The Hidden Story Behind the False Reports on October 7

March 26th, 2024 - by Chris Hedges / Peace and Planet News & Maureen Tkacik / The Prospect

Ali Abunimah on October 7
And Israel’s Propaganda War
Chris Hedges / Peace and Planet News


(Winter 2024 Edition) — The start of Operation of Al-Aqsa Flood on Oct. 7 was accompanied by a deluge of Israeli propaganda. Claims of beheaded babies, infants found in ovens, mass rape, and other heinous atrocities allegedly committed by Hamas circulated far and wide, promoted by a range of interlocutors that included journalists, celebrities, legacy media, and even President Biden himself.

Months later, the most outrageous of these claims of Hamas atrocities have been debunked, but the damage has already been done.

Ali Abuminah joins The Chris Hedges Report to discuss the Israeli propaganda campaign providing cover for the genocide in Gaza, and the complicity of corporate media in these crimes.

Ali Abuminah is a Palestinian-American journalist and the co-founder of The Electronic Intifada.

Why did the media go to such lengths to concoct gruesome X-rated
versions of an attack that was harrowing enough to begin with?

What Really Happened on October 7?
Maureen Tkacik / The Prospect

(March 20, 2024) — It’s October 7, 2023, a few minutes before 7 a.m. A gang of Hamas fighters in a stolen pickup drives up upon a roadside bomb shelter crammed with maybe two-dozen terrified ravers. One shoots off maybe seven bullets into the shelter, when another concocts a different plan. “That one is alive! That one, pull him by his hair!” he yells at his comrades, who dump a blood-streaked body into the back of the truck.

“Don’t kill them, we need them as hostages,” the fighter yells at the others, as if he has just remembered, a dozen dead bodies too late, what he was supposed to do in the unthinkable circumstance he hadn’t been shot dead yet. They begin piling partygoers, limp but still alive, into the truck.

The footage is from the body camera of a dead Hamas fighter obtained by Al Jazeera International, whose journalists Israel has repeatedly assassinated and which the Netanyahu government has been threatening to shutter for the past five months for allegedly “acting as [a] megaphone for Hamas’s military, operational, and propaganda messages.”

But the Qatari investigative news agency’s new documentary October 7, which premiered this morning on YouTube, seems distinctly disinterested in preaching to the anti-Zionist choir.

“October 7”: A Documentary Assessment
The Hamas portrayed in Al Jazeera’s tightly curated selection of footage swiftly disables the radar and communications towers, breaches the border fence, and seizes a dozen military bases — “We went into every corner and with our pure feet we stepped into every single hiding place, and there were no men to fight us,” one remarks, dumbfounded — only to spend the rest of the morning wandering around aimlessly, like a video game kid who doesn’t know what to do with himself now that he’s finally beaten the game.

“They really don’t seem to know what exactly what they’re doing,” a military analyst observes, watching two fighters squabble with one another and raid the corpse of a dead colleague for extra ammunition. Whatever is responsible for the eerie, implausible absence of meaningful Israeli military resistance in the early hours of the attack — and October 7 echoes earlier reports in speculating that misogyny likely played a role — it does not seem to be the strategic genius of Hamas.

Antony Bliken promoted the lie about beheaded babies.

The Promulgation of October 7 Lies
The Israeli regime and its noxious mouthpieces in Washington have spouted so many lies about what Hamas did on October 7 that the conversation is often driven toward rebutting the charges that the group “beheaded 30 babies” or sliced a four-month-old fetus out of a dead woman, or gouged the eyes and breast out of a mother and father before moving on to the fingers and toes of the son and daughter they executed at an invaded kibbutz, as Secretary of State Antony Blinken testified before Congress in the weeks after the attack.

But as October 7 shows, just because those claims were false doesn’t mean Hamas covered themselves in glory. They left a pile of dead bodies on the Nova festival stage before swiping what looked like a doughnut from a gas station convenience store, firing semiautomatic weapons randomly into car windows and port-a-potties, and killing more than three dozen Thai guest workers, though one who describes to Al Jazeera being dragged past a room full of his murdered colleagues suggests Gazan civilians led his particular abduction. “Hamas fighters committed crimes on October 7,” the narrator points out. “The Israeli media, however, focuses not on the crimes Hamas committed, but on crimes they did not.”

Hamas had some rockets, but did it really have the weaponry capable of mounting this level of destruction? Western journalists have reported that Hamas was fully responsible.

The Mythology of ‘Subhuman Palestinians’
Indeed, it is almost as though the Israelis channeled all of the efficiency and efficacy that failed their military on October 7 into the deployment of a vast edifice of insta-mythology designed to bolster a notion of Palestinians as an inherently subhuman people.

Chief of this project is a man named Yossi Landau, an ultra-Orthodox first responder who operates throughout Israel and, occasionally, in South Florida. Landau, who is interviewed in the documentary, was the original source of the beheaded babies lie, and most of what formed the basis for the New York Times’ debunked investigation into the alleged systematic sexual abuse perpetrated by Hamas on October 7, among other enthusiastically shared tales of horror.

In interviews, Landau comes off like the used-car salesman you’d expect. Discussing one claim about finding a pregnant woman whose “stomach was butchered open” and whose “baby that was connected to the cord was stabbed,” he insists to a reporter that “if you want to see the picture I have the picture of it.” When the reporter apologizes that he “can’t see a baby here,” Landau stammers that he “didn’t think when we were, we didn’t think, we didn’t think to camera everything …”

The photo, it turns out, depicts what the narrator describes as “an unidentifiable piece of charred flesh,” which as it happens is not so unlike many of the bodies that fill Landau’s accounts of unspeakable depravity. “The bodies is telling us the stories that happened to them,” he explains in one video.

As October 7 notes, the IDF has repeatedly debunked those stories on the basis of basic forensic evidence, most notably when it revised downward by 200 its estimated body count upon realizing some of the dead bodies are Palestinian.

Which brings us to one of the incomprehensibly less-scrutinized parts of the disaster explored in October 7: the hundreds of civilians, dozens of their cars, and numerous homes and buildings charred beyond comprehension on the day of the attack. Hamas had some rockets, but did it really have the weaponry capable of mounting this level of destruction? Western journalists have reported that Hamas was fully responsible. Al Jazeera’s documentary is much more circumspect, and in a way, so is the IDF.

The Hannibal Directive:
The IDF “May” Have Killed Israelis

By November, the IDF conceded that it had, actually, deployed Apache helicopters and tanks to the Nova music festival that “may” have killed “some” of the Nova festival concertgoers, in accordance with something called the Hannibal Directive, a doctrine named for a Carthaginian general who poisoned himself rather than be questioned by his Roman captors, whereby the Israeli army is ordered to fire upon its own troops to prevent the enemy from taking those troops hostage.

Around noon on October 7, according to Israeli newspapers cited in the documentary, the IDF may have invoked a version of the Hannibal Directive, expanded to include Israeli civilians, and in accordance began blindly opening fire with rockets and helicopter gunships on any person or vehicle seen moving across the border with Gaza. In particular, the documentary visits Kibbutz Be’eri, which looks a bit like present-day Gaza in parts, with a munitions expert who demonstrates strong evidence that some of the houses had been hit with IDF tank fire. It was Israeli troops, not Hamas “murderers,” according to one resident, who killed 12 longtime residents there.

Virtually all these facts have been reported widely by the left-leaning media outlets; October 7 mostly synthesizes these accounts with compelling footage, helpful maps of the region, and a minute-by-minute timeline that compellingly conveys a sense of the panic and alarm the unprecedented breach unleashed on both sides of the conflict.

What remains elusive, however, is a sense of what proportion of the 782 unarmed civilians who died in southern Israel that day were killed by “friendly” Hellfire missiles and IDF bullets, and how many were killed by Hamas fighters. Israel has refused to release any forensic evidence on the dead it has identified, and it is likely in many cases that none exists; ZAKA and other ultra-Orthodox organizations delegated to examine and collect the bodies of the 10/7 dead are staunchly opposed to medical examinations on religious grounds, and ZAKA further recommended that Nova festival-goers be buried in their cars.

Seeking the Unknowable
We may never know the portion of civilian deaths attributable to the Israeli counterattacks, though the IDF does. But October 7 wisely steers clear of engaging in such reasoning, since the whole point of the movie is that the fiction of October 7 matters far more than the fact. And regardless of what the true figure is, within three or four days of disseminating the fiction that Hamas had killed 1,400 Israelis in a single morning, Israel had exceeded that death count in Gaza, just as the Gaza-born journalist Ahmed Alnaouq knew it would upon hearing the terrible news of the attack.

“When October 7 happened I was terrified, because whenever an Israeli man [is] killed, they’re gonna kill a hundred or two hundred Palestinians,” he tells the interviewer, voicing the heartbreaking math of Palestinian resistance. Here again, the documentary shows restraint, placing the death count in the Gaza war thus far at the conservative estimate of 31,000 with no discussion of, for example, the impact Israel’s destruction of some 155 Gazan hospitals and health facilities has had on the effort to count the dead.

The documentary cuts to Azzam Tamimi, an older man, the author of the definitive book on Hamas, who chillingly invokes the millions who perished during the Vietnam War to suggest that the bloodbath may yet be worth it, reasoning that “there is no small price for freedom and independence.” Alnaouq is not so sure: Whatever the ultimate meaning of October 7, the aftermath has already proven, he says, “a trauma that the Palestinians will never heal from.”

Maureen Tkacik is investigations editor at the Prospect and a senior fellow at the American Economic Liberties Project.