LONDON: A report in an Israeli newspaper has accused authorities in the country of spreading misinformation about the Oct. 7 attacks.
During its investigation, Haaretz found that some narratives propagated by Israeli officials concerning the actions of Hamas contained “significant exaggerations.”
Those who promoted distorted narratives included senior military officials, politicians and civil society activists, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office and wife, along with several ministries and government departments, according to the report, which was published on Sunday.
“Politicians, IDF (Israel Defense Forces) officers, Zaka (community emergency response teams) volunteers and many activists on social networks have been describing horror stories committed by Hamas terrorists since Oct. 7,” it said.
“Most of the time, these are real testimonies supported by a lot of evidence but … there have also been stories and descriptions that are not true and which, among other things, provide ammunition to the deniers of the massacre.”
Journalists Nir Hasson and Lisa Rozobsky, the writers of the report, debunked several claims, including a notorious allegation that Israeli soldiers had discovered the bodies of dozens of beheaded children, a narrative that circulated widely on social media. They highlighted ways in which the story had evolved to include claims that children’s bodies had been burned or hanged.
The report said that such alleged narratives, along with graphic images, were even shared by an Israeli government official on social media and mentioned by Netanyahu in his conversation with US President Joe Biden.
Another debunked story involved the alleged kidnapping by Hamas of a pregnant woman, who was said to have given birth while in captivity. The incident was mentioned in a letter sent by Doron Neuberger, Netanyahu’s wife, to US First Lady Jill Biden. Subsequent social media posts revealed that the woman, Natthawaree Mulkan, was not pregnant.
During their investigation, Hasson and Rozobsky provided several other examples of stories that had been debunked or were otherwise incorrect, but which had gained international traction.
During a donor conference in the US, for example, Eli Beer, the founder and president of emergency medical services organization United Hatzalah, propagated a fabricated story about a child burned to death inside an oven. The unsubstantiated story was subsequently reported by British newspaper the Daily Mail.
The report concluded with a warning about the consequences of such exaggerated or inaccurate stories, which “provide ammunition for those who deny the massacre” and raise significant concerns about the credibility of information from official sources.