Sonny Bill Williams has sparked a heated debate online after sharing a video rejecting claims of Hamas atrocities, arguing that babies were never beheaded and disputing that hostages have been treated “worse than animals”.
In a video shared to X on Thursday, the boxer and former rugby star, who converted to Islam in 2009, listed a series of horrific claims that have emerged since the start of the Israel-Hamas war, labelling them all to be “untrue”.
“40 beheaded babies, proven to be untrue. Babies intentionally burnt in their cribs alive, proven to be untrue,” he began the video.
It is unclear if or how the sports star backed up his claims.
Williams referenced an article by NBC News,investigating reports that dozens of babies had been beheaded.
In the article, Marc Owen Jones, an associate professor of Middle East studies at Hamas Bin Khalifa University told the publication the claim largely stemmed from a viral Israeli news video, which reportedly “did not specifically refer to the allegation”.
However, the article also noted that Colonel Golan Vach, the head of the IDF’s national search and rescue unit, said he had “found one baby with his head cut” in a call with a group of international journalists in October.
That month, the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahualso shared photos of babies that had reportedly been killed and burned by Hamas militants on social media.
“These are horrifying photos of babies murdered and burned by the Hamas monsters. Hamas is inhuman. Hamas is ISIS,” the post by he prime minister’s office read.
Claims hostages are ‘treated worse than animals’
Williams also said in the video that claims “hostages [are] treated worse than animals and raped” has been “proven to be untrue”.
It comes after Mr Netanyahu said earlier this month he had heard “about cases of sexual abuse and cruel rapes” in a meeting with hostages released by Hamas.
Renana Eitan, director of the psychiatric division of the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Centre-Ichilov has also gone on record stating hostages have been rejected to psychological and sexual abuse.
“I’ve never seen anything like that [in 20 years of treating trauma victims],” she said, according to AFP.
“The physical, the sexual, the mental, the psychological abuse of these hostages that came back is just terrible.”
Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Centre has received 14 ex-hostages released by Hamas, some of whom reported being drugged, including with what doctors believe were benzodiazepines, a class of depressants with a sedative effect that includes drugs like Valium.
“They wanted to control the kids, and sometimes it’s difficult to control young children, adolescents. And they know that if they drug them they will be quiet,” she said.
More recently, 21-year-old Mia Schem, one of over 100 hostages who has been freed, shared the horrors she faced during her 54 days in captivity.
“It was important to me to relay the truth about the nature of the people who live in Gaza, who they are truly are and what I experienced there,” she told a journalist at Israel’s Channel 13 in a clip released on Thursday.
“I went through a holocaust.”
Miss Schem was previously seen in a video released by Hamas showing her getting treated for a wound on her right arm.
Claims pregnant women have been mutilated
Williams claimed the allegation that pregnant women have had their “foetus opened and removed” was untrue.
In October, an aid worker at the NGO Zaka told Israeli news channel i24News that he and his colleagues found a pregnant women cut open in a home in Israel.
“We saw a pregnant lady lying on the floor, and then we turn her around and see that the stomach is cut open, wide open,” he toldi24News.
“The unborn baby, still connected with umbilical cord, was stabbed with a knife. And the mother was shot in the head. And you use your imagination, trying to figure out what came first.”
Williams went on to discuss the thousands killed since October 7 on Gaza.
“You know what is true? 8,000 kids have been killed since October the seventh,” he said.
He later appeared in a second clip with an updated death toll.
“Since this video was made, there have been 9,000 children now that have been murdered since October the seventh,” he stated.
“Look it’s not that complicated, this isn’t a war, this is a genocide.”
More than 8,663 Palestinian children have been killed by Israeli forces in Gaza since October 7, according to the government’s media office.
A report by Human Rights Watch in later November earlier stated an estimated 5,500 children have been killed in the Gaza, with one child being killed every 10 minutes on average.
A heated debate
Williams’ clip sparked a mixed reaction online, with one person suggesting there was no proof to the dismissed claims and another accusing him of “lies”.
“Where has it been proven to be untrue? Lots of people saying something is proof of nothing,” one person wrote.
“You’ve got no idea what you’re talking about,” said another.
“You are talking crap Sonny,” another commented.
However others thanked Williams for sharing the message.
“Thank you, brother. Speak more. We need your voice. Free Palestine,” one person wrote.
“The world needs someone like you brother Sonny. May Allāh bless you. The video you made is a big thing to make the world aware of the truth,” another added.
Williams was earlier accused of “inciting hatred” against Jewish people after sharing a fiery social media post about the conflict last month.
In a post on X, he slammed the bombing of a major hospital in Gaza, describing Israelis as “Zionist cowards”.
“Wallahi [I swear to God] where is our Ummah [Muslim community]?” he wrote, alongside a clip of the aftermath of an air strike on a hospital.
“Where are the so called men entrusted to stand up and fight for our voiceless – if this footage is too gruesome for you REMEMBER these are the same people that certain parts of the media DEHUMANISE so you think this genocide is warranted.
“All you Zionist cowards wouldn’t last a day fighting real men face-to-face. Allahu Akbar [God is great]!!”
At the time, Alex Ryvchin, co-chief executive of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, said Williams’ remarks were “reckless, dangerous and clearly uninformed”.
“But to his many fans and followers, they will sound compelling and will serve to incitement hatred and further destabilise our fragile social cohesion,” Mr Ryvchin told The Daily Telegraph.
“I’m sure Sonny Bill doesn’t want to do this and I would be willing to meet with him to discuss our perspectives and build bridges rather than making enemies.”
News.com.au has contacted Williams for comment.