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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

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Pallywood: the Gaza sequel

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The term “Pallywood,” a synthesis of “Palestinian” and “Hollywood,” refers to dramatically contrived scenes, usually in conflict zones, that are intended to evoke sympathy for Palestinian “victims” of purported Israeli aggression.

Though this genre of Palestinian propaganda was evident as far back as the first Lebanon War in 1982 – but may have manifested even before then – the most blatant and infamous example of such staged brutality found expression during the second intifadah in 2000, with the globally reported “al-Dura incident.” This showed graphic filming of a 12-year-old boy, Mohammed al-Dura, cowering behind a concrete cylinder and shielded partially by his father, as the two sought cover after coming under fire in Ramallah.

As the cameras continue to roll, the boy is seen to have been fatally wounded, allegedly from bullets fired by Israel Defence Forces (IDF) soldiers. The resulting footage was first broadcast on French television and then widely distributed, gifting the Palestinians with an instantaneous icon and martyr and stoking the flames of already escalating violence. Only once ballistics experts had examined the evidence did it emerge that the ill-fated boy succumbed to gunfire not from the IDF but rather from Palestinian militia who were present at the time. Even more disturbing was the finding that the entire incident was likely staged – a classic exercise in media manipulation.

With each conflagration in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the Pallywood phenomenon adds distortion to an already complex prism. Once revealed, the theatrics seem obvious. What’s remarkable, though, is that for news agencies that voraciously go after the most sensationalist of stories, fundamental source checking goes by the wayside and deceptions that may be recognizable in retrospect become fair game in real time.

The first few days of Israel’s recent action to stop Hamas’ rocket barrage brought with it a further iteration of Pallywood antics. One of the images doing the rounds on Twitter depicts an image of a distraught father cradling his dead child, an apparent casualty of the Gaza operation. Yes, sadly, the child is dead, only the picture originated not in Gaza, but in Syria. Another image, also on Twitter, claimed to show an injured Palestinian child who, the caption stated, was “used to Israel terrorism.” One tiny problem, though: the child was in fact not Palestinian, but Israeli – and suffering the effects of a Hamas missile attack on her family’s home.

Tragic imagery might also translate into patent absurdity in Pallywood tales. A case in point is Honest Reporting’s exposé of a video sequence showing a man in an easily noticeable beige jacket who is seen first to be flat on the ground, seemingly wounded after an Israeli airstrike, and then shown to be picked up and carried off by bystanders. Moments later, when the sequence was assumed to be over, we see the same person, obviously uninjured, walking away from the site of his “rescue.”

According to the well-worn cliché, “truth is the first casualty of war.” Now embedded in Gaza, Pallywood has taken this notion up a notch, while the gullible, headline-hungry news media has failed in all too many instances to properly scrutinize their material and separate fact from glaring fiction.

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