"Look at how they make their wounds!" said Ofir Gendelman, Netanyahu's spokesman, on November 10 on X (formerly Twitter). The object of his anger: a video of Palestinian civilians, allegedly putting on crude make-up with fake wounds. A video obviously taken out of context and taken from the shooting of a Lebanese short film. While this adviser to the Israeli prime minister later deleted his publication, this rhetoric is not new and even has a name: "Pallywood". A play on words between "Palestine" and "Hollywood", accusing Palestinian civilian victims of being part of a "film industry", which aims to turn public opinion against Israel.
This expression has its roots in the never-ending Al-Durah affair. On 30 September 2000, Charles Enderlin and his cameraman, Talal Abu Rahma, working in Israel for France 2, broadcast images of exchanges of fire at a crossroads in Gaza. Mohammed al-Durah, 12, and his father were caught in the crossfire and tried to take cover behind a barrel. The child was hit by a bullet and died instantly. In his report, Charles Enderlin attributed the origin of the shooting to the Israeli army. The IDF acknowledged the facts, then quickly retracted it, disputing the journalists' version and claiming that the child had been killed by Palestinian fire. This was the beginning of a media war that would last for years. At the center of the discord is a part of the report that was not broadcast, because the child's agony was "too unbearable to show," according to Charles Enderlin.
The word "Pallywood" came from Richard Landes, a Jewish, American, pro-Israel historian based in Tel Aviv. For him, Al-Durah's image does "enormous damage" to Israel's reputation. In October 2003, he discovered an article published in The Atlantic magazine. According to the paper, Mohammed Al-Durah's death was "fake and staged". Convinced by this theory, the historian decided to go and "investigate it in Israel". He says he was able to view all the images taken by France 2 during the death of Mohammed Al-Durah, in which he claims to have seen a "grotesque" staging. This is something that Enderlin has always contradicted.
At the end of this viewing, he coined the expression "Pallywood", a term that he was advised to make a "trademark". The hypothesis of a death that would be "an open-air cinema scene", in his words, is taken up by pro-Israeli commentators, who even accuse France 2 of having used extras or fake ambulances. In 2005, Richard Landes published a short "documentary" entitled "Pallywood: According to Palestinian Sources". In it, he uses several images of wounded Palestinians, claiming that they are faked. The images are difficult to verify. It features excerpts from a documentary by pro-Israel filmmaker Pierre Rehov. Other videos came, according to him, from a Reuters cameraman, which the news agency could not confirm.
While the death of Mohammed Al-Durah will never be fully revealed, the rhetoric is, in any case, in place and well-oiled. It will return with each flare-up of the conflict, gradually reaching official circles. In 2013, the Israeli army hijacked the image of a Kuala Lumpur shopping mall by locating it in Gaza, claiming that 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 in memory of the Nakba. The scene was captured on a surveillance camera, but the IDF accused the evidence of being "fabricated."
In this media war, disinformation also comes from the Palestinian side, as illustrated by this fake publication by the Israeli army claiming to have bombed Al-Ahli Hospital, located in Gaza. But the term "Pallywood" is directly used by some officials and media. I24, for example, picked up on this video by calling it "Pallywood" in its title. But these images seem very real. The façade of the Nasser Hospital, located in the south of the Gaza Strip, can be seen. In the following video, we can see an individual, who appears to be a real doctor, since he appears in several photos published in press articles, rescuing the wounded. The journalist who wrote the video, Mohammed Awad, told the AP news agency that the man was indeed injured. And the diversions are becoming more and more numerous, as the war continues.