Masterclass in Manipulation: Exposing Max Blumenthal’s Lies About Israel and October 7

T. Belman. Blumenthal is also an antisemite.  Why did Haarets not say so?

Was there really a massacre at Bucha?

The Grayzone editor has a history of denying war crimes, so it’s no surprise he provided a piece that very selectively uses facts, includes purposely edited quotes to change their meaning and grossly plays down the atrocities against Israelis

By Michal Perach, HAARETZ      Nov 27, 2023 12:43 pm IST

Personal belonging left at the location where the Nova festival massacre took place on October 7.Credit: RONEN ZVULUN/Reuters

Max Blumenthal, the editor of The Grayzone website, wrote a piece on October 27 that can only be described as a master class in manipulation. His article provided the basis for the now widespread conspiracy theory denying that Hamas murdered hundreds of Israeli civilians.

No one who knows Blumenthal or The Grayzone was surprised by this: They have a history of denying war crimes committed by Russia, China and the Assad regime in Syria, so this new episode was almost unavoidable. The Grayzone denied the March 2022 massacre by Russian soldiers in Bucha, Ukraine, and accused the Syrian aid group the White Helmets of war crimes that were actually committed by the Assad regime.

But since many people don’t know Blumenthal, and some people who know him are still ready to believe him about Israel, I want to expose the deceptive methods in his article. Blumenthal has two goals in his piece:

1. Paint a false picture by which Israel is responsible for most of the victims.
2. To gain credibility, pretend his claim is based on Israeli sources.

Since all his Israeli sources completely contradict the narrative he wanted to paint, he resorts to manipulations. Blumenthal omits almost the entirety of his sources – everything related to the war crimes committed by Hamas terrorists. He focuses on a few sentences in the articles he cites, usually taking them out of context and sometimes blatantly deleting words to change the meaning.

A destroyed home in Kibbutz Be’eri, following Hamas’ massacre.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz

Cherry picking: The story of Kibbutz Be’eri

Blumenthal misuses two Israeli sources to paint a false picture of the events at Kibbutz Be’eri on October 7. He quotes one sentence from a video report by i24NEWS.

Blumenthal writes: “Much of the shelling in Be’eri was carried out by Israeli tank crews. As a reporter for the Israeli Foreign Ministry-sponsored outlet i24 noted during a visit to Be’eri, ‘small and quaint homes [were] bombarded or destroyed,’ and ‘well-maintained lawns [were] ripped up by the tracks of an armored vehicle, perhaps a tank.’”

The video he cites starts with the words “The kibbutz became notorious for the atrocities committed by Hamas terrorists.” It also contains stories about Hamas terrorists setting houses on fire and shooting the people inside. Blumenthal makes no mention of this.

>He also selectively chooses a few sentences from another Israeli source, Haaretz. “According to Haaretz, the army was only able to restore control over Be’eri after admittedly ‘shelling’ the homes of Israelis who had been taken captive. ‘The price was terrible: at least 112 Be’eri residents were killed,’ the paper chronicled,” Blumenthal writes, providing a translation from an article in Haaretz’s Hebrew edition.

He uses this quote to paint a picture that all 112 people who died at Be’eri were killed by the Israeli army. In this case as well, the original report describes the atrocities Hamas committed for hours at Be’eri, including executions of civilians at point-blank range. Blumenthal ignores everything that doesn’t fit his narrative.

But he goes even lower than taking sentences out of context, as his treatment of the helicopter pilots’ testimonies shows. There he crosses every journalistic boundary and distorts quotes so that their meaning take a complete 180.

Blatant lies by omission: The helicopter pilots

Blumenthal claims that many Israelis died from crazed, indiscriminate fire by helicopter pilots. He uses three Israeli sources – articles from the Mako, Channel 12 and Ynet websites – all of which contradict his assessment. Blumenthal simply edits a few quotes from the articles to fit his lies.

A crosshead in Grayzone’s article uses a partial quote: “Israeli Apache helicopters attack inside Israel: ‘I find myself in a dilemma as to what to shoot at.’” The full sentence in the article says: “I find myself in a dilemma as to what to shoot at, because there are so many of them [– terrorists]”. The omission in the crosshead changes the meaning: Blumenthal wants to create the impression that the pilot was in a dilemma because he didn’t know if people he saw were civilians or terrorists, when in fact the pilot was in a dilemma as to which terrorists it was more urgent to stop.

To support his claim that “the pilots let loose a fury of cannon and missile fire onto Israeli areas below,” he uses another partial quote. He writes, quoting the Hebrew-language Mako article: “The Apache pilots testify that they fired a huge amount of munitions, emptied the ‘belly of the helicopter’ in minutes, flew to re-arm and returned to the air, again and again. But it didn’t help and they understand it.”

Blumenthal omits the sentence that follows: “The pilots told about missiles they shot that killed terrorists, but others who were near those terrorists continued further into Israel in a murderous frenzy.”

He also omits the sentence that explains what the pilots meant by “it didn’t help”: “At the end you look at the outcome and it’s over 1,400 murdered.”

But no pilot testified that they were “determined to empty the helicopter’s belly” out of rage and without purpose as Blumenthal implies – and a citation faithful to the source would state that according to the pilots’ testimony they had to use a lot of ammunition due to the huge number of terrorists, and their frustration stemmed from the fact that even a large amount of ammunition was not enough.

In yet another manipulation, Blumenthal cites Mako quoting the Israeli military: By 10:30 A.M., “most of the [Palestinian] forces from the original invasion wave had already left the area for Gaza.” Then Blumenthal adds: “But with the rapid collapse of the Israeli military’s Gaza Division, looters, common onlookers and low-level guerrillas not necessarily under the command of Hamas flowed freely into Israel.”

A storage space where some of the deceased are being held, awaiting identification.Credit: Naama Grynbaum

Blumenthal omits half of the original sentence. As Mako writes: “Those who stayed and entered [Israel] were junior terrorists and looters, many of whom picked up the weapons of dead terrorists and continued their killing spree.”

Perhaps the most blatant example of distorting a source is when Blumenthal uses an ellipsis to delete part of a quote – an omission that completely changes its meaning.

Translating into English, he quotes Ynet: “the pilots realized that there was tremendous difficulty in distinguishing within the occupied outposts and settlements who was a terrorist and who was a soldier or civilian … The rate of fire against the thousands of terrorists was tremendous at first, and only at a certain point did the pilots begin to slow down the attacks and carefully select the targets.”

The following words were omitted and replaced by the ellipsis: “A decision was made that the first mission of the combat helicopters and the armed drones was to stop the flow of terrorists and the murderous mob that poured into Israeli territory through the gaps in the fence.”

While the partial quote creates the impression that pilots fired at a “tremendous” rate when it was difficult to distinguish between terrorists and civilians, the full quote states that because of this difficulty, the pilots were assigned a different task: stopping terrorists flowing in from Gaza. And there was no ambiguity in this task.

As of now, there are two known events where Israeli civilians were apparently killed due to Israeli fire. The first was during the hostage situation at Kibbutz Be’eri, where 12 hostages were being held by 40 Hamas terrorists. In the heavy crossfire between Israeli forces and the kidnappers, 10 hostages died. According to the testimony of the two Israeli survivors, at least some of them died as a result of Israeli fire. The second is the incident in which a helicopter may have fired on Israelis who were fleeing the Nova trance festival in Re’im.

Blumenthal refers to the Be’eri event four times throughout his article, to create the impression that there were more such events. It is important to note: These are two tragic, isolated incidents regarding the fate of a handful of the 1,200 Israelis who died that day. The deniers of the massacre create the impression that the testimony of Yasmin Porat, a survivor of the Be’eri event who arrived there after escaping the Nova massacre, is “shocking news” and was hidden by Israel. In fact, Porat was interviewed by several major media outlets and her story is well-known. There is no “secret cover up” going on.

The ruins of the Kindergarten at Kibbutz Nir Oz after the ‘Black Shabbat’ massacre.Credit: Moti Milrod

Denying overwhelming evidence of Hamas’ brutality

While Blumenthal invested a lot of effort to exaggerate the toll of friendly-fire casualties, he devotes equal effort to diminish, deny and ignore the overwhelming evidence of Hamas’ war crimes and atrocities.

In the only sentence in his 3680-words article that describes Hamas’ violence, Blumenthal reluctantly admits: “Video filmed by uniformed Hamas gunmen makes it clear they intentionally shot many Israelis with Kalashnikov rifles on October 7.”

But here, again, he ignores almost all the information in his source. The source he links to – a tweet by journalist Amy Spiro – describe in detail the content of the 43-minutes-long video of Hamas atrocities which the Israeli military showed members of the foreign press. Blumenthal selectively mentions one incident in that film (perhaps in a bid to appear unbiased) and ignores the other scenes such as decapitations, which he later denies.

Blumenthal calls the thousands of testimonies, photos and videos describing the massacre “lurid allegations.” He calls the video filmed by Hamas terrorists themselves “snuff films” and its presentation by Israel “an off-the-record propaganda session.”

Blumenthal is dismissive when describing a Guardian article on the forensic teams trying to identify the victims. That piece (“Forensic teams still working to identify bodies 10 days after Hamas massacres,” October 17) includes comments by professionals about people executed as they tried to protect their head with their hands.

One of Blumenthal’s most egregious attempts to deny Hamas’ actions, has to do with the claims of sexual violence. In his attempt to deny the rape allegations, he refers to a photo of a woman’s body found naked from the waist down and claimes women at the festival were dressed in skimpy attire.”

He also provides a baseless theory on the condition she was found in.He writes: “In fact, the young woman appeared to have been killed instantly by a powerful blast. And she seemed to have been removed from the car in which she was seated – and which may have belonged to a captor from Gaza.”

Burned cars belonging to participants of the Nova Festival, after the Hamas attack of October 7.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz

A spate of lies

The Grayzone claims that nearly 50 percent of the dead were soldiers, and links to Haaretz English’s photo display of people killed on October 7. Blumenthal writes: “At least 340 active soldiers and intelligence officers were killed on October 7, accounting for close to 50% of confirmed Israeli deaths.”

But the source doesn’t support this claim and clearly states: “Approximately 1,200 Israelis, civilians and soldiers were killed in their homes, communities and in confronting Hamas terrorists.” Or maybe in Blumenthal’s world, 28 percent is “close to 50 percent.”

All told, Blumenthal’s 3,680-word article mentions Hamas violence in one sentence, with the rest exonerating the terror group and blaming all the deaths on Israel, despite the evidence showing that the overwhelming majority of casualties were caused by Hamas. The article is convoluted and uses the same testimonies several times to create the impression that there are more of them. It also uses dubious sources like the anonymous Twitter/X account Lord Bebo, which is known to spread Russian propaganda.

Blumenthal uses biased language like “militants” and “gunmen” to describe Hamas and, quoting Yedioth, he refers to “the Hamas army.” He calls the massacre an “operation” that applied “clever Hamas tactics.”

Blumenthal’s article is a masterclass in manipulation and bad journalism. He misuses all the Israeli sources on which he claims to base his article, in order to weave a blood libel and give it credible appearance. The fact that heresorts to so many manipulations and lies says a lot about the narrative he’s trying so hard to push, and the fact that too many are treating him and the Grayzone as a legitimate source is deeply concerning.

Dr. Michal Perach is a biology researcher.

November 28, 2023 | 4 Comments »

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4 Comments / 4 Comments

  1. Blumenthal’s whole thing in life is to show you how smart he is, how everyone else gets it wrong, and he’s the moral crusader of all time. So he warps what he needs to warp to achieve that impression. Notice how strange is his speaking manner, so flat.

  2. It takes time to look at each of Blumenthal’s statements, the source from which he quoted, and discover the carefully twisted or manipulated data from the source. So the author of this article has done all of us a service.

    From what I could find out Max Blumenthal has a long history of cherry picking quotes and twisting the words of his sources, if not outright lying.

    In addition, when confronted by a source who said, “I never said what he wrote I said,” Blumenthal doubled down and lied again, saying that the person he quoted was lying when she confronted him.

    So this is a person with a known habit of lying. Even the very left-leaning Wikipedia, in an article on him attests to this. He lacks integrity as a journalist.

    The problem today, in 2023, when so-called “progressives” are in charge of news media, is that post-modernist absence of morality reigns supreme. That means using your journalistic perch to push propaganda and pretend it is objective journalism is fine. Morals no longer matter. All that matters is politics, and the only politics that matter are progressive politics.

    So not only is Max Blumenthal unable to distinguish good from evil, he regularly commits himself to the side of evil, and does all in his power to make evil doers seem justified.

    There should be a special place in hell reserved for journalists who try to make mass murderers into victims.

  3. This kind of journalist can usually be found in the Dan Hotel lobby in Tel Aviv. He wouldn’t want dust to settle on his notebook… He just needs a new source to give him some real contradictory information.