Israeli source of “executed children” lie admits story was untrue

First published by The Electronic Intifada, 27 March.

The Jewish extremist responsible for concocting some of Israel’s worst atrocity propaganda about 7 October has admitted that one of his stories about Hamas executing children was untrue.

Yossi Landau of the group ZAKA concedes in a new interview with Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit that dead bodies he previously claimed to have seen in Kibbutz Be’eri were “not children.”

In the interview he admits: “When you look at them and they’re burned you don’t know exactly the ages. So you’re talking about 18-year-old, 20 years old … you just don’t look on the spot … to see the ages or something like that.”

The interview is part of Al Jazeera’s new documentary, October 7, which confirms that Israel itself killed a number of the Israeli dead that day – as The Electronic Intifada has reported all along.

In the documentary, Landau is pressed by producer Richard Sanders to explain a story he repeatedly spread to journalists last year.

“You’re talking children,” Landau claimed to Sky News in October. “Piles of 10 children each were tied to the back, [then] burned [in] the bed. Something behind this is next level … it’s indescribable.”

It’s a story that Landau repeated again and again in the wake of the 7 October Palestinian military assault. His lurid allegations successfully demonized Palestinians and helped pave the way for Israel’s ongoing genocide in the Gaza Strip, which has so far claimed the lives of more than 32,000 people.

You can watch the Al Jazeera interview with Landau in the video above, which is a clip from the full Al Jazeera documentary that you can watch on their website.

Landau also seems to have been responsible for the definitively debunked Israeli lie that 40 babies had been executed by Hamas.

As well as that, Landau was involved in promoting Israel’s stories about an alleged Palestinian campaign of sexual violence on 7 October – which has now entirely collapsed.

Landau also accompanied UN official Pramila Patten on her visit to the kibbutzim as research for her report on alleged sexual violence by Palestinians (the report claimed rape may have taken place, but presented no evidence and was based almost entirely on official government sources).

Landau’s new admission to Al Jazeera that these dead “children” were not, in fact, children at all, appears to be the first on-camera admission that he had not told the truth.

Given his well-documented history of lying, there’s no reason to believe any aspect of Landau’s account.

As the documentary shows, however, Landau’s lies were highly influential.

Along with other atrocity propaganda, they were passed on by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to US President Joe Biden, who in turn lied that he had actually seen photos of the “beheaded babies.” The White House was later forced to clarify that Biden had not seen any such photos.

The photos, of course, did not exist, because no such executions had taken place.

As the documentary shows, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken repeated other such atrocity stories publicly, also taken from ZAKA’s innovative lies.

Yossi Landau is the southern regional head of ZAKA, a Jewish extremist group.

Working in close coordination with the Israeli government and military, ZAKA describes itself as an emergency rescue organization, with more than 3,000 volunteers around the country.

ZAKA’s male-only volunteers are not medically trained, have no professional qualifications and completely lack medical expertise.

In fact, ZAKA is an ultra-Orthodox religious group which specializes in removing bodies and body parts in the aftermath of an emergency. It transports them to morgues in line with strict Jewish religious law, in order to prepare them for burial. It adamantly opposes forensic autopsies and other such medical science.

The removal of bodies has been done at the cost – some would say with the intent – of destroying important forensic evidence in the wake of the 7 October Palestinian military assault.

The indiscriminate Israeli retaliation to that attack left an undetermined number of Israelis dead, in what the Israeli military has admitted was an “immense” number of what it called “friendly fire” incidents.


Since 7 October, ZAKA has come under increasing scrutiny from independent journalists, not least by The Electronic Intifada.

The earliest and perhaps most persistent journalist to expose Landau and ZAKA has been Max Blumenthal of The Grayzone. And indeed, much of Al Jazeera’s background reporting on Landau in the new film seems to rely on Blumenthal’s extensive exposé on the topic from 6 December.

As Blumenthal reported, Landau’s lies about Hamas supposedly burning 20 children alive were repeated to media the world over. As was his similarly lurid invention that he had come across the murdered body of a pregnant women with the fetus cut out of her, which was then in turn stabbed to death.

Where Al Jazeera’s film does advance the reporting is by securing an interview with Landau himself and – possibly for the first time – actually challenging him on camera about the inconsistencies in his many tall tales.

As Blumenthal pointed out on X (formerly Twitter) after watching the interview, the conversation also revealed yet another lie Landau told to the Western media.

When quoted in The New York Times’ infamously fabricated reporting about a supposed campaign of “mass rape” by Hamas, Landau claimed to their reporters that he “did not take pictures because we are not allowed to take pictures.”

By stark way of contrast he insists to Al Jazeera’s skeptical Richard Sanders – who had asked him about the dead fetus story – that “if you want to see the picture, I have the picture.”

He then declines to show “the picture” on camera, instead playing a video to Richard Sanders, who reports that “I can’t see a baby here.”

Unused to being challenged by journalists, Landau then splutters through a series of contradictory excuses: “You can’t see the baby because – but this is the picture of the mother. For sure. You know, we didn’t think, when we – we didn’t think to to, to camera everything. We didn’t have that, this wasn’t in our….”

Al Jazeera says in the film that the image only showed “an unidentifiable piece of charred flesh.”

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Sanders should perhaps take care if he were ever to encounter Landau again.

When Landau was asked on one podcast what he would say to “people out there who question” or who “play down the atrocities” his response was bone chilling.

“I wouldn’t say anything … he should be killed,” Landau insisted. “Together with the Hamas terrorist … Because he’s a part of it.”

Writing for Mondoweiss, The Short String – an anonymous collective of Palestinian journalists inside Israel – did an extensive report on ZAKA’s history of deception, extremism and military propaganda.

The group was founded in 1995 by Yehuda Meshi-Zahav, the ex-leader of an ultra-Orthodox Jewish terrorist group “that targeted forensic pathologists and used explosives against shops selling ‘secular newspapers,’” The Short String reported.

Landau’s lies are nothing new. ZAKA has long had a reputation for deception, even within Israel. “In the past, they sent numerous pieces of news that turned out to be lies,” Israeli Army Radio reported in 2002.

Meshi-Zahav remained leader of ZAKA until 2021, when he attempted to kill himself amid an investigation sparked by a series of highly credible reports that he had raped and sexually assaulted dozens of people – including children as young as 12. (Meshi-Zahav later died of his injuries.)

As Blumenthal reported, Meshi-Zahav was known in Israel “as ‘the Haredi Jeffrey Epstein’ due to his well-documented penchant for raping young people of both sexes.”

This is the same group that is still taken seriously as a credible source by corporate media across the Western world.

ZAKA has also in recent months raked in millions of dollars of donations from rich backers in the West, mainly off the back of its lurid atrocity propaganda.

Benjamin Netanyahu himself has been explicit about ZAKA’s key role in this gencodial campaign, and how it helps Israel resist the growing calls for a ceasefire in Gaza.

“We need to buy time,” he told ZAKA volunteers during a visit to their offices in November. He explained that this would be done “by turning to world leaders and to public opinion. You have an important role in influencing public opinion, which also influences leaders. We are at war; it will continue.”

ZAKA has indeed continued this unscrupulous role with utter ruthlessness.

In an email from ZAKA leader Yoni Gilboa to potential donors last week, obtained by The Electronic Intifada, ZAKA even justified the latest Israeli attack on al-Shifa hospital, in northern Gaza.

“This action was taken based on concrete intelligence that senior Hamas officials were using the hospital’s premises,” the group claimed in the email, echoing the Israeli military’s typically self-serving lies.

ZAKA wrote in the email that they “mourn the loss of an Israeli soldier, Staff Sgt. Matan Vinogradov, 20, of Jerusalem. His bravery and sacrifice in the line of duty will not be forgotten.”

“In these difficult times, the role of ZAKA Tel-Aviv is more critical than ever,” they added. “Your support enables us to continue this vital work … Donate now. Thank you for standing with us, for your unwavering support, and for helping us make a difference.”

But the group’s mercenary instincts may yet lead to the downfall of its most famous leader.

Last week, Israeli media reported that Yossi Landau had been suspended from ZAKA.

However, Landau’s chickens had not yet come home to roost. Instead, ZAKA announced in a statement, he and his brother had done “things that contradict the halacha [religious law] of our holy Torah.”

Video had emerged of Landau on a lucrative fundraising trip to Texas hugging Julie Sironi, the “Israel and Jewish liaison” of a Christian Zionist megachurch.

Israeli journalist Yoeli Brim reported that the pair had raised “over a million dollars” from the church.

The video reportedly caused outrage among ZAKA’s ultra-Orthodox volunteers. Physical contact between most men and women is prohibited in strictly religious Judaism.

It remains to be seen how long Landau’s suspension will last.


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