All over the media last week, we heard about the butcheries of Hamas in southern Israel. One of the most disgusting claims was that Hamas had beheaded babies; some of them dead, and others, perhaps, while still alive (it’s hard to tell unless there’s a bullet wound). Even Biden made that claim, and here’s a headline from the New York Post (click to read):
In fact, although there’s no doubt that 40 babies were killed, the claim that they were beheaded has not been substantiated (see here and here). The weird thing is that one of the links above is a debunking from CNN, while the New York Post quotes a CNN reporter:
Top CNN reporter Nic Robertson, dressed in a military helmet and flak jacket, said, “There were so many murdered members of this Kibbutz.
“Men, women, children, hands bound, shot, executed, heads cut,” he said.
Well, did Robertson see babies with their heads cut off or not?
Further, Wikipedia summarizes how the rumor spread and who’s rejected it (there are references, which I’ve left in).
Reports of Hamas beheading babies were reported by a range of news organizations on 10 October, after an i24 News reporter interviewed members of the Israel Defense Force, at the scene of the Kfar Aza massacre, who reported seeing babies whose heads had been cut off. CBS News later interviewed Yossi Landau, regional head of the first responder organisation ZAKA, who claimed that both babies and minors had been beheaded alongside corpses of dismembered adults. An IDF spokesperson stated to Insider that they would not investigate the allegation further, citing that it would be “disrespectful for the dead” to do so.[p] The government of Israel later posted photos of dead babies that they said were killed in the attack. The Jerusalem Post stated that these images confirmed that babies were decapitated, while NBC News stated that no photographic evidence that babies were decapitated was provided. US President Joe Biden said that he had seen photographic evidence of terrorists beheading children, though a White House spokesperson later clarified that he was referring to media reports and statements by Netanyahu. Comments from Israeli officials and media have walked back or softened on the claims. CNN reported that it could not confirm claims that children were beheaded
In view of the lack of evidence, we’ll have to put “Hamas beheaded babies” as an unsubstantiated claim. But it’s so weird to see people arguing on television about whether the babies had their heads cut off, because IT DOESN’T MATTER. Hamas killed 40 babies, and whether they beheaded them, shot them, or skewered them, it’s still a disgusting act of butchery that, in conjunction with other murders, justifies retaliation by Israel. Granted, it takes a certain kind of barbarity to cut off a baby’s head compared to shooting it, but in the end the results are the same: a life that could have been lived is gone. It’s almost as if those people who argue against babies’ heads being cut off are somehow saying that this mitigates what Hamas did! It doesn’t matter!
There has been further debate about whether women captives were really raped by Hamas (see first two links above). I’m far more willing to believe that, as I’ve seen at least one video (you’ve probably seen it, too), in which a barefooted, abducted concertgoer is yanked out of a trunk by her hair, with a huge bloodstain on the rear of her jeans, and then shoved into a car. When I first saw that I thought, “how did she get blood on her rear?” And then the penny dropped. (You can see the video, among others, in this tweet, but the contents are disturbing). There’s another video showing a Hamas terrorist in a truck with a dead naked woman, and I’ve seen a video in which a terrorist refers to women as sex slaves.
Further, PBS quotes Netanyahu saying that some of the captives at the music festival were raped, and that some soldiers were beheaded. It’s unlikely that we’re going to see this evidence with our own eyes, but I find this more credible than the beheaded-baby story. Whatever you think of Bibi, I don’t think he’s lying here.
Whether there is credible evidence of rape does matter, just like it matters whether babies were beheaded alive or dead: it affects our opinion of people’s moral debauchery—but in this case NOT THAT MUCH. Whether the kidnapped women were raped or not, they were still kidnapped and taken to Gaza. Where it does matter, for rape, is in convicting people for crimes.
We already have enough evidence of extensive butchery to justify Israel’s present attempt to wipe out Hamas. Although we have no videos of rapes, I find the claim credible, as I do that soldiers were beheaded. I don’t know about whether babies were beheaded, but I find that argument barely worth considering given the incontrovertible evidence that babies were killed.
We’ll know more as the days pass, and, with luck, if we get some hostages back, either alive or dead. But I’m pessimistic that we’ll ever see them alive again (there are about 155). The minute they were taken, I immediately wrote them off as dead, simply because I’m a pessimist and thus would be elated if all or some came back alive. (I adhere to the mantra, “A pessimist is never disappointed.”) I am expressing my own neuroses here, and not trying to upset the families of hostages as I have no information about them.
At any rate, the things we do know about the attack is sufficient to justify what Israel did. The arguments about whether babies were beheaded or only shot makes me ill, but the question of rapes is more important. But none of these debates do anything to affect Israel’s right to defend itself.