The White House confirmed on Wednesday evening that President Joe Biden’s claim that he had seen photos of Israeli children beheaded by Hamas fighters is false.
“I’ve been doing this a long time. I never really thought that I would see, have confirmed pictures of terrorists beheading children,” Biden said to leaders of US Jewish organizations at the White House on Wednesday evening.
The president was echoing lurid claims by the Israeli government that women and children had been beheaded by Hamas fighters who took over an Israeli settlement across the boundary from Gaza in recent days.
But the administration quickly backtracked on the president’s seeming confirmation of a story Israel has been using to justify its ongoing mass slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza.
“A White House spokesperson later clarified that US officials and the president have not seen pictures or confirmed such reports independently,” The Washington Post reported. “The president based his comments about the alleged atrocities on the claims from Netanyahu’s spokesman and media reports from Israel, according to the White House.”
Journalists spread unverified claims
As Israel pursues its indiscriminate bombardment of Gaza, it is exploiting unverified claims of atrocities to lay the justification for its campaign of mass destruction and starvation of its 2.3 million people – half of them children – who are cut off from food, water and electricity.
In the absence of a full, independent investigation of what took place since Hamas fighters launched their offensive across the boundary on Saturday, the Israeli military and political leadership have been feeding world leaders and media with shocking claims that have not been independently verified.
The claims that Hamas fighters had beheaded 40 children in the Israeli settlement of Kfar Aza near the Gaza boundary were splashed all over the front pages of British newspapers, Israeli media and circulated widely on social media.It was amplified by a spokesperson for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who asserted that women, children, toddlers and elderly people were “brutally butchered in an ISIS way of action.”
However even the Israeli army – normally not slow to accuse Palestinians of any crime – refused to confirm the report.
According to Mondoweiss, the story “can be traced back to an article by Bel Trew,” a reporter for the British newspaper The Independent.
Trew went to Kfar Aza on 10 October and published a video with her article in which Israeli army Major David Ben Zion makes the lurid claim that people in the settlement including women and children were beheaded.
Trew never says in the video that she saw such sights nor does she challenge Ben Zion’s claim. She says she saw bodies lying around Kfar Aza, but they were those of Palestinian fighters.
In her article she quotes Ben Zion asserting that “When Hamas came here they cut the heads of women, they cut the heads of children.”
Trew wrote that “The Independent did not see evidence of his claims.”
Oren Ziv, an Israeli journalist who went to Kfar Aza with other reporters, wrote on Twitter on Wednesday that “we didn’t see any evidence” to back up the claims of beheadings “and the army spokesperson or commanders also didn’t mention any such incidents.”Trew herself later tried to backtrack, but by then the damage was done.
Other atrocity stories with no evidence behind them have included claims that Hamas fighters raped several Israeli women. At least one publication, The Los Angeles Times retracted the assertion.But despite the lack of evidence, as The Intercept noted, Biden in remarks on Tuesday repeated the claims that women had been “raped, assaulted, paraded as trophies.”
It should be recalled that the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, ending and destroying millions of lives, based on lies about “weapons of mass destruction” – lies that then Senator Joe Biden had himself pushed for years.
In an earlier notorious incident used by the United States government to justify its 1991 war to expel Iraqi occupation forces from Kuwait, the American public were fed totally fabricated stories of Iraqi troops tossing hundreds of Kuwaiti babies out of incubators.Biden himself is a notoriously unreliable source, having regularly fabricated significant parts of his own life story.
During the 2020 election campaign, Biden repeatedly claimed that he had been arrested in the 1970s while trying to visit Nelson Mandela, the resistance leader then imprisoned in apartheid South Africa.
Biden later acknowledged the story was false.
As the latest atrocity stories have spread, Sarah Leah Whitson, the former Middle East director for Human Rights Watch, warned, “unless you’ve got some hard facts (not more allegations) to support gruesome allegations of decapitated babies and mass rape – which [the] Israeli army says it can’t confirm – please take a pause from asserting it has happened.”“Recall the allegations of mass rape in Libya and Syria all turned out to be false, though that did not stop media from repeating it,” Whitson, who now heads the human rights advocacy group DAWN, added.