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Her name was Mila

The massacres committed by Hamas on October 7, 2023 in Israel have inspired a worldwide wave of antisemitism. Relativism and denial have been a boon for conspiracy theorists

The children of Kibbutz Be'eri who were murdered on october 7, 2023 by Hamas. Ten-month-old Mila Cohen is the only one not in the photo (screenshot: Melissa Schapman/Instagram)

‘Pogrom’, ‘raid’, ‘terrorist attack’: regardless of the name eventually agreed upon, the massacres of civilians perpetrated by Hamas and its allies in Israeli territory on October 7, 2023, will remain a significant event in the history of anti-Jewish violence. As American historian Deborah Lipstadt pointed out, it constitutes “the most lethal assault against Jews since the Holocaust”.

One thing is certain for anyone who has endured viewing the images of the atrocities and listened to the survivors' testimonies: it was not, essentially, an act of war. The inherently genocidal dimension of this ‘Judeocide’ – this ‘Day of Shoah,’ to use the words of Knesset speaker Amir Ohana – is evidenced not only by the deliberate targeting of civilians and the horror of the rapes but also by the multitude of gratuitous acts of cruelty, the mutilation of victims' bodies, and the jubilation in the killing. Far from discouraging anti-Semitism, October 7 has galvanized it, as if the massacres launched a call for a general attack against Jews.

Another unique aspect of this extraordinary event is that it triggered, in record time – and while it is still not fully over, with many civilians remaining hostages of Hamas in Gaza – the formation of a revisionist narrative before our very eyes. Those who denied the reality of the Nazi regime's extermination of Jews took years or even decades to produce an articulated discourse and emerge from the extreme marginality to which they were relegated. Indeed, it took over thirty years between the end of World War II and the interview in which the former Commissioner-General for Jewish Affairs of the Vichy regime, Louis Darquier de Pellepoix, declared that “only lice were gassed in Auschwitz”. However, it took only a few hours to witness the first conspiracy theories about October 7 and a few days to see a radical denial of the facts in their materiality.

This is a new phenomenon directly linked to the cognitive and informational ecosystem that has been ours since the advent of the high-speed internet/social media/smartphone triad. Indeed, from October 7, 2023, the usual suspects of global digital conspiracy theories began to explain that the Israeli state had deliberately orchestrated the attack (another version: it had allowed it to happen) to justify a response that would enable it to take control of the Gaza Strip (which it had evacuated 18 years earlier) and provide a pretext to get rid of the Palestinians and create a ‘Greater Israel’. Very quickly, the idea that civilian deaths were caused not by Hamas but by the Israeli army itself, or that among the difficult-to-identify corpses were hundreds of Palestinians whom Israel counted as victims from its own side, emerged.

On social media, conspiracy influencers adept at disinformation, like Americans Jackson Hinkle and Max Blumenthal (of the conspiracy site The Grayzone), Australian Maram Susli, or Briton Sulaiman Ahmed, have joined forces with far-right and far-left figures to impose, against the facts, a false narrative that is exactly that of Hamas itself.

Piers Corbyn, brother of former British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, a Covid conspiracy theorist and anti-Zionist, stated at a pro-Palestinian demonstration: “It was a lie. There was no killing of children. It was a lie, a lie, a lie. The Israeli government admits it was a lie.” He also claimed that no Jews died on October 7, that they were simply actors. George Galloway, former leader of the far left party ‘Respect’, falsely claimed that “two thirds of Israelis killed on October 7 were military personnel”. In reality, three-quarters of the victims were civilians. Galloway also suggested that “the killers of the remaining third are definitely to revealed to have been in part the Israeli Armed Forces themselves”.

American political scientist John Mearsheimer echoed the same idea in an interview, declaring that on October 7th, it was the Israeli regime, not Hamas, responsible for the deaths of many Israelis. This is, once again, an unfounded allegation. While it is established that, during the fighting, the Israeli army resorted to shelling and rockets on inhabited areas to dislodge Hamas attackers, no data currently supports the claim that it caused the deaths of Israeli civilians.

In France, scholar François Burgat and former Le Monde journalist Xavier Ternisien have distinguished themselves by their eagerness to cast doubt on the reality of the deaths of babies. Burgat relayed false information that the Israeli newspaper Haaretz had established that no deaths of children under three had been recorded. Ternisien cautiously pointed out that no babies were listed among the civilian victims by the Hebrew daily. In this case, the list was not complete, which Haaretz never tried to hide. The fact is that on October 7, the youngest victim of Hamas was a ten-month-old child. She was shot to death at Kibbutz Be'eri. Her name was Mila Cohen.

For sixteen years, Conspiracy Watch has been diligently spreading awareness about the perils of conspiracy theories through real-time monitoring and insightful analyses. To keep our mission alive, we rely on the critical support of our readers.

Rudy Reichstadt
Rudy Reichstadt
Editorial Director of Conspiracy Watch, Rudy Reichstadt has published widely on conspiracy theories and online hate speech, including “Extending the domain of denial: conspiracism and negationism”. He is the author of two non-fiction books (in French), “L’Opium des imbéciles” (2019) and “Au cœur du complot” (2023). A regular contributor to the French newspaper Franc-Tireur, Rudy also co-hosts “Complorama”, a bi-monthly podcast on public radio France Info. He founded Conspiracy Watch (see the French edition here) in 2007.
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