A video of a young girl having makeup and fake blood applied, accompanied by scenes of people waving Palestinian flags, is being shared on social media alongside claims it shows Gazans are staging injuries during the war between Israel and Hamas. This is false, and the latest in a series of similar allegations; the clip is a behind-the-scenes shot from the set of a short film produced in Lebanon, which the director said was meant to artistically represent the reality of war.
"The Palestinians are fooling the international media and public opinion. DON'T FALL FOR IT," says the caption of a since-deleted November 9, 2023 post on X, formerly known as Twitter, from Ofir Gendelman, the Arabic language spokesperson for the Israeli prime minister's office.
Despite Gendelman's deletion, the same clip was shared on X, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok, including in French, Spanish and Thai, often accompanied by the claim that it was part of a supposed phenomenon dubbed "Pallywood" -- a portmanteau of "Palestine" and "Hollywood" used to describe videos and images of purportedly staged hardships shared to garner public sympathy.
The video shows a girl on a hospital stretcher whose injuries are being attended to by medical staff. As the clip continues with what appears to be staged protests and wartime situations, the same girl is seen receiving makeup touchups and smiling -- seemingly unharmed -- a scene which Gendelman went on to claim proves that Palestinians are faking injuries and evacuations from Gaza during the recent violence in the territory.
On October 7, militants with the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas executed a cross-border raid in southern Israel, where about 1,200 people -- mostly civilians -- were killed and at least 240 more were taken back to Gaza as hostages, according to Israeli officials.
Israel vowed to "crush" Hamas and its army's air and ground campaign has killed 12,000 people, including 5,000 children, as of November 17, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.
Social media has been inundated with posts related to the ongoing bloody conflict in Israel and Gaza. Authentic images are being shared, but AFP has found that others are falsly accompanied by claims of staged scenarios.
While the clip does depict fictional scenarios, it was not recorded by Palestinians in Gaza -- the footage comes from the set of a short film shot in Lebanon, the director of the movie told AFP.
Short film set
A reverse-image search using scenes from the clip circulating on social media leads to an October 29 post with the same footage from an account with the handle @rami.jardali, accompanied by a caption in Arabic that says: "Backstage of 'The Reality'" (archived here).
This post also tagged the page of filmmaker Mahmoud Ramzi, who describes himself as a Palestinian director living in Lebanon.
View this post on Instagram
On October 28, Ramzi shared "The Reality," the completed short film on Instagram (archived here). The movie glides between scenes including protesters with Palestinian flags, Red Crescent first responders attending to the little girl's wounds and a violinist playing next to the hospital stretcher, all in a single shot without cuts.
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Ramzi told AFP that the movie was meant to illustrate the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and was filmed in the southern Lebanese town of Sidon, not Gaza. He expressed "his anger" that footage from the flim set was misappropriated and has shared multiple fact-checks refuting the "Pallywood" narrative.
Crisis actor claims
False accusations of staging scenes of suffering with so-called "crisis actors" was a trend seen before with mass shootings in the US and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but experts have seen these types of claims skyrocket during the Israel-Hamas war.
Gendelman is not the first Israeli government account to share claims of faked wartime hardships in Gaza, as the trend continues to spread. Claims that Israeli survivors of the October 7 attacks seen in interviews were crisis actors have also been debunked.
Read more of AFP's reporting on misinformation related to the Israel-Hamas war here.