“Look how they heal their wounds!” ” – indignant Ofir Gendelman, Benjamin Netayahu spokesman, November 10 on X (formerly Twitter). The object of his ire: videos of Palestinian civilians allegedly wearing crude makeup and fake wounds. The video is clearly taken out of context and taken from the filming of a Lebanese short film. Although this adviser to the Israeli Prime Minister has since deleted his post, this rhetoric is not new and even has a name: “Palywood.” A play on words between “Palestine” and “Hollywood”, blaming Palestinian civilian victims for actually being part of a “film industry” whose purpose is to turn public opinion against Israel.
This expression has its roots in the never-ending case of Al-Dur. On September 30, 2000, Charles Enderlin and his cameraman Talal Abu Rahma, working in Israel for the France 2 channel, broadcast footage of a shootout at an intersection in the Gaza Strip. 12-year-old Mohammed al-Dura and his father were caught in the crossfire and tried to defend themselves behind a barrel. The child is hit by a bullet and dies instantly. In his report, Charles Enderlin attributes the start of the shooting to the Israeli army. The IDF admits the facts, but then quickly retracts its claims, disputing the journalists’ account and claiming that the child died as a result of Palestinian fire. This was the beginning of an information war that lasted for many years. At the center of the controversy is part of the report that was not aired because, according to Charles Enderlin, the child’s agony was “too unbearable to be shown.”
The word “Pallywood” comes from Richard Landes, a Jewish, American and pro-Israel historian based in Tel Aviv. In his opinion, the image of Al-Dura causes “enormous damage” to the reputation of Israel. In October 2003, he discovered an article published in The Atlantic magazine. According to the newspaper, the death of Mohammed al-Durakh will be “false and staged.” Convinced of this theory, the historian decides to go “to Israel to investigate.” He says he was able to view all the footage taken by France 2 television during the death of Mohammed al-Dura, in which he said he saw a “grotesque” staging. An element that Enderlin always contradicted.
At the end of the viewing, he coined the expression “Pallywood”, a term he was advised to turn into a “trademark”. The hypothesis of a death that could become an “open-air cinema stage,” he said, is being picked up by pro-Israel commentators, who even accuse France 2 of calling extras or fake ambulances. In 2005, Richard Landes published a short “documentary” entitled “Palywood: Through the Palestinian Sources.” He uses several images of wounded Palestinians, claiming they are fake. Images are difficult to verify. Excerpts from a documentary film by pro-Israel director Pierre Rekhov are provided. Other videos, he said, belong to a Reuters cameraman, which the press agency could not confirm.
If light is never fully shed on the death of Muhammad ad-Durakh, then the rhetoric is in any case appropriate and well-oiled. It will return with every outbreak of conflict, gradually reaching official circles. In 2013, the Israeli army rebranded the Kuala Lumpur shopping center to Gaza, saying there was “no humanitarian crisis” in the enclave and that Gazans even had access to “luxury.” In 2014, when two unarmed Palestinians were shot dead during marches to commemorate the Nakba. The scene was captured on surveillance camera, but the IDF accuses the evidence of being “fabricated.”
In this media war, disinformation also comes from the Palestinian side, as evidenced by the false publication of the Israeli army claiming that it blew up the Al-Ahly hospital located in the Gaza Strip. But the term “Palywood” is directly used by some officials and the media. I24 has, for example rewatched this video calling it “Pallywood” in the title. However, these images seem quite real. We see the facade of Nasser Hospital, located in the south of the Gaza Strip. In the next video, we see a man who appears to be a real doctor, as several photographs published in press articles show him helping the wounded. The journalist who created the video, Mohammed Awad, told the AP that the man was indeed wounded. And as the war continues, the number of diversionary maneuvers increases.