With the Israel-Gaza war raging for a month, the health ministry in Gaza has said that over 9,700 Palestinians have been killed in the territory, including 4,800 children. During this period, the government of Israel and pro-Israel commentators have on several occasions questioned Gaza’s claims of death and destruction. Earlier, on October 27, US President Joe Biden told a press conference at the White House that he “had no confidence in the number that the Palestinians are using”. The following day, the Gaza health ministry responded with a 212-page document containing the name, age, sex, and official identification number of 6,747 people that they claimed had been killed in Gaza since October 7.
On social media, pro-Israel social media influencers have amplified the ‘Pallywood’ conspiracy theory — that Palestinians are play-acting injuries and deaths. In one such recent claim, Israel’s official handle tweeted a clip from a CNN report of a shrouded corpse and claimed that the dead body was caught ‘moving its head’. The head has been circled out. The tweet read, “Reminder: The Gaza Ministry of Health=Hamas. Bodies can’t move their heads”. (Archive)
Till October 30, the video had been viewed over 4 million times and retweeted almost 8,000 times. The tweet has since been deleted.
The official X (formerly Twitter) account of the Embassy of Israel to the United States also tweeted the video and claimed that Hamas had used “fake news and propaganda to lie to the world”. “Actors are put in body bags to be mourned on television as seen in this @CNN video clip where a body bag miraculously raises its head,” read the tweet, which was later deleted. (Archive)
Israeli activist Yoseph Haddad, who has disseminated anti-Palestine misinformation related to the ongoing war multiple times in the past, also tweeted this video. “Welcome to Pallywood!” he wrote. (Archive)
Welcome to Pallywood!
In a live broadcast on CNN, a Palestinian who “died” from IDF air raids moves his head… It’s amazing what is happening there in Gaza! pic.twitter.com/VqAB5OyBoS
— יוסף חדאד – Yoseph Haddad (@YosephHaddad) October 30, 2023
Australian influencer and self-proclaimed ‘Imam’ Imam of Peace, tweeted the video and wrote, “In Gaza, people come back to life. It’s real. Hamas filmed the miracle.” (Archive)
In Gaza, people come back to life. It’s real. Hamas filmed the miracle. pic.twitter.com/OVg5aEIIrt
— Imam of Peace (@Imamofpeace) October 31, 2023
A parody handle of Israel’s intelligence agency Mossad, @TheMossadIL, too, tweeted the video. (Archive)
When you get your casualty numbers from the “Gaza Ministry of Health”. pic.twitter.com/cgukGVf7Pm
— The Mossad: Satirical, Yet Awesome (@TheMossadIL) October 30, 2023
Indian Right Wing influencer Arun Pudur also tweeted the video and sarcastically captioned it “What did I just see?”. Subsequently, he posted a video of another child slain in an Israeli airstrike, who was falsely called a doll by Israeli officials and others, and asked, “Which of these two will get the Pallywood award?”. This has been fact-checked by Alt News. (Archive)
The viral video primarily depicts a wailing woman sitting next to bodies covered in shrouds. Two such bodies are visible, one possibly of a fully grown adult and another of a child. The footage had been seemingly aired by CNN first, following which Israeli news outlet N12 picked it up and zoomed into the footage and added a red circle in an attempt to establish that the body was moving. The N12 logo can be seen in the viral video alongside the CNN logo.
After ascertaining that the viral video had been sourced from CNN, we located the corresponding CNN report that featured the video. We observed that the ‘moving head’ was not highlighted or circled in the original report. Below is a screen recording of the CNN report.
The viral video can be seen from the 0:38-minute mark in the screen recording above. The burqa-clad woman can be seen grieving near the bodies, following which a man in a blue t-shirt sits beside her. He goes on to uncover the shroud from one of the deceased bodies. This is when the knot tied at the top of the corpse moves, making it seem like the body moved.
We also found several instances in the CNN report of the man in the blue t-shirt helping families move dead bodies.
We noted that the viral footage had been shot by Palestinian journalist Hassan Eslayeh on October 28. We reached out to Hassan, who refuted the viral ‘fake dead body’ claims and shared the unaltered, unedited video with us. Additionally, we were informed by Hassan that the woman seen in the video was mourning the loss of her son, whose body lay beneath the shroud.
As is evident from the aforementioned video, the man in the blue t-shirt moves part of the shroud to uncover the face of the corpse, resulting in the knot moving. It is clear from this analysis that the head does not move.
He also sent us more pictures related to the viral footage that he had clicked on October 28.
Two of his photos show the same man and the woman sitting next to the deceased. In another image, the woman can be seen standing alongside three other people as three corpses lay in front of them. One image shows the woman grieving the loss of her loved one. See below:
A door with a board above it is visible in one of the images, although the text on the board is illegible.
We tried finding a better image of the door so that the board could be read properly. We came across an Instagram post by bashartaleb12 in which the same door and the board could be seen. The text on the board reads, “تفصيل وتكفين الموتى مجانا مفصلة شهداء الأقصى in Arabic which translates to “Burial and Free Funeral Services, Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Washing Facility”. Thus, it can be conclusively established that the viral video and the consequent images were taken at the Al-Aqsa hospital in Gaza. This was also corroborated by Hassan.
We also found another tweet which mentions that these images were taken at the Al Aqsa Hospital in Gaza.
This morning, scores of dead bodies lay out on the ground of Al-Aqsa hospital. pic.twitter.com/uEXFCQ7KZM
— Ramy Abdu| رامي عبده (@RamAbdu) October 28, 2023
It is thus evident that the claim by Israeli official accounts and influential figures suggesting that the individual beneath the shroud in the viral video was moving and that this was an example of Palestinians faking death is clearly unfounded. Fact-checking organization Boomlive has also debunked the false claim. We have reached out to CNN for a statement and the article will be updated once they respond to us.
As mentioned earlier, the amplification of such images/videos can be seen as part of a larger effort by Israel, and pro-Israel influencers and social media users to call into question Palestine’s claims of the human cost of the war on their side. The official X handles of the state of Israel and its associated offices were previously found trying to pass off footage of a dead 4-year-old child from Gaza as a ‘doll’. More recently, Israel mocked a survivor of a July invasion by its forces of a refugee camp in West Bank by calling him an ‘actor’. In yet another instance, a Halloween image from Thailand was used by pro-Israel users to claim it was a ‘fake war victim’ from Gaza pretending to be dead. Another related story can be found here.
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