Smoke rises after Israeli air strikes near the border east of the city of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on October 12 2023 behind UN flags

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‘It will not make mainstream news’: Why Pro-Israel influencers pushed debunked claim that U.N. cut Gaza death toll in half

Despite clarifications from the organization, misinformation continues to spread.


Marlon Ettinger


Posted on May 14, 2024

Pro-Israel influencers distorted a recent report from Gaza’s Ministry of Health that detailed updated figures on the total number of identified bodies stemming from Israel’s assault on Palestine.

The report states that among the roughly 35,000 estimated deaths in Palestine, 24,686 of those people have been positively identified. Accounts on X in support of Israel, however, incorrectly assumed that the number of identified individuals represented the total number of deaths in the war, excluding the 10,000 or so people who have yet to be identified.

“So the UN is walking back the death toll in Gaza by half. By half. 50 per cent,” wrote @Eve_Barlow, a pro-Israel influencer, in a post to X on Monday morning. “It will not make mainstream news. It will not be uttered by people for seven months until everyone considers it as fact. It will not be reported with sensationalist images or provocative language. It will pass people by.”

But according to Farhan Haq, a U.N. spokesperson, there are still “about another 10,000 plus bodies who still have to be fully identified,” reported Reuters Monday afternoon.

“The Ministry of Health says that the documentation process of fully identifying details of the casualties is ongoing,” Haq added, noting that among the identified bodies are 7,797 children, 4,959 women, 1,924 elderly, and 10,006 men.

Israel has publicly disputed the U.N.’s numbers, claiming that they’re unreliable because of the Gaza Ministry of Health’s control by Hamas. But international organizations like the World Health Organization, the Israeli branch of Human Rights Watch, and the United Nations frequently rely on the ministry’s numbers. The U.S. State Department has also quoted the figures.

Pro-Israel posters also pointed to a thread by David Adesnik, a Senior Fellow and Director of Research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), a pro-Israel think tank based in Washington, D.C.

In the thread, Adesnik disputes the credibility of three organizations who report civilian death tolls in Gaza: the territory’s Government Media Office, Ministry of Health, and Palestine Civil Defense. Adesnik pointed to the fact that the 10,000 unidentified people who the Ministry of Health still hasn’t identified are based on media accounts of attacks, not hospital reporting, with many of the bodies believed to be missing under the rubble.

The dispute over the casualty figures, and the distortions by posters running with the top-line claims, led to plenty of posts alleging that the U.N.’s official death toll is now just half of what it’s previously been reported as.

“LOL the UN just quietly revised the death toll for women and kids way down,” posted @oftrash3.  Your demonstrations are not stopping Israel.  If you really cared, you take your candy asses over to Gaza.  Not many doing that, so i guess its really just another college fad by pikers pretending[.]”

Others mischaracterized what the U.N. is actually claiming, despite the clarifications from the organization.

“The @UN admits to circulating grossly inflated casualty figures,” posted Aviva Klompas, foudner of a pro-Israel advocacy group called Boundless Israel. “Their false figures were cited by world leaders and student protestors – I haven’t heard a single one of them retract and apologize. And we know they never will.”

In April, pro-Israel influencers tried to push a similar downward revision of the Palestinean death toll, pointing to an FDD report on the Gaza Ministry of Health’s efforts to identify bodies, claiming that the new, false figures represented an achievement by the Israeli military in reducing civilian casualties.

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*First Published: May 14, 2024, 1:29 pm CDT