As information about the conflict between Israel and Hamas spreads online, so does disinformation.
One term that has been increasingly thrown around on social media, typically from Israeli accounts and sources, is "Pallywood" — the idea that Palestinians under brutal occupation are all simply faking it. Here's everything you need to know about the unfounded dog-whistle.
What is "Pallywood"?
"Pallywood," as in Palestinian Hollywood, is a far-right conspiracy theory among Israelis that Palestinians, in tandem with Western media, are staging injuries, destruction, and deaths from Israeli forces in order to make their government look bad.
How did the "Pallywood" conspiracy theory start?
The term "Pallywood" was coined by American writer Richard Landes in his film, Pallywood: According to Palestinian Sources. The short documentary alleges media manipulation by Palestinians, citing the death of 12-year-old Muhammad al-Durrah in 2000. Israel initially took responsibility for the young boy's killing, which occurred during crossfire between Israeli and Palestinians forces, before later recanting their confession. Media widely concluded it was Israeli gunfire that killed al-Durrah, but Landes took the incident a step further by fallaciously claiming he was never killed at all.
Is there any truth to "Pallywood"?
Since the term's conception, there have been more cases of Israeli officials knowingly lying about "Pallywood" examples than there have been actual examples. Israeli diplomat Ofir Gendelman recently came under fire for knowingly using behind-the-scenes footage from a Lebanese short film as an example of Palestinians who "fake injuries."
A popular trend on TikTok features Israeli women mocking women in Gaza by dressing in fake blood and tattered clothes, and pretending to be injured. The idea behind the videos is that Palestinians are faking their oppression, despite thousands of women and children being killed in Israeli airstrikes in the past month.
What do experts think of "Pallywood"?
Historians and human rights organizations widely reject the "Pallywood" conspiracy theory. Larry Derfman, an Israeli-American journalist, has called the term "a particularly ugly ethnic slur."
Many propose that the conspiracy theory is a way for the Israeli government and military to avoid culpability by casting doubt on events. Eyal Weizman, a British Israeli architect whose work with research group Forensic Architecture has been called "Pallywood," likened it to claims of "fake news" from U.S. conservatives.
“The bastards’ last line of defense is to call it ‘fake news,’” he told The Guardian in 2018. “The minute they revert to this argument is when they’ve lost all the others.”
What else have Israeli officials lied about?
Among other instances, the Israeli government was accused last month of spreading disinformation about a devastating blast at Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza. The official account for the Israeli army posted to X supposed footage of the "enemy" missile that was responsible, before the footage was quietly removed after journalists noted that its timestamps did not match that of the explosion.
Following the death of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh last year, the Israeli government also denied having a role in her killing, but later confessed after multiple independent investigations confirmed that only an Israeli soldier could have shot her.
Is information from Palestinian organizations credible?
While information can be hard to verify during combat, especially when one side has cut the other's telecommunications and electricity, some information from institutions in Gaza has been deemed credible, despite their ties to Hamas.
The Palestinian Health Ministry, which reports the death toll in Gaza, has been accused of misrepresenting its numbers, even by U.S. President Joe Biden. Internationally-recognized aid organizations have since supported their numbers, and in response to the accusations, the ministry published a registry of all the names and identification numbers of those who have been killed so far.
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