Earlier this week U.S. President Joe Biden painted a vivid picture of what he described as ‘terrorists beheading children’, which he had allegedly seen in photos taken after the Hamas attack. In his address to Jewish community leaders, Biden expressed his disgust with the alleged gruesome horrors committed against Israeli children. American news stations and people online were quick to copy and spread the story.

It turns out that Biden never saw any such photos, and that the statement he made was based on false reports. Israeli officials and international observers could not verify these reports of beheaded babies – as this likely never happened. But the story spread like wildfire on social media, causing irreversible damage.

Nicole Zedeck

The story originated from reporter Nicole Zedeck, from the Israeli i24News site. During a broadcast from the Kibbutz Kfar Aza near Sderot about 400 meters from the Gaza Strip, Zedeck spoke of “Babies with their heads cut off, that’s what [the soldiers] said. Gunned down. Families gunned down, completely gunned down in their beds.”

Zedeck based the ‘beheaded babies’ claims on her interview, and only source, with Israeli soldier David Ben Zion. Ben Zion allegedly was witness to seeing 40 beheaded children. His Twitter bio states that he holds the position of Deputy Head within the settler leadership organization, the Samaria Regional Council. Additionally, he serves as a board member of the National Fund for Israel. This is a semi-governmental agency responsible for acquiring land in Palestine, exclusively earmarked for use by the Israeli state.

Nicole Zedeck, screenshot via iNEWS English YouTube reporting.

Single source

Ben Zion is a radical settler who has a history of calls to genocidal violence. Earlier this year, Israeli settlers attacked the Palestinian village of Huwwara. They burned down 75 houses and 100 cars. In a now-deleted tweet, Ben Zion wrote in response:

“Here in Hawara, the blood of our children, the residents of Samaria who were murdered here an hour ago, is spilled on the road. The village of Huwwara should be erased today. Enough with the talk of building and strengthening the settlement, the deterrence that was lost needs to be restored immediately, and there is no room for mercy.”

This is the same man whom outlets worldwide use as the single source for the fake ‘decapitated babies’ story. The Israeli foreign ministry and armed forces confirmed that there is no evidence for the beheadings. It is clear now that the story is a fabricated lie as part of the atrocity propaganda of far-right Zionists. This form of propaganda, often used in wartime, includes deliberate fabrications or exaggerations of violence.

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American destructive foreign policy

Unsurprisingly, U.S. politics and major American news outlets unthinkingly copied these false narratives. Since the Second World War, the U.S. has carefully created personifications of foreign enemies that pose a threat to ‘American values’ and Western democracy. These ‘dangerous’ foreign adversaries continue to give the U.S. reasons to invade, destabilize, and destroy. All in a greater effort to remain the dominant world power. And when one enemy is defeated, another one conveniently appears.

Think about the Soviet Union and communism, Iraq and its alleged weapons of mass destruction, ISIS in Syria, and Hamas in Palestine. Even though the U.S. military is not fighting on the ground in Palestine, it has been a continuous and loyal financer to the apartheid regime in Israel. Between 1946 and 2023, the U.S. has given $263 billion in foreign aid to Israel. Clearly, ‘American values’ and the American idea of Western democracy cannot exist without a foreign opponent. And the fabricated story from Kfar Aza fits this narrative of a foreign adversary perfectly.

In utter disgust, Biden spoke of the ‘sheer terror’ he ‘witnessed’ in relation to the false decapitated babies story. American news outlets and the general public quickly followed in their collective outrage. But let’s not forget that in the last 30 years, the U.S. has invaded, occupied, or bombed 14 Muslim countries. So how can it be that the people who criticize the violence associated with the Arab region come from nations where their own governments are responsible for far more violence than any other entity?

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Irreversible damage

At this point, it is irrelevant that the White House backtracked on the false story. Because the damage done by fake news is irreversible. American politicians and pro-Israel nations and individuals purposely engage in media warfare. Without careful fact-checking, this atrocity propaganda becomes commonly accepted as the truth.

Fake news can manipulate public opinion, incite fear, and breed targeted hostility. In times of war, emotions run high, and people naturally seek information to make sense of the situation. But atrocity propaganda exploits these emotions to create a distorted reality. And in this case, it demonizes Palestine, justifying Israeli military actions.

It is worrisome how easily people took this false story for the truth. Not just by the media and the public, but also by world leaders. This is a sad confirmation of the reality that we already know. In this war, blind political alliances and unconditional support for Israel are valued far more than the truth. As a result, the Palestinian narrative is sidelined, and atrocity propaganda produced by pro-Israel actors absorbs much of the online space. It is clear that the media plays a key role in this war. So especially now, it is important that we carefully and thoroughly monitor it.