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Israeli Volunteering Group Spreads Misleading Narratives About October 7 Victims for Donations

Misbar's Editorial Team Misbar's Editorial Team
6th February 2024
Israeli Volunteering Group Spreads Misleading Narratives About October 7 Victims for Donations
The organization disseminated baseless narratives (Getty)

After Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, carried out Operation Al-Aqsa Flood on October 7, 2023, targeting military barracks and settlements in the Gaza Envelope, resulting in the death of around 1400 Israelis and the capture of dozens of soldiers and settlers, an Israeli organization named “Zaka” gained prominence. It was tasked with the mission of collecting corpses in the affected areas.

The organization published information and narratives about its work, and its testimonies attracted media attention. However, it later became evident that this was misleading propaganda designed to collect donations.

“Zaka”: An Extremist Jewish Organization Publishing Misleading Information About October 7

Hebrew websites underline that “Zaka” is a well-known extremist Jewish volunteering organization in Israel, specializing in identifying disaster victims, search and rescue, and human remains recovery operations.

During their work in collecting and identifying the bodies of the October 7 victims, organization volunteers reported that among the killed were “entire families, young children, babies and even pregnant women”, and that they found “their bodies in a horrifying, disfigured, and burned state."

A member of the organization also told CNN, “Despite all the preparation and experience, we never imagined, not even in our worst nightmares, that we would see what we saw here."

CNN report with Zaka after October 7 events
CNN report with Zaka after October 7 events

However, an investigation by the Hebrew newspaper Haaretz revealed negligence and misleading claims in the statements of the “Zaka” organization about the October 7 attacks. The newspaper mentioned that the organization was compromised before the war and had millions in debts, using the events to “work on collecting donations."

According to the investigation, during the first decisive days of the war following Al Qassam’s operation, the Israeli army decided to cancel deploying soldiers trained to identify and collect human remains in mass casualty incidents.

An officer in the rabbinate’s southern search unit told the newspaper, “I don’t have any explanation as to why they did not deploy the home front command unit and our members from the north." The officers in the Shura base could not explain either why the army did not deploy the members that were effectively called up.

An officer in the home front command also underlined that his commanders “begged senior leadership to be deployed but their request was denied." These soldiers did not begin to work in the region until the second week of the war, and even then it was not a full deployment. Meanwhile, the Zaka volunteers were there, according to Haaretz.

The Organization Mentioned Atrocities That Never Happened To Collect Donations

After obtaining testimonies, the newspaper found out that the “Zaka” organization published narratives around atrocities that never happened. It also shared sensitive pictures in a non professional manner, as part of efforts to attract media attention."

The Haaretz investigation revealed that all professional rules were violated since October 7. Videos and pictures filled up the accounts of Zaka Jerusalem on social media, including those of rows of corpses in body bags and blood stains. It became clear that the organization aimed to collect donations at a sensitive time.

Among the examples mentioned in the investigation of the organization’s propaganda activity was a post shared on October 29, showing family photos stained with blood from one of the scenes, along with the caption: “The voice of my brothers' blood cries out to me from the ground.”

According to the newspaper, the organization faced insolvency before October 7. Since then, a source from Zaka mentioned that they collected over 50 million shekels ($13.7 millions).

Sources told Haaretz that there was a price for choosing Zaka specifically. One officer, while discussing the organization's work, said, “We received bags of theirs without documentation, and sometimes with body parts that were unrelated to one another." "Such problems made the identification process very difficult. Some bags came many days after the outbreak of the war," he added.

A soldier serving in the Military Rabbinate mentioned, “There was a noticeable difference between the professionalism of the soldiers and the Zaka volunteers."

Zaka members post-October 7 events (Getty)
Zaka members post-October 7 events (Getty)

Another soldier told the newspaper in his testimony, “We asked the commanders why they weren't letting us enter, and each time we got a different answer. One time they told us, 'You've been trained for earthquakes’. Another time, they said they didn't want to risk the lives of soldiers." He added in a different context that “the commanding general gave [the mission] to the IDF's national rescue team, one of whose members is also a senior member of Zaka."

A Fabricated Narrative Regarding the Death of a Pregnant Woman in the October 7 Attacks

"We saw a woman, around 30 years old, [and] she was lying on the floor in a large puddle of blood, facing the ground," said one of the Zaka volunteers while crying, adding that “we turned her over in order to place her into the bag."

"She was pregnant, her stomach was swollen, and the baby was still attached by the umbilical cord when it was stabbed, and she was shot in the back of the head. I don't know if she suffered and saw her baby murdered or not," the volunteer continued.

It turned out later that this incident, which a Zaka volunteer alleged happened in Be’eri kibbutz, was fabricated. It is one of the stories that have been circulated without any basis. There is no evidence for this incident, and no one in the kibbutz has heard of this woman. A Zaka senior official admitted in a conversation with Haaretz that the organization knows the incident did not occur.

Israeli accounts and pages also shared a video titled “One of the most horrific terrorist videos known to humanity." They claimed it was filmed on October 7, showing, according to the accounts, Hamas fighters killing a pregnant woman, mutilating her body, and killing her fetus during Operation Al-Aqsa Flood. It turns out that the footage was taken from a video published on a Mexican website in 2018, titled “A horrifying video where the killers of Mayo Zambada remove the heart of a person and cut off the head of another."

A Fabricated Narrative Regarding the Death of a Pregnant Woman in the October 7 Attacks

The Zaka organization has been accused of spreading false information before. In December 2022, Haaretz reported that Zaka had inflated its stated number of volunteers for years to receive more funding.

Israeli Claims on the Al-Qassam Attack

This investigation comes as many Israeli claims following Operation Al-Aqsa Flood are spreading. Misbar has previously refuted other misleading claims published by Israeli accounts and media outlets, including a report by the i24 channel which misled international media about Hamas fighters committing a massacre against 40 Israeli babies. It turned out later that the news was fabricated and had no basis.

Among the claims promoted by Israeli accounts and investigated by Misbar are the statements by an Israeli officer who claimed that Hamas killed children and hung them on clotheslines during the October 7 attacks. The statements were later revealed to be false and were denied by the journalist who interviewed the officer.

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