Wednesday 31 January 2024



 “They decapitated women and children” was the Independent’s headline. (The paper’s reporter later deleted the post on X that regurgitated that claim but the “special dispatch” on the beheaded babies is still on the Independent’s website).

The story also featured heavily in the broadcast realm on 11 October, with little room for any view of a conflicting nature.

On LBC, presenter Iain Dale expressed disgust at a caller who did not condemn what Dale referred to as “what Hamas did” including their “beheading babies” and furiously took him off air.

What started as a claim from Israeli military and media circles that lacked certainty was instantly transformed into an established fact by virtually the entire British media.

No evidence
In subsequent days, journalists at the scene in Israel continued to investigate the validity of the beheaded babies story. A French journalist in Kfar Aza reported that nobody had mentioned beheaded children to him.

Meanwhile, Oren Ziv, a prominent Israeli journalist, highlighted he had not seen any evidence to support the claims before adding that Israeli soldiers and the army’s spokesperson remained unable to confirm the allegations.

The White House quickly walked back on Biden’s earlier claim. It reiterated he had not in fact seen evidence of the beheaded babies he was convinced of less than 36 hours ago, making clear that the president’s comments were merely repeating Israeli news reports and officials.

However, there was little detectable appetite from the British media to change tack and report on this clarification in the ongoing story.

In fact, the newspapers had moved on completely. The zealous willingness to examine in scrupulous detail atrocities taking place on the ground and describing in vivid terms the violent acts, spectacularly disappeared.

Nor was there a lack of information to report on. By the time one week had passed since 7 October, more than 2,000 Palestinians had been murdered by Israel’s relentless military bombardment. At least 720 of them were children and around 450 were women.

But by this point, the British media had ditched the graphic images and were no longer interested in being the arbiters of what constitutes a massacre or terrorism and there was palpably no longer a need to make that clear to the public.


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