America”. 7 “We might observe in passing that the claim that [Hamas] might endanger U.S. [national] security makes Hitler sound sane in comparison, with his ravings about Czechoslovakia as “a dagger pointed at the heart of Germany” and about the threat posed to Germany by the “aggressiveness” of the Poles.” 8

“A […] major feature of [Israel’s atrocity] propaganda campaign [is] that it [involves] a systematic distortion or suppression of the highly relevant historical context as well as substantial fabrication — the grim reality evidently [does] not suffice for the needs of propaganda — and fabrication [persists] even after exposure”, with the transparent aim at laying all blame solely at Hamas' doorstep. Another “striking feature of the campaign [is] the constant pretence that the [“horrors” committed by Hamas] are being ignored except for the few courageous voices that seek to pierce the silence, or that some great conflict [is] raging about the question of whether or not there have been atrocities [committed on October 7]”. 3 (p.22)

In light of the indisputable facts, it is instructive to review and deconstruct Israel’s most extreme, highly dubious, and unsubstantiated atrocity fabrications repeated ad-nauseam, as they have been very effective to draw the U.S. and other sponsors into unequivocal support for its murderous attack on Gaza.

— Atrocity Fabrication: Hamas cutting off babies' heads

Fabricated acts of barbarism against babies committed by official enemies have a long history. During World War I British propaganda promoted a fictitious atrocity claiming that German soldiers were deliberately mutilating Belgian babies by cutting off their hands, in some versions even eating them. Despite that, everyone wanted to believe the story, and many went so far as to say they had seen the mutilated baby. 9

Unforgettable, the tearful testimony of Nayirah Al-Ṣabaḥ, the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the United States, in front of American congress, allegedly claiming to have witnessed, as a nurse, how Iraqi soldiers brutally extracted Kuwaiti preterm babies from their incubators and left them to die; setting the mood in favour of the first Iraq war. The public relations agency Hill & Knowlton responsible for the professional setting of that event, presumably rehearsed the performance with the girl. Following this, Al-Ṣabaḥ’s testimony has come to be regarded as a classic example of modern atrocity propaganda. 10

The most recent specimen of atrocity propaganda emerged as “international outcry erupted, when Israel’s Foreign Ministry announced that [on October 7 Hamas] militants […] had killed 40 “babies,” and beheaded several of them, during an incursion into Kfar Aza, a kibbutz on the Gaza border. [U.S.] president Joseph Biden [immediately echoed] the claim [made by a spokesperson for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu] during an October 10 White House Rose Garden address, while networks across the West carried the story without a shred of critical scrutiny.” 11 The next day, the Israeli government said they could not confirm the report made by Netanyahu’s office, 12 a fact diligently omitted from official U.S. public discourse.

As if by design, the myth of Hamas beheading babies made its way to the highest levels of U.S. leadership, drawing Israel’s sponsors deeper into complicity. Despite the absence of evidence corroborating these horrific allegations 12, and unchallenged evidence supporting the conclusion that these atrocities are pure fabrication 11, different variants of these concocted claims were and are still being echoed by U.S. and E.U. leaders, too numerous to count.

Even as late as November 16, that is 5 weeks after these claims have been thoroughly debunked, and everyone who cared to look understood that there was no evidence of Hamas cutting off babies' heads, U.S. president Joseph Biden doubled down on the fabricated atrocity by claiming that:

“Hamas has already said publicly that they plan on attacking Israel again like they did before, to where they were cutting babies’ heads off to burn — burning women and children alive.” 13

In short, fabrication persists even after exposure, and is regarded as irrelevant in the face of a “higher truth” that is independent of mere fact. “This particular feature of [Israeli atrocity propaganda] is apparently internalized by the intelligentsia, who comes to believe it in dramatic defiance of the obvious facts” 3 (p.22), truly reaching comical proportions.

— Atrocity Fabrication: Baby baked to death in an oven

Another case of atrocity propaganda originated by an Israeli emergency worker who claimed he saw the remains of a baby that has been baked to death in an oven by Hamas terrorists at Kibbutz Kfar Aza on October 7. 14

Undeterred by the fact that the respected Israeli news outlet Haaretz wrote that this is a “[case] of false or unsubstantiated claims by Israelis; for example, the false claim about a baby that was “baked in an oven” by Hamas terrorists” 15, later joined by a Jerusalem Post article that ends by quoting the exhortation to “… follow the progress of the story from the beginning, the continuous change of the versions of the story, and fact check it … [it simply] could not [be] verified” 16, this invented atrocity was echoed many times on social media 17, illustrating that “the propagandists' regard for the truth is negligible, and stories involving women[, ] children[, and babies] are too hard to resist.” 9

However, we shouldn’t be too quick to doubt the grim, howbeit mostly accurate, first-hand Israeli eyewitness 18 reports of atrocities encountered on October 7, based on their factual claims. 19 There is no disagreement that many of the civilians killed on that day died in especially brutal ways. What ought to be disputed based on available evidence, is the manufactured narrative that Hamas committed all the atrocities, real or exaggerated, as an incontestable conclusion. Columbia University historian Rashid Khalidi highlighted this non-sequitur by pointing out that “we are still waiting for forensic evidence about the destruction of life and property in border settlements and cars: was all of that caused by the light arms and RPGs Hamas fighters had with them, or was some of it caused by the tank artillery and Hellfire missiles employed in retaking them?” 12

There is a growing body of evidence, diligently ignored, indicating that shelling by Israeli tanks was responsible for many of the casualties incurred in Israeli kibbutzim 20 21 22 23, and that Nova festival attendees were killed by Israeli Defense Force combat helicopters that arrived at the scene. 24 25 It is also confirmed that at least some Israeli military casualties have been caused by Israeli aerial strikes. The commander of the Gaza Division, Brig. Gen. Avi Rosenfeld, “entrenched himself in the division’s subterranean war room together with a handful of male and female soldiers, trying desperately to rescue and organize the sector under attack. Many of the soldiers, most of them not combat personnel, were killed or wounded outside. The division was compelled to request an aerial strike against the [Erez Crossing] base itself in order to repulse the terrorists.” 26

In a recent MSNBC interview, senior Israeli prime ministerial advisor Mark Regev admitted that the Israeli government made a mistake on the number of casualties on October 7, stating that “[Israel] had the number at 1,400 casualties. And now […] revised that [number] down to 1,200 [as it is] understood that [the figure of 1,400 is] overestimated. We made a mistake. They’re actually bodies that were so badly burnt we thought they were ours. In the end, apparently, they were Hamas terrorists.” 27 Lamentably, there was no follow-up question asking Mark Regev to clarify if Hamas possessed weapons capable of the incendiary firepower required to burn so many people beyond recognition, or if this was caused by precision guided incendiary Hellfire missiles fired from Israeli Apache helicopters. 21 28 Another question diligently omitted is why Hamas would brutally kill many Israeli civilians including many of their own fighters by burning them beyond recognition, if by the IDF’s own admission Hamas' central aim of attack was to take hostages 29 to facilitate a prisoner exchange.

— Atrocity Fabrication: Hamas gang raped women

Two months after October 7, right-wingers and Israeli activists are decrying the failure and tepid response of the international community in addressing allegations of rape and sexual abuse committed by Hamas. 30 Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan laments “the silence of international bodies who are supposedly defenders of women to be deafening” in light of recent Israeli claims that “Hamas used rape and sexual violence as weapons of war.” 31 The Times of Israel deplored that “after an initial statement on October 13 condemning the attacks on civilians in Israel, all of UN Women’s public comments about the war and its impact on women had centred only on Palestinians”. 32 If the purpose of this newly erupted gender equality campaign with its crusade against gender-based violence targeting Israeli women is to restore Israeli prestige after the battering it has taken in the past, the campaign can be considered a success judging by the number of Israeli and U.S. mass media articles it elicited. 33 34 35

The amount of cynicism embedded in decrying that too much attention is “centred around Palestinians suffering” is suffocating. Note that “people [and organisations] with a genuine concern for [gender-based equality] would react quite differently, and give serious consideration to the likely effects on the victims.” 3 (p.42) Therefore, UN Women’s efforts focused on the disproportionally larger amount of violence against Palestinian women and girls inflicted by the massive Israeli assault on Gaza. “Such calculations are not always easy ones but the issue will not be lightly dismissed by people who engage in protest for other than self-serving or strategic motives. Such persons will also consider how their finite energies can be distributed most efficaciously”, 3 (p.42) trying to concentrate protest efforts where they are most likely to ameliorate conditions for the victims of oppression.

The careful observer will note that Israel’s reaction is an instance of its campaign of constant pretence that the atrocities committed by Hamas are being ignored, except for a few courageous voices such as Gilad Erdan and former Meta executive Sheryl Sandberg 33 that seek to pierce the silence. “Although [Hamas] terror in [Israel] was always relatively modest and paled into virtual insignificance when compared to that of the [Israeli] government 36, [Israeli and] U.S. mass media created the opposite impression by selective emphasis of fact, outright lies, and a very effective program of “atrocities management”.” 3 (p.19) Therefore “the contention by right-wing critics [and activists] that the media overplayed [Israel’s] bad behaviour and understated that of [Hamas] can be properly interpreted in this way: if the disproportion of violence was [20 (Israel) to 1 (Hamas)], and the media attention ratio was 1:1, then while the media would have been underplaying [Israeli] violence by [20:1], the right-wingers and activists had a point that we were still allowed to see something of what [Israel] was doing to [its] victims.” 3 (p.19)

The emphasis ought to be closer to home though, on policies that protest may be able to influence, namely on the failure of the Israeli government to act upon allegations of gang rape and sexual violence, instead of calling out the international community. A cursory review of the facts reveals that both, the U.S. and Israeli administrations were painfully aware of rape allegations almost immediately after October 7. The first remarks on the “terrorist attacks” in Israel by U.S. president Joseph Biden already asserted as fact that women have been raped:

“Young people massacred while attending a musical festival to celebrate peace — to celebrate peace. Women raped, assaulted, paraded as trophies.” 29

And there is some truth to this statement. Indeed, young people have been massacred at a music festival, a woman holding a dual German-Israeli citizenship has been assaulted, tortured, paraded around Gaza, and confirmed dead two weeks after being kidnapped. 19 However, with respect to allegations of rape, a Times of Israel article published on November 9 “[reflects] the [Israeli] government’s official position, [by pointing out] that Defense Minister Yoav Gallant [repeated multiple times] that Hamas committed acts of “murder, rape, [and] kidnapping,” […] [during the first] month [after its attack]. However, the [Israeli] government has not released explicit footage or pressed rape survivors to share their stories. Nor have the forensic services released formal reports on whether their findings were consistent with sexual abuse.” 37 One really has to bend over backwards to ignore the fact that despite prevalent accusations of widespread rape, “physical evidence of sexual assault was not collected from corpses.” “This seemingly official decision not to provide clear evidence of rape to [victims families and] international media has fed persistent criticism, […] framing [allegations of] rape as a claim rather than a fully substantiated fact.” 37

What is virtually absent from public discourse is a debate about why the U.S. and E.U. went into overdrive to instantly condemn Hamas and provide vast military support as well as diplomatic cover for Israel, but did not even consider offering to support efforts to investigate alleged Hamas crimes by sending their expert crime scene investigation units 37 to assist Israel’s undoubtedly overwhelmed first responders and investigation units. Another gaping hole in the framework of discussion is criticism of U.S./E.U. efforts to derail any attempts to organise and coordinate international organisations to conduct independent investigations and inquiries into alleged war crimes. Now, two months “after the massacre, the window for collecting physical evidence of rape that can stand up in court is [long] closed.” 37 It is therefore difficult to perceive the recent outcries accusing international organisations of neglect instead of the Israeli/U.S government as anything else but glaring cynicism, in particular due to all the various innuendos about ubiquitous sexual abuse but not even a pretence of evidence.

“The elaborate array of hysterical lies and deception has reached proportions so astonishing as to elicit some comment even in the Establishment media. Deceit on this scale is an important and revealing phenomenon. The flood of lies plainly conceals some simple truths. The first of these is that [Israel] is devoting itself with desperate intensity to [label every Palestinian man, women, and child as legitimate targets], so as to justify [their efforts to expel all Palestinians from Gaza] in “self-defense”. The second of these simple truths is the real reason for [U.S. unwavering support of Israel’s ethnic cleansing campaign], concealed in the flood of lies: namely […] the threat of a good example [in the form of successful resistance to a U.S. backed occupation], which must be extirpated before the “virus” spreads, “infecting” the region and beyond. These truths are evident from the actual record in the present case and are fully in accord with traditional U.S. practice that is completely rational in terms of the real interests that determine policy.” 38 (p.114)

  1. Israeli Neo-Fascism Threatens Israelis and Palestinians Alike, Haaretz, Oct.3 2023. ↩︎

  2. Israel’s ultra-Orthodox Are Its Latest Neo-fascist Thugs, Haaretz, Apr.24 2021. ↩︎

  3. Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman, The Washington Connection and Third World Fascism: The polotical Economy of Human Rights - Volume 1, Haymarket Book 2014. ↩︎

  4. Aaron Delwiche, Domestic Propaganda During the First World War, retrieved Nov.30 2023. ↩︎

  5. Oliver Woshinsky, Explaining Politics: Culture, Institutions, and Political Behavior. New York: Routledge, 2008, p.156. ↩︎

  6. Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman, Counter-Revolutionary Violence: Bloodbaths in Fact and Propaganda, Warner Modular Publications, 1973. ↩︎

  7. Remarks by President Biden on the United States’ Response to Hamas’s Terrorist Attacks Against Israel and Russia’s Ongoing Brutal War Against Ukraine, Oct.20 2023. ↩︎

  8. Noam Chomsky, On Power and Ideology - The Managua Lectures, Haymarket Books 2015, p. 40. ↩︎

  9. Celia KingsburyFor Home and Country: World War I Propaganda on the Home Front, U of Nebraska Press. p. 67, 2010. ↩︎

  10. Nayirah testimony ↩︎

  11. Max Blumenthal and Alexander Rubinstein, Source of dubious ‘beheaded babies’ claim is Israeli settler leader who incited riots to ‘wipe out’ Palestinian village, The Grayzone Oct.11, 2023. ↩︎

  12. Glenn Kessler, Biden yet again says Hamas beheaded babies. Has new evidence emerged?, The Washington Post, Nov.22 2023. ↩︎

  13. Remarks by President Biden in a Press Conference | Woodside, CA, Nov.16 2023. ↩︎

  14. Orlando Radice, I saw a baby who had been baked in an oven, says Israeli emergency worker, The Jewish Chronicle, Nov.1 2023. ↩︎

  15. Sagi Cohen, Denial of Hamas' October 7 Massacre Is Gaining Pace Online, Haaretz, Nov.7 2023. ↩︎

  16. Judith Sudilovksy, Controversy surrounds reports of Israeli baby found burned alive in oven, The Jerusalem Post, Nov.12 2023. ↩︎

  17. Chris Menahan, Hamas Did Not ‘Bake a Baby in an Oven,’ Israeli Journalists Report, Information Liberation, Oct.31 2023. ↩︎

  18. Gideon Levy, Roger Waters: Stop Denying the Hamas Atrocities of October 7, Haaretz, Nov.19 2023. ↩︎

  19. Ofer Aderet and Ben Samuels, ‘Tortured and Paraded Around Gaza:’ Kidnapped Israeli-German Raver Confirmed Dead, Haaretz, Oct.30 2023. ↩︎

  20. Wyatt Reed and Max Blumenthal, Israeli tank gunner reveals orders to fire indiscriminately into kibbutz — report, The Grayzone, Nov.27 2023. ↩︎

  21. Max Blumenthal, October 7 testimonies reveal Israel’s military ‘shelling’ Israeli citizens with tanks, missiles, The Grayzone, Oct.27 2023. ↩︎

  22. Ali Abunimah and David Sheen, Israeli forces shot their own civilians, kibbutz survivor says, The Electronic Intifada, Oct.16 2023. ↩︎

  23. Max Blumenthal, Israeli October 7 posterchild was killed by Israeli tank, eyewitnesses reveal, The Grayzone, Nov.25 2023. ↩︎

  24. Wyatt Reed, Haaretz confirms Grayzone reporting it dismissed as ‘conspiracy’ showing Israel killed own festivalgoers, Nov.21 2023. ↩︎

  25. Joshua Breiner, Security Establishment Assessment: Hamas did not know in advance about the Nova festival, and recognized it from the air, Haaretz, Nov.18 2023. ↩︎

  26. Amos Harel, Failures Leading Up to the Hamas Attack That Changed Israel Forever, Haaretz, Oct.20 2023. ↩︎

  27. Alperen Aktas, ‘We don’t know how those children died’: Israeli top adviser on child deaths in Gaza, Anadolu Agency, Nov.19 2023. ↩︎

  28. Thomas Newdick, Israeli AH-64 Apache Appears With Mysterious Hellfire Missile, The War Zone, Nov.6 2023. ↩︎

  29. Remarks by President Biden on the Terrorist Attacks in Israel, Oct.10 2023. ↩︎

  30. Shira Rubin, Israel investigates an elusive, horrific enemy: Rape as a weapon of war, The Washington Post, Nov.25 2023. ↩︎

  31. Israel-led UN special session condemns world silence on Hamas using rape as weapon of war ↩︎

  32. Jackie Hajdenberg, Amid outcry over silence, UN Women posts, then deletes, condemnation of Hamas attack, The Times of Israel, Nov.28 2023. ↩︎

  33. Katherine Rosman and Lisa Lerer, Accounts of Sexual Violence by Hamas Are Aired Amid Criticism of U.N., The New York Times, Dec.4 2023. ↩︎

  34. Toi Staff, Graphic report details new evidence of rape, sexual violence during October 7 rampage, The Times of Israel, Dec.3 2023. ↩︎

  35. Hamas gang raped and beheaded women at rave massacre, fresh testimony reveals, The Jewish Chronicle, Dec.3 2023. ↩︎

  36. Norman Finkelstein, Gaza: an inquest into its martyrdom, University of California Press, 2018. ↩︎

  37. Carry Keller-Lynn, Amid war and urgent need to ID bodies, evidence of Hamas’s October 7 rapes slips away, The Times of Israel, Nov.9 2023. ↩︎

  38. Noam Chomsky, On Power and Ideology: The Managua Lectures, Haymarket Books, 2015. ↩︎

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