Israel-Hamas war misinformation is everywhere. Here are the facts
Misinformation about the latest Israel-Hamas war is thriving on social media platforms, where misrepresented video footage, mistranslations and outright falsehoods often crowd out real reporting from the conflict.
In recent weeks, users have pushed false claims that “crisis actors” are staging scenes of carnage and that U.S. Marines are flooding in to fight on the ground in Gaza.
Here is a closer look at the latest misinformation spreading online — and the facts.
CLAIM: A video shows a makeup artist applying dirt and fake blood to a young girl on a stretcher, proving that people in Gaza are faking injuries in the latest Israel-Hamas war.
THE FACTS: The video is behind-the-scenes footage from a short film made in Lebanon, and was not made to mislead people, the director confirmed to The Associated Press.
In recent weeks, social media users have repeatedly misrepresented videos to falsely accuse Palestinians of being “crisis actors” in the war, as part of a conspiracy theory dubbed “Pallywood.”
In the latest example, people are sharing a clip that begins with a child who appears to be wounded being treated on a stretcher as protesters wave Palestinian flags. As the video goes on, however, a makeup artist can be seen applying makeup to the girl to depict blood and wounds, and the child smiles at the camera.
The video was shared on multiple social media platforms, including X, formerly known as Twitter, claiming it shows how Palestinians “fake injuries.”
“The Palestinians are fooling the international media and public opinion. DON’T FALL FOR IT,” reads one post on X, which garnered more than 10,000 likes. “Pallywood gets busted again.”
However, the video is actually behind-the-scenes footage of a short film. The director, Mahmoud Ramzi, first uploaded the actual film, “ The Reality,” to his Instagram account on Oct. 28. The movie is clearly not intended to look like real footage of the conflict.
Ramzi confirmed to The Associated Press that the short film was shot in Lebanon and said it was to show the “pain that Gaza’s people endured.”
“It was not filmed to mislead people or to fabricate any truth because what’s happening in Gaza [doesn’t] need any form of fabrication. The videos are all over the media,” Ramzi wrote in an Instagram message.
The behind-the-scenes footage was posted to Instagram on Oct. 29 by an actor, Rami Jardali. “Backstage Reality,” reads a translated version of the caption on Instagram.
Ramzi also shared a video on his Instagram story refuting the false claims. The video states the film shows “the suffering of the people in Gaza but in an artistic way.”
CLAIM: A collage of nine images features the same Palestinian “crisis actor” pretending to be a wounded patient, a dead body and others in the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.
THE FACTS: Not all the photos show the same man. The person who appears to be pretending to be a dead war victim is actually a Thai child wearing a Halloween costume last year. The wounded patient is actually a 16-year old Palestinian boy who lost a leg in the West Bank over the summer.
Social media users are claiming the collage proves Palestinians are faking the gravity of the situation in Gaza.
Most of the nine pictures in the post show a man dressed in different outfits, with captions ranging from “freedom fighter” to “American idol.”
At the center of the collage is an image of a person wrapped head-to-toe in a white sheet but seated upright and looking at a phone in their hands. The text on the photo reads “revived corpse.”
The image to the left of it shows a man with eyes closed laying on a hospital gurney with electronic sensors attached to his bare chest as medical staff attend to him. The text on that photo reads, “Resilient patient.”
“This is a misinformation war. Make no mistake about it. The propaganda is real,” wrote one Instagram user who shared the collage. “Ask yourself: why do they need? #Pallywood #Gaza #FreePalestine from #Hamas.”
But not all of the photos in the montage show the same person.
For example, the photo of the “revived corpse” was originally posted on Oct. 29, 2022, on Facebook by a woman in Thailand.
The post included other photos of her two sons dressed as dead people for Halloween. A local news outlet also shared the mother’s photos on Facebook, noting in a post written in Thai that the pair took third place in a shopping mall costume contest in Nakhon Ratchasima, a major city in the country’s northeast.
As to the image of the “resilient patient” in the collage, it is actually a photo of a Palestinian teen injured months before the latest war with Israel erupted in early October.
Mohammed Zendiq, 16, had his leg amputated following July clashes at a refugee camp in the West Bank, according to an Aug. 25 report from the International Solidarity Movement, a Palestinian-led group.
Other photos in the collage depict a young Palestinian man named Saleh Aljafarawi.
The Gaza resident, who didn’t respond to messages seeking comment, describes himself as an artist on his YouTube page and has been regularly posting images and videos of himself amid the ongoing war on his Facebook, Instagram and other social media accounts.
CLAIM: A video shows Russian President Vladimir Putin announcing Russia will send “help to Palestine.”
THE FACTS: The video is from 2021 and shows Putin speaking about the defeat of Nazism at Russia’s Victory Day military parade. Russia has so far issued carefully calibrated criticism of both sides in the Israel-Hamas war.
Since the start of the conflict in October, social media users have repeatedly shared false claims about foreign leaders ’ comments on the war.
In the latest instance, users are sharing the old video of Putin speaking in Russian at a podium alongside clips of a parade featuring military equipment and personnel.
“Putin Announced Russia Will Openly Help To Palestine,” reads the caption overlaying the footage circulating online.
However, the footage, from May 2021, shows Putin speaking at the annual Victory Day military parade in Moscow’s Red Square, which marks the anniversary of the end of World War II. The full broadcast can be seen in a post on YouTube.
A transcript of the full speech published by the Russian news agency Tass shows Putin spoke about the defeat of Nazism in World War II while warning that Nazi beliefs remain strong. He did not mention the current conflict in the Middle East.
Anna Borshchevskaya, a senior fellow in The Washington Institute and an expert of Russian foreign policy toward the Middle East, confirmed Putin says in the video: “Glory to the victors.”
Borshchevskaya added that Putin has historically made efforts to build good relations with Israel but Hamas leadership has made repeated visits to Moscow as well.
“Putin has always positioned himself as someone who can talk to all sides,” Borshchevskaya told the AP.
Putin has not made any explicit claims around Russia’s stance over the Israel-Hamas war, though he publicly declared in early October that Moscow could play the role of mediator.
The Russian leader has condemned the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas militants, but at the same time warned Israel against blockading the Gaza strip, the AP reported.
CLAIM: A video shows a soldier being thrown to the ground as an airstrike hits an Israeli tank.
THE FACTS: The imagery is computer generated and was taken from the trailer for a video game called Squad.
The video, which is circulating on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, appears to show a soldier walking among military vehicles. As an armored vehicle comes up on his left, he waves his hand and says, “Let him through,” before an airstrike hits the vehicle and the soldier is thrown to the ground.
One user shared the video with the caption, “The scene of the destruction of an Israeli tank in the attack of Hamas…”
Another post on X of the same video with a similar caption in Urdu had more than 18,000 likes.
But the clip is identical to the initial scenes of the trailer released for an update to the first-person shooter game Squad in December 2022.
Offworld Industries, the game developer that makes Squad, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
This is not the first time clips of video game footage have been misrepresented as a real-life war. Video of the military simulation game Arma 3 has been shared as both footage of the latest Middle East conflict as well as the war in Ukraine.
CLAIM: Pro-Palestinian rallies at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the University of Pennsylvania called for “Jewish genocide.”
THE FACTS: The chant uttered in videos of recent demonstrations is being misrepresented. Protestors aren’t saying “We want Jewish genocide,” but “Israel, we charge you with genocide.” Experts and advocates say it’s a typical refrain heard at pro-Palestinian rallies.
One video being miscaptioned shows a group of people chanting protest slogans as they marched through the UCLA campus.
“In UCLA hundreds of students chanting: ‘Israel Israel you can’t hide, we want Jewish genocide’,” wrote one Instagram user in a post sharing the video. “This is not 1930s Germany, this is in Los Angeles October 26th 2023!”
Another video captures similar sounding protest chants at Penn’s campus in Philadelphia on Oct. 16.
“Students @uofpenn gathered chanting ‘We want Jewish genocide’ ‘there is only 1 solution’ in reference to the Nazis ‘final solution’,” wrote an Instagram user who shared the clip in a post. “There has possibly never ever been a more dangerous time to be a Jewish student as Antisemitism continues to grow as a disease.”
But the anti-Israel chants are being misquoted, Jewish and pro-Palestinian groups say.
The protestors are actually chanting, “Israel, Israel, you can’t hide: We charge you with genocide,” the Anti-Defamation League, which frequently speaks out against anti-Semitism and extremism, confirmed in an Oct. 31 email.
It’s a familiar refrain at anti-Israel rallies, but non-Israel-related versions are also heard at other protests, the New York-based Jewish group noted on a page on its webpage debunking false information about the ongoing conflict.
Penn Students Against the Occupation, which organized the Penn rally, dismissed the claims as “blatant disinformation” in a statement posted on Instagram.
The chants at UCLA were similarly misquoted, the university said on a webpage correcting misinformation related to campus events.
Dan Gold, who heads Hillel UCLA, a major Jewish organization on campus, noted his organization has called out the rally for its harmful rhetoric in its public statements.
But he personally observed the protest and confirmed there was no direct call to exterminate Jews.
CLAIM: An ad for British department store Marks & Spencer shows a Palestinian flag burning in a fireplace.
THE FACTS: The image shows red, green and silver paper hats — traditionally worn at British Christmas dinners — burning in a fireplace. It’s an outtake from a Christmas commercial filmed in August that was meant to “playfully” illustrate how people don’t enjoy some Christmas traditions, including donning the hats.
On social media, some had falsely claimed the image depicted a burning Palestinian flag.
“MARKS AND SPENCER SHOW THE PALESTINIAN FLAG BURNING IN A PROMO,” reads one post on X, formerly Twitter. “Their hashtag makes it clear that they intended to burn the Palestinian flag.”
But the image, which the company removed from its social media accounts after the issue arose, was meant to poke fun at a British Christmas tradition, not malign Palestinians, Marks & Spencer wrote in a statement shared on its social media sites on Nov. 1.
“Today we shared an outtake image from our Christmas Clothing and Home advert, which was recorded in August,” the statement reads. “It showed traditional, festive coloured red, green and silver Christmas paper party hats in a fire grate. While the intent was to playfully show that some people just don’t enjoy wearing paper Christmas hats over the festive season, we have removed the post following feedback and we apologise for any unintentional hurt caused.”
In a caption on its since-deleted Instagram post, Marks & Spencer wrote, “This Christmas, do only what you love… like saying no to paper hats (although, if we’re honest, we’re partial).” The sentiment is echoed in the final version of the commercial, which features “Queer Eye” fashion expert Tan France, singer Sophie Ellis Bextor, and actors Zawe Ashton and Hannah Waddingham.
The latest Israel-Hamas war began on Oct. 7 after Hamas launched a deadly incursion into southern Israeli towns — more than a month after the Marks & Spencer commercial was filmed.