Pallywood and the death of the real
“One picture can be worth a thousand weapons.” - Bob Simon, CBS news reporter
“War is deception. Deceive! Camouflage!” - Holy Land Foundation president Shukri Abu Baker
"Lying is not always bad, to be sure; there are times when telling a lie is more profitable.” - Afif A. Tabbarah, "The Spirit of Islam.”
Pallywood, a portmanteau of Palestinian and Hollywood, is a coinage used by some media watchdogs to describe doctored and fake media footage produced by the Palestinians to illustrate their false but lethal narratives about Israel.
Calev Ben-David, writing in The Jerusalem Post, described Pallywood as "media manipulation, distortion and outright fraud by the Palestinians and (and other Arabs, such as the Reuters photographer caught faking photos during the Second Lebanon War), designed to win the public relations war against Israel.”
Canadian columnist Paul Schneidereit wrote: “We've seen cases where the bodies of Palestinian martyrs carried on stretchers are inadvertently dropped, then, of their own volition, climb back on again. We’ve seen reports of massacres, as in Jenin in 2002, that turned out, after independent investigation, to have been greatly exaggerated. Needless to say, such episodes don’t instil an abiding trust in subsequent Palestinian claims, at least until they’re verified."
Daniel Seaman, a leading media spokesman in Israel, has criticized Palestinian photographers and gullible Western media outlets.
"They [the Palestinians] always stage photographs," says Seaman. "The IDF announces that it is going in to demolish an empty house, but somehow afterwards you see a picture of a crying child sitting on the rubble. There is an economic level to that. The Palestinian photographers receive from the foreign agencies 300 dollars for good pictures; that is why they deliberately create provocation with the soldiers. They've degraded photography to prostitution."
He describes the foreign media as “hostile,” with the French, the Spanish and the BBC often the worst offenders. “The hostility manifests itself in the writing, the tendentious footage, the automatic adoption of the Palestinian version and the immediate suspicion of the Israeli version. In the course of the siege on Bethlehem the Palestinians claimed that we killed a monk. No one bothered to pick up the phone and speak to the Pope's representative to hear from him that nothing of the kind had happened."
European correspondents, says Seaman, have “reported about every slander against Israel as if it were a fact. The negligence of their coverage contributed to the anti-Semitism that is now making rounds on the continent, and that ought to lie heavily on their consciences."
The methods used by the Palestinian disinformation industry include:
1. Using visual media to construct fake stories of Israeli atrocities. This involves editing media footage and staging events. For example, directing Palestinian civilians, ambulance drivers, doctors and police to “act out” roles such as the “injured man”, the “dead child”, the “concerned medic”, the “brave freedom fighter.” Palestinian journalists and cameraman are complicit in this theatre of propaganda.
2. Luring Israeli soldiers into schools, shelters and hospitals and using civilians as human shields in order to increase the casualty rate. For example, in 2009 Hamas militants fired mortar shells from a school in Gaza. The IDF returned fire, resulting in 40 civilian fatalities.
3. Ignoring or downplaying attacks on Israeli civilians, and omitting to mention the oppression and murder of fellow Palestinians by Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.
4. Repeating the claim that Israel ethnically cleansed Palestine in 1948, despite the fact that Palestinian leaders deliberately spread false rumours of rape and massacres in order to provoke Arab armies to fight on their behalf.
5. Repeating the claim that Israel is a colonialist occupier of a country called Palestine, despite the fact that there has never been a Palestinian nation and that Jews have lived in the Holy Land for the past three thousand years.
6. Claiming that Jerusalem is the capital of a country called Palestine despite the fact that Jerusalem has never been the capital of an Arab or Muslim entity.
7. Depicting the Israelis as Nazis and claiming the Jews faked or exaggerated the Holocaust.
8. Masking the prosperity of the Gaza Strip by focusing on isolated examples of hardship.
9. Disseminating faked reports of massacres, deaths of children, atrocities and privations to the Western media. e.g. claiming the Israelis had carried out a massacre in Jenin in 2002.
10. Appealing to the United Nations, Amnesty International, the Western media and NGOs for help and/or aid, despite the fact that Israel provides aid and/or allows passage for humanitarian assistance.
Above: Distressing scenes from Gaza
It is not just the Palestinians who fake stories in order to demonize Israel. Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah are veteran fakers. Hezbollywood refers to the staging of civilian casualties, the manipulation of news footage and the inflation of casualty numbers. During the 2006 Lebanon conflict, Hezbollah was not averse to using props to evoke sympathy. In one instance, a Lebanese man proceeded to scatter children’s toys among the debris. International TV film crews were then given a guided tour of the bombed building.
Arab and Iranian media
The Arab and Iranian media are full of outrageous claims about Israel and the Jews that have no basis in truth. In 2006, a Syrian-run newspaper blamed Israel for the spread of bird flu. According to the Iranians, swine flu was masterminded by the Zionists and Donald Rumsfeld, the secretary of defense in the Bush administration. The Israelis have also been accused of deliberately spreading HIV among Palestinians and turning them into drug addicts.
Newspaper editorials and cartoons are used to foster anti-Semitism. Themes range from “Israelis kill babies” to “Zionists are in control of the US government.” Conspiracy theories – some of which are quite amusing – are also commonplace, especially in Iran. For example, Iranian news agency IRNA reported in 2007 that “intelligence operatives have arrested 14 squirrels within Iran’s borders.” Apparently the squirrels “were carrying spy gear of foreign agencies, and were stopped before they could act, thanks to the alertness of our intelligence services.”
Above: This squirrel is an actor and should not be mistaken for an actual Zionist spy
The Western media
Many western journalists, aid workers and politicians are complicit in the manipulation of the media and the spreading of libellous theories. At best, they turn a blind eye to discrepancies in stories emanating from the Palestinian territories.
Desiree Rover, a journalist from Holland, told De Telegraf newspaper that the bird flu pandemic was part of a Zionist conspiracy to reduce the world's population.
A UN employee was recently exposed for deliberately demonizing Israel. In March 2012, Khulood Badawi used Twitter to send a photo of a bloodied child with the caption, “Another child killed by Israel. Another father carrying a child into a grave in Gaza." The message, which received a huge number of hits, claimed that the Palestinian girl had just died in an Israeli airstrike. But an investigation confirmed that the girl had been killed in a car accident several years ago.
In February 2010, Baroness Tonge, a member of the UK Liberal Democrats Party, published an article accusing the Israeli aid workers in Haiti of harvesting organs and selling them on the black market.
The Western media, including the BBC, CBS, CNN and the New York Times, continue to rely on dubious sources and unverified reports to create news stories. Perhaps the worst offender is the Guardian newspaper, which is notorious for allowing radical Islamists to disseminate anti-Israel propaganda. For two weeks in April 2002, the newspaper published a series of articles claiming that Israeli soldiers had massacred civilians in Jenin. Subsequent investigations by the United Nations, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, all concluded there was no massacre. The Guardian has still not apologised.
In May 2010, a number of Turkish militants were killed and several Israeli commandos shot, beaten and stabbed during the Gaza Flotilla raid. The flotilla, organized by two groups with links to terrorism, tried to break the Israeli-Egyptian blockade of the Gaza Strip. Israeli commandos boarded the ships in order to force them to dock at Ashdod for inspection. On the Turkish ship MV Mavi Marmara, dozens of Turkish activists armed with iron bars and knives attacked the Israelis. Nine Turkish militants were killed and ten commandos wounded. The media portrayed the conflict as an unprovoked act of Israeli aggression. President Obama refused Israel’s request to veto any UN Security Council condemnation of Israel. Prime Minister David Cameron described the Israeli offensive as "completely unacceptable." However, a UN report conceded that there were "serious questions about the conduct, true nature and objectives of the flotilla organizers.”
The media war and the death of the real
According to French philosopher Jean Baudrillard, contemporary society is alienated from “the real” due to an “ecstasy” of information. Reality is no longer objective but mediated by television, newspapers, films and the internet. Media consumers live in a “hyper-real” universe where reality is simulated.
Baudrillard’s theory of the hyperreal helps explain why Pallywood is so successful. Although the Palestinians are no match for the Israeli Defense Forces, they are winning the Arab-Israeli conflict in the hyperreal realm.
The fact that Pallywood has found such a willing audience in the West strongly suggests the idea of the “real” has been shattered. As far as the Western media is concerned, faked events are no less real than reality itself. Indeed, they may be more real because they serve a “higher cause”, which is the demonization of Israel.
Coda: Islam and deceit
The art of deception is promoted in the Quran and Islamic literature. Taqiyya (saying something that isn’t true) and kitman (lying by omission) are acceptable methods of undermining the morale and security of non-Muslims.
According to Islamic law, “if the consequences of telling the truth are more damaging, one is entitled to lie.” Indeed, Muhammad would trick his enemies by pretending to seek peace. Once his opponents had let their guard down, he would attack them. After all, the prophet professed that “war is deceit.”
According to writer David Pryce-Jones, “lying and cheating in the Arab world is not really a moral matter but a method of safeguarding honour and status, avoiding shame, and at all times exploiting possibilities.”
The best example of this is Yasser Arafat, the former leader of the Palestinians. Arafat was notorious for telling the West that he wanted peace, before appearing on Palestinian television calling for the destruction of Israel.
The desire to eradicate Israel can perhaps be explained by the fact that Islam suffers from an anxiety of influence, in that it appropriates much of its theology from Judaism and Christianity, but falsifies both faiths by excluding ethical considerations – such as telling the truth.
Appropriation and falsification seem to be a habit. Palestinian nationalism, scripted in the 1960s and acted out in the media in 21st century, is a fine example of style over substance. Meanwhile, in the world of the real, the Israelis develop medicines, plant trees and win Nobel Prizes.