Claim of ‘forty beheaded babies’ is the tip of the iceberg for the media manufacturing consent for Israel

CNN babies story Israel Palestinian Gaza media
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As Israel continues its war crimes against the Palestinian people in Gaza, Western media and politicians have been complicit in the attempted genocide.

Central to this has been the claim that Hamas beheaded babies during its attack on Israel on Saturday 7 October. However, this allegation forms part of a wider media and political propaganda operation. Its explicit goal is to dehumanise Palestinians and absolve Israel of its own, heinous crimes. Not that this is new – as it’s always been the rationale for violent colonisers.

‘Babies… their heads cut off’

The claim that Hamas beheaded around 40 babies originated from right-wing, Netanyahu-backing Israeli news channel i24 News on Tuesday 10 October. Reporter Nicole Zedek originally said an Israeli reservist soldier (who we now know is a right-wing racist settler) told her he found:

Babies [with] their heads cut off.

Corporate journalists began repeating the claim on social media. However, as early as 10 October some Israeli army officials were telling media outlets they had no evidence of Hamas beheading babies. Yet on Wednesday 11 October, many UK newspapers ran the story on their front pages anyway without question.

These accusations were accepted at the topmost levels by Western superpowers – with US president Joe Biden claiming that:

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

Read on...

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The far-right Israeli ambassador to the UK, Tzipi Hotovely, repeated the claim on BBC Newsnight on Wednesday 11 October. She said:

40 bodies of babies that their heads were cut off… we’ve seen… the bodies of those babies and children, and actually this is evidence-based.

However, by 12pm on Thursday 12 October, the claim was unravelling.

The claim unravels

For example, CNN had to backtrack just after 12pm BST. It reported the Israeli government ‘could not confirm’ the beheadings. However, the claim was repeated again by right-wing editor of the Jewish Chronicle Jake Wallis Simons on Question Time on 12 October. Co-panelist Piers Morgan also echoed this – saying:

Jerusalem Post reporting tonight confirmation of these rumours that were swirling that some of… [the babies] have been beheaded.

The right-wing Jerusalem Post did indeed claim this. It said – citing Netanyahu’s office sharing photos of the beheaded babies with the US’s Anthony Blinken, then putting them on X.

However, the Israeli PM Twitter account does not show decapitated babies – nor does it claim to. Bear in mind, hours earlier the US government had to walk back Biden’s claim – admitting he had not seen any photos of beheaded babies and was basing his assertion on news reports and the Israeli government.

By the early hours of Friday 13 October, even Reuters began to unpick the story. It noted that, within photos Israel had given to NATO:

There were no images to suggest militants had beheaded babies – a particularly explosive accusation that first emerged in Israel’s media and initially confirmed by Israeli officials.

Yet now, what’s looking like a piece of Israeli propaganda that turned into a lie repeated by countless journalists and politicians, will stick. It will stick partly because it forms part of a colonialist propaganda campaign against Palestinians.

Western corporate media: colonialist to the core

This campaign to paint Palestinians as aggressors and barbarians, and to dehumanise them, is sometimes explicit – like Simons’ now-deleted tweet:


Some of it is more subtle yet still obvious – like right-wing Telegraph columnist Madeline Grant’s latest emotive – yet still racist – article:

Then a lot of it flies under the radar, barely even being noticeable.

For example, the Canary analysed the first 20 minutes of BBC News at Six on 11 October. When you remove anchors Clive Myrie and Sophie Raworth’s monologues, the BBC dedicated 84% of the reporting to human stories and analysis around Israel. It gave just 16% of the same type of coverage to Gaza.

Some of the propaganda is implicit – like the BBC‘s use of the passive voice (Palestinians have “died”, while Israelis have been “killed”):

And some of the propaganda is enacted by corporate media like the BBC simply not reporting on stories in a timely manner – like Human Rights Watch confirming that Israel is illegally using white phosphorus in Gaza. Amnesty is also investigating this.

Yet all of the propaganda – whether its proponents say it with their chests or whisper it in the shadows – has the same goal: the incitement against, and ‘othering’ of, Palestinians:

It’s easy for the corporate media to get away with this – as they have a partially captive audience. Research from Birmingham University found that over 25% of people in the UK “feel negatively” towards Muslims, with over 36% saying Islam “threatens the British way of life”.

Politicians inciting ethnic cleansing in Gaza

So, this gives the majority of politicians a free pass to also engage in this propaganda – like the head of the EU Ursula von der Leyen’s brazen double standards:

Others are implicitly endorsing Israel’s war crimes – like leader of the UK Labour Party Keir Starmer:

Then, others try and tread that oh-so white, Western liberal path of implying both sides are equally to blame – like US senator and alleged left winger Bernie Sanders:

And some, like UK defence secretary Grant Shapps, even turn on media like the BBC for not being biased enough:

The end result of all this is becoming clear: Israel’s attempted ethnic cleansing of Gaza:

As leader of the Palestinian National Initiative Mustafa Barghouthi told VOA News:

clearly now Israel is conducting not only bombardment and a total blockade, but also, they are trying to conduct ethnic cleansing of 2.2 million Palestinians… We are facing here a very grave, very serious violation, not only of international law, but of the life of human beings.

As of 13 October at 1pm, despite Israel’s actions, the corporate media’s dehumanisation was continuing apace:

Manufacturing consent for Israeli war crimes against Palestinians

To be clear, none of this is about debating whether Hamas should or should not have killed Israeli citizens. What this about is ‘manufacturing consent’ to the ideas that:

  • Hamas’s attack was unprovoked – despite decades of Israeli apartheid, killings of Palestinians, and war crimes against them.
  • The far-right Israeli government is the victim and a ‘good guy’ in this – when it is an openly racist, authoritarian colonial occupier.
  • Israel’s actions in Gaza and the Occupied Territories are permissible – when it is clear it has repeatedly broken international law in recent days.

However, Western colonialists were never going to manufacture anything other than consent for hatred of Palestinians – and for Israel’s killing of them. It’s sadly working, too. Polling in the US found more people support Israel than the Palestinians – with support having spiked since Hamas’s 7 October attack:

US polling Israel Palestine

However, the reality of the situation is very different.

Responding with the colonialist’s “internal logic”

Professor of sociology Muhannad Ayyash wrote for Al Jazeera that the Palestinians have reached a breaking point. He surmised that:

They could continue to try and plead their case, from within the confines of their prison, obeying the rules of those who imprison them, and hope that someone with some humanity would eventually intervene to stop their constant brutalisation. Or they could start acting in a manner that responds to the brutal, inhumane system in which their tragedy is playing out in accordance with that system’s internal logic.

Looking at the states holding leadership positions in the global arena – states that have a say over the fate of Palestinians, there is one clear thing: these states, including Israel, and its main protector the US, achieved their positions of influence, power and security through organised state violence. No state or actor in this current system can gain enough authority and power to ensure its safety and dictate its will on the global community by merely speaking of higher ideals. In fact, higher ideals are proclaimed in this wretched world order only to conceal the brutal violence required to gain and maintain any authority whatsoever.

As such, mirroring the behaviour of the states oppressing Palestinians through acts of organised violence emerged as a rational way forward for the Palestinian struggle.

Colonialists still writhing in their immoral abyss

Dr Yara Hawari is a Palestinian academic. She told Sky News:

This was not a provocation by Hamas. The provocation is that the Israeli regime has for decades placed Palestinians under colonial occupation – and in Gaza in particular we’re talking about 16 years; a brutal military siege… the level of dehumanisation is astounding. One of your previous guests that was providing analysis said something incredibly horrific.

He said that, referring to a ground invasion… ‘every piece of rubble in Gaza is a potential bunker for Hamas’.

Every piece of rubble was people’s homes, was children’s hospitals, was children’s schools. There are still bodies in the rubble – Palestinian bodies… that have not been recovered. And the level of dehumanisation is so phenomenal. You can’t even see us as humans. You’re talking about this as if it’s some kind of military exercise.

We’re talking about real lives here. And the onus has to be placed on the Israeli regime which is continuing to receive not only international impunity, it’s actually receiving more arms on top of the billions of dollars of military aid it already receives…

This is, no doubt about it, an ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people in Gaza.

We are watching, in real-time, the West descend further into the writhing immoral abyss that it has existed in for centuries. The circumstances may be different, but the rationale is always the same. Brown people are expendable if it suits colonialist agendas. It’s just this time, the sordidness, depravity, and inhumanity of white people against the Palestinians is even clearer for everyone to see – and will not be forgotten.

Featured image via Middle East Eye – YouTube

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  • Show Comments
    1. Most of the above is entirely correct. But where is the author’s empathy for the many civilians murdered by Hamas (an organisation of misogynistic, LGBTQ+-hating, religious fanatics that was, in part, helped to form by Israel)? Certainly, some of the stories in the corporate media are lies, but many are not. The Palestinian people have a legal right to armed resistance to Israeli occupation, so long as that resistance does not target civilians, which it clearly did.

      It is not a betrayal of the Palestinian cause to condemn the war crimes committed by Hamas, any more than it would be a betrayal of the heroic anti-Nazi fight by so many brave Russians to condemn the Stalinists’ massacre of almost 22,000 Polish officers at Katyn in 1940.

      Plainly, the attacks were provoked by Israel which is guilty of far greater crimes against the Palestinian people over the last 75 years, but we who support this cause cannot blithely excuse what Hamas has done. One of the Hamas strategies is to provoke Israel into massive and criminal responses against the people of Palestine, which is a cynical and immoral policy at best, results in even greater death and suffering for the people, and brings their liberation no closer. We cannot pretend otherwise.

      1. There is a lot of what you say, that I agree with. To be very clear-if your child is murdered it matters very little if it was shot, beheaded or thrown against a wall.
        Israel has given good warning of it’s intentions, i have no doubt they will bring down the wrath of god on Hamas.
        Apologists for Palestinians always seek to draw a difference between Palestinians and Hamas. In all possible ways they are one and the same, all Hamas fighters are Palestinians, they are not some invading army launching attacks from another country.
        Hamas is pledged to the destruction of Israel and the killing of all Jews, as has been pointed out they habour hatred of women, who they opress LGBT and quite probably anyone not a member of Hamas. They are most certainly Nazis in every possible way.
        For the avoidance of doubt, I support Israels right to defend itself by invading Gaza.

        1. So you support massive war crimes as a response to the smaller war crimes of Hamas. Collective punishment was the response of the Nazis during WWII, such as after the killing of Reinhard Heydrich in Czechoslovakia in 1942, such as the Lidice massacre. Hamas are not the Nazis in this scenario.

          “all Hamas fighters are Palestinians” but not all Palestinians are members of Hamas. Many Palestinians are deeply opposed to the religion, the fanaticism, the tactics and the goals of Hamas. Yet all Palestinians are a monolith to you, as they are to the far-right Israeli government, the international corporate media and to political misleaders such as Keir Starmer. And to make it clear: Israel, as a settler-colonial, Jewish-supremacist, apartheid state has no right to exist any more than did Israel’s former ally, apartheid South Africa. The only solution is in democracy for all. And…

          Freedom for Palestine!

          1. Israel has every right to exist, as does a Palestinian state, of which there are now two! Jews long ago settled in what became Palaatine and then rightly became Israel in 1948. Israel is the historic homeland of the jews. The 1948 borders are recognised under international law.
            I do not think all Palestinians support Hamas, but just as we had to defeat the Nazis in 1945 to save the German people, Israel must do whatever is necessary to defeat Hamas.
            I don’t see much support for Hamas from the West Bank Palestinians or from any Arab nations, none of their Arab brothers are rushing to support Hamas, I wonder why? Jews fear Hamas, but Arabs fear Hamas even more.

            1. There is no Palestinian state. Perhaps you could name its capital. There are Palestinian people, whom Zionists openly want to erase.

              Israel is not the “historic homeland of the jews” any more than it is the homeland of anyone else. As the Old Testament describes in detail, the Israelites invaded Canaan (modern Palestine/Israel), slaughtered its people and stole their land. Maybe to you, that is a fine way to create a ‘homeland’. Democracy is perhaps a concept alien to you, as it is in Israel for all except Jewish people – and even that is extremely weak.

              Hamas, in part a creation of the Israeli government to foment disunity amongst the Palestinian people, does not represent that entire people any more than the Republican party or Conservative party represents the peoples of the USA and UK.

              “Israel must do whatever is necessary to defeat Hamas” which, as is clear, means disregarding international laws forbidding crimes such as collective punishment and targeting civilians. Apartheid Israel’s state is guilty of many great crimes, such as its detention without trial of thousands of Palestinians, murder of children, torture and a whole list of other grievous offences, reported by credible bodies such as the leading Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem.

              Your defence of the apartheid Israeli state reads like the defences made in the 1970s and 80s of apartheid South Africa (to whom Israel offered nuclear weapons) and is just as morally repugnant.

            2. @Boismalet : ” Israel is the historic homeland of the jews.”

              That’s interesting. My own historic homeland is in what is today the Republic of Ireland, which my forebear left 9 generations ago in the 1700s.

              Before that they were apparantly quite wealthy landowners in County Longford.

              Now, given that my 9 generations is far more recent than that of those who claim Palestine “by right “, what do you think my chances would be if I demanded the Irish government return “my birthright” to me, regardless of the fact that somebody else has been living there for the past 300 years ?

              Or if I were to invade and try to further my claim by terrorism and violence ?

              Still, if it’s OK for Israel to do it, why not me too ? I do hope Boismalet will support me when I start marginalizing those who have the termerity to be living on “my homeland”.

            3. @Boismalet : “… just as we had to defeat the Nazis in 1945 to save the German people, Israel must do whatever is necessary to defeat Hamas.”

              What the Zionist terrorists who went on to found Israel thought necessery in the 1940s was to try to elict the support of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy.

              In between killing British soldiers and civilians and – of course – Palestinians.

              Still, if it was “necessery”, eh ?

        1. The author does not make such a claim. But the article does not mention even once any of the war crimes that Hamas has, so far as I know, committed, such as the targeting of civilians at the Supernova festival on 7th October. Those crimes had victims just as valued as the Gazan men, women and children being mercilessly killed by IDF fanatics for the Zionist cause.

      2. @Airlane1979 : “The Palestinian people have a legal right to armed resistance to Israeli occupation, so long as that resistance does not target civilians, which it clearly did.”

        The problem there is that some of those Israeli “civilians” habitually walk around armed to the teeth. And they have no compunction about shooting Palestinian civilians.

        Given the Israeli mindset, I think we have to realise that in many cases the dividing line between Israeli military and Israeli civilian is not easy to define.

    2. Facebook removed this article from my feed after I posed it there:
      “It looks like you shared symbols, praise or support of people and organisations that we define as dangerous, or followed them.”

    3. The USA now has two proxies both involved in armed conflict to maintain USA’s hegemony.
      The lies spouted daily by the mainstream media are equally dishonest in support of Ukraine as they are in support of the State of Israel.
      As usual – There is only one permitted narrative.

      75 years ago, around 750,000 Palestinians were forcibly displaced from their land to set up the State of Israel.
      For 75 years, the Israeli State has subjected the Palestinians to eviction, dispossession, murder, oppression and dehumanisation.
      The present Israeli government continues with and ramps up these outrages.
      Who is surprised that the Palestinians fight back ?

    4. Lots of faux horror at the western “MSM”. BBC getting caught in the cross fire of the fa right and far left as usual. How does it compare to the media and women’s rights of Hamas’ backers in Iran?
      Move to Tehran for a year to set up a Middle Eastern hub of the Canary and report back.

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