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The Beheaded Babies that No One Saw: How the Spread of Fake News Stories and Propaganda Affects Palestinians

posted on: Oct 25, 2023

By: Menal Elmaliki / Arab America Contributing Writer

How the Spread of Fake News Stories and Propaganda Affects Palestinians 
Headline from the New York Post.

The Allegations

Oct, 10, 2023, it was a barbaric, grotesque, morbid, and surreal scene that couldn’t be fathomable, the beheading of 40 Israeli babies in Kfar Azza, a kibbutz near the south Israeli and Gaza border.

It was a severe allegation that prompted Israel to retaliate aggressively to Hamas’s surprise attack and garner favorable opinion of war. The unverified story stemmed from a “single Israeli news report.” (Washington Post). The story grossed the front cover of American, British, and global tabloids. On X, the story received over 44 million views, and 24 major news stations ran the story on the air. In total, over a billion people have seen the report of Hamas brutally killing 44 babies.

The claim is traced to i24 correspondent Nicole Zedek who claimed to have surveyed the horror scenes left behind in Kibbutz Kfar Aza, allegedly where Hamas invaded and murdered dozens Israelis in their homes, leaving no rock unturned and leaving behind a murderous mess, having dismembered babies, women, and took over a 100 hostages. Celebrities have reacted immediately and reposted the news article circulating. Palestinian congresswoman Rashida was “hounded” with the story and on social media and Hamas’s actions was being compared to the Holocaust. 

The Retraction, Following the Trail of Lies

Not long after its circulation there were allegations of the story being a lie. The story hasn’t been fact-checked or verified and the Israeli army refused to confirm the story stating, it was disrespectful to the dead. Nicole Zedek had during a live broadcast that she had spoken to Israeli soldiers who had witnessed the beheaded babies. Andaolu, a Turkish news agency was the 1st to report that the Israeli army was unable to confirm the claim.

Disheartening as it concerning, the unconfirmed story had been picked up almost immediately, circulating widely on media headlines and social media platforms. The platforms, especially X, have been buried with fake news on the Israel- Hamas War. The i24 reporter who had surveyed the area had retracted her statement, going on X to tweet, “soldiers told me they believe 40 babies/ children were killed..” The claim had even been supported by the White House, President Biden, in a press conference, having admitted he saw the pictures and later the White House retracted stating, he had not seen photos or confirmed any such reports.

“I never really thought that I would see, have confirmed, pictures of terrorists beheading children,”

Biden comments following the deadly attack of Hamas

The US president spokesperson stated that the presidents comments were based on news reports and the claims of Israeli officials. The story has continued to spread because it has not been verified and proven false. Israeli military officials have compared Hamas’s killings to ISIS but cannot confirm the claims. Hamas has denied the claims that they beheaded babies, “calling them lies.

Shockingly, it was recently discovered by Haaretz news, a major news agency in Israel that i24 “functions as a proxy for Netanyahu’s family,” and they have employed at least 35 veterans of the Israeli forces as staff. Establishing Palestinians as baby killers, dehumanizes them, and gives Israel the go to commit war crimes, hiding behind the banner of self-defense. It was believed that the story was fabricated as part of a campaign to retaliate aggressively against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and justify as well as accelerate their ethnic cleansing.

The Damage is Done

Their use of babies is strategic because they are emotive, it can be used to rouse an emotional response and violent one. Not only is it being used as justification for collectively punishing the Gaza Strip but also to garner global support for Israel.

According to Israeli officials Hamas’s attack has killed more than 1,300 people and injured 3,000. So far, Israel’s retaliatory attack has killed more than 5,000 people. According to Gaza’s Ministry of Health, 40% of the dead are children. Ironically, a fake news story of dead babies is being used in order the justify the killing of real ones.

Damage in Gaza Strip during the October 2023 Israeli- Hamas Conflict.
Palestinians inspect the damage following an Israeli airstrike on the El-Remal aera in Gaza City on October 9, 2023.

A million people are displaced in the Gaza Strip, thousands of buildings are destroyed, roads are destroyed and blocked, ambulances bombed, humanitarian aids are prevented from coming in and 1 million Palestinians are deprived of water, food, electricity, and basic supplies needed to survive. Essential medicines are prevented from reaching the population, doctors and medical staff are forced to operate without painkillers and morphine. A tragedy that forces parents to write their children’s names on their limbs to identity them just in case they die. Families are sleeping in same rooms because “they want to live together or die together.”

Propaganda like the beheaded babies is used to justify the October 17 bombing of the Al- Ahli hospital, Israeli officials claiming that it was a Hamas base.

Hananya Naftali, an Israeli government spokesman, tweeted this.

The bombing of the hospital has killed over 500 people with many calling it a massacre and the UK pledging to investigate calling it a “devastating loss of human life.” 400 Palestinians were killed recently when Israel carried out more than 300 air attacks within 24 hours.

Wadea Al-Fayoume, a Palestinian American murdered boy in Illinois, US.

Although journalist Nicole Zedek took to X to retract her statement not everyone has done the same. The silence has caused a global outrage, citing that fake news and propaganda like this is used to fuel the flames of violence and creates a hostile environment. Much of the public is left confused or are indoctrinated as they caught up in a vacuum not being able to differentiate between truth and falsehood. The bombardment of unfettered news has caused the death of a 6 year old Palestinian boy, Wadea Al-Fayoume, in Illinois, US. He was stabbed 26 times by his landlord in response to the “escalating right-wing rhetoric on the Israel-Hamas war.”

Media plays a huge role in fueling Israels war on Gaza. “Apartheid-Israel’s genocide of Palestinians and military occupation of historic Palestine is not made possible without the violent portrayal, criminalization, and condemnation of Palestinians as inherently subhuman “terrorists. The narratives depict Palestinians as savages, barbaric animals, who brutally slain innocent children and are always blood thirsty for war; not the 75 year long history of violent Israeli military occupation. Palestinian armed struggle is then seen by the public as terrorism, not a means of armed struggle for self- determination and freedom. Propaganda is used to disguise political aims, disseminate false news to not only deceive own population but the global world.

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