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Old photoshoot shared in false posts about ‘Gaza crisis actors’

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A video showing a photoshoot has been falsely labelled on social media as “Pallywood” — a derogatory term adopted by conspiracy theorists to accuse Palestinians of faking casualties. The footage predates the Israel-Gaza war by several years.

“More Pallywood is Full HD. Despicable scum,”  reads a Facebook post from February 15, 2024, that appears to show a behind-the-scenes video of a photoshoot. 

The clip — filmed in a sandy and rubbish-strewn area — shows a photographer ripping a boy’s tunic and wrapping his arm in a bandage before smearing it with fake blood. Two men wearing military fatigues can also be seen.

<span>Screenshot of false post taken on March 27, 2024</span>

Screenshot of false post taken on March 27, 2024

Posts describing the footage as “Pallywood” — a derogatory label that blends “Palestine” and “Hollywood” — have popped up on social media globally, including in Israel , the Netherlands and Ukraine.

The clip is just one of numerous videos that have been shared alongside a similar misleading claim online since Palestinian Islamist group Hamas attacked southern Israel on October 7, 2023, killing at least 1,160 people, according to an AFP tally of official Israeli figures.

Militants also seized about 250 hostages, of whom Israel believes 130 remain in Gaza, including 33 who are presumed dead.

Israel’s military has waged a retaliatory offensive against Hamas that has killed over  32,400 people, most of them women and children, according to Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry.

The term “Pallywood” often accompanies “crisis actor” conspiracy theories, which accuse civilians from both Israel and the Gaza Strip of faking injuries or deaths to demonise the other side.

But the video predates the war in Gaza.

‘Iraq photoshoot’

A keyword search of the Instagram handle “1.q3i” seen in the video in the false post found a TikTok account which posted the same video on December 15, 2022 (archived link), about a year before the Israel-Gaza war erupted in October 2023.

It shows the same boy and man setting up a shot.

The overlaid text in Arabic says “A shy kid” while the caption, also in Arabic, says “The second account of Salji the photographer”.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the clip in the false posts (left) and the TikTok video (right):

<span>Screenshot comparison of the clip in the false post (left) and the original video on Tiktok (right) </span>

Screenshot comparison of the clip in the false post (left) and the original video on Tiktok (right)

The photographer did not respond to AFP’s request for comment, however, he told the Australian Associated Press that his name was Murtada Fallah and he filmed the video in 2019 during a photoshoot in Baghdad (archived link).

He also posted additional footage on TikTok (here and here) from the same shoot (archived links here and here).

AFP identified one of the soldiers’ shoulder patches with an eagle as the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) insignia, as shown on the agency’s verified account on social media platform X (archived link).

Below is a comparison between a screenshot of the video in the false posts (left) and an AFP photo of a CTS member (right), taken in the southern Iraq city of Basra with the insignia highlighted in red:

<span>Screenshot of misrepresented footage showing Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service insignia.</span>

Screenshot of misrepresented footage showing Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service insignia.

<span>Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Services (CTS) members secure the street close to the Basra International Hotel where Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi stays in Basra on September 10, 2018.</span><div><span>HAIDAR MOHAMMED ALI</span><span>AFP</span></div>
Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Services (CTS) members secure the street close to the Basra International Hotel where Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi stays in Basra on September 10, 2018.

HAIDAR MOHAMMED ALIAFP

 

Fallah’s other shoots have shown Baghdad’s Martyr Monument and an Iraqi SWAT vehicle (archived links here and here).

AFP has debunked other misinformation about the Israel-Hamas war, including false “crisis actor” claims here and here.

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