Remember the story of the four kids killed on the beach by Israeli ordnance in Gaza?
Of course you do. It was the one that set the tone for the entire media coverage of the summer’s Israel-Gaza conflict. Here was the evidence – or so it seemed – that wanton Israeli aggression was leading to the needless deaths of innocent civilians, in this case four boys who had been playing football moments earlier and now lay in bloodied rags on the beach.
The story was reported by the Independent, the Huffington Post, Reuters, Channel 4 News, the Times, the Telegraph, NBC News, CNN, the Washington Post, and others, none of them questioning the premise that Israel was to blame for the deaths of the children.
And why should the media have doubted it? The entire sorry event had, after all, been witnessed by numerous members of the international press corps, among them NBC reporter Ayman Mohyeldin, who tweeted that he had been playing football with the boys just minutes before the Israeli ordnance struck.
But did they actually see what they think they saw? Not according to a US-based weapons expert who has conducted a forensic analysis of what happened on the day, pieced together using Hamas propaganda footage, film from various international TV networks, and still photographs, and who has drawn a conclusion which could hardly be more different from the Hamas/mainstream media narrative.
His name is Thomas Wictor and if his theory is right then those four dead boys were not, after all the victims of Israeli missiles, but were murdered by Hamas in one of the most complex and ingenious “Pallywood” propaganda stunts ever staged.
If this sounds implausible – another wacko, 9/11-style conspiracy as some will no doubt suggest – then consider the evidence.
*The victims were not, as some media reports claimed, “scrawny fishermen’s kids” but members of a powerful family prominent in support of the Fatah Party – Hamas’s arch-rivals. In other words, Hamas had every reason to consider these children expendable.
*A curious facet of the photos of the mangled corpses released by Hamas for propaganda purposes is the lack of bleeding from the boys’ deep and multitudinous wounds. This suggests that they had been dead for some time before the alleged Israeli explosion ripped them apart. Wictor theorises that they were probably executed by Hamas the day before and that the corpses were then blown up in an explosion arranged by Hamas the next day.
*This theory would accord with the three explosions variously reported by eyewitnesses. At least the first of these was definitely Israeli – most probably a rocket fired, Wictor argues, from an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), as a result of false intelligence supplied by a Hamas triple agent. The third explosion, he suggests, was most likely the one staged by Hamas to mangle the bodies and cover the evidence.
*So far, so very conspiratorial. But Wictor has the pictorial evidence to back all this up. His speciality is flamethrowers of the First World War – an interest which has honed his skill in reconstructing historical events from very close analysis of grainy war photographs. Earlier this year, he used this skill to demonstrate, again through forensic study of camera footage, that another alleged Israeli massacre in a Gaza market place was in fact caused by Hamas. It is, of course, quite possible in this latest case that his suspicions are misplaced. Before they write him off as a crank, though, his potential critics will have a lot of explaining to do.
*Perhaps the most compelling detail of all is the footage showing the first reporter to arrive on the scene – Alex Marquardt of ABC news – running towards the site of the first explosion. He (and many others) are clearly shown running past the exact spot where the mangled bodies of three of the dead children were found later. But the spot is empty: no blood, no bodies, just sand. Had they been there, they would have been impossible to miss.
*This is one of many clues which leads Wictor to infer that the bodies were placed there later, once the beach had been cleared by the numerous Hamas operatives who stage-managed the stunt. Several of them are clearly visible in the footage, including a man in a purple shirt who appears to be in charge of the operation, plus various spotters and heavies. One of their tasks, according to Wictor, was to distract the press with red herrings – an allegedly wounded man being carried off in a different direction; the three wounded boys whom various members of the media – including the Guardian’s Peter Beaumont – reported tending afterwards in a hotel.
*The boys we see running in film footage and photographs may, Wictor suggests, have been decoys. There is also strong reason to believe that some of the media footage of the boys running along the beach was in fact shot the day before the incident and then spliced in by dishonest TV crews.
Whether Wictor’s surmise is correct or not it certainly accords with what we know about Hamas’s highly sophisticated propaganda operation. Hamas will never be capable of defeating Israel militarily but it has long since been an expert at beating it in the international court of public opinion – which is why, of course, stories like the four little boys supposedly murdered by the heartless Israelis while playing a game of football are so invaluable to its cause.
Hamas’s job would be a lot harder, though, if it weren’t for the willingness of most of the world’s mainstream media to buy into its lies. This is another of the threads which runs through Wictor’s fascinating commentary on what he calls Hamas Operation Four Little Martyrs. In their failure to acknowledge the threatening restrictions that Hamas placed on their reporting, and in their manipulation of film footage, some Western media organisations have cheerfully been doing Hamas’s dirty work for them.
Whether you agree or disagree with Wictor’s theories I urge you to read for yourself his fascinating timeline reconstruction. He is the Sherlock Holmes of the internet and if he is right on this, then his findings are dynamite.