Old TikTok clip falsely claimed to show Palestinians faking deaths

In the latest of a series of allegations about staged casualties in the Israel-Hamas war, social media users are claiming a video shows Palestinians faking their deaths. This is false; the clip has been online since at least 2021 and appears to depict a comedic sketch featuring influencers.

"Did you ever see a better #Pallywood video than this?!" says a November 30, 2023 post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

The video shows three men arranging themselves in a row on the ground, their eyes closed as though they were dead.

Screenshot from X, formerly Twitter, taken December 7, 2023

Similar posts spread across X -- many invoking the term "Pallywood," a derogatory label blending "Palestine" and "Hollywood." The term has accompanied a flood of "crisis actor" conspiracy theories accusing civilians from both Israel and the Gaza Strip of faking injuries or deaths to garner sympathy and demonize the other side.

Such disinformation has exploded online since Hamas militants stormed across the highly militarized Gaza border into Israel on October 7, taking around 240 hostages and killing about 1,200 people -- mostly civilians, according to Israeli officials.

Israel's incessant air strikes and ground offensive in Gaza have killed more than 17,400 people -- primarily women and children, according to the Palestinian territory's Hamas-run health ministry.

The latest video claimed to show Gazans feigning such casualties predates the escalation of violence by almost three years.

The clip comes from a TikTok posted March 26, 2021. The user's Arabic profile says "Nazareth," a city in northern Israel (archived here and here).

AFP could not independently verify the context or purpose of the video. But laughter and commentary in the footage suggest it was meant to be comedic.

Expressions generally reserved for solemn occasions are heard alongside laughing in the background -- including a phrase often recited at funerals that translates to: "There is no god but the only God, the martyr is beloved by God."

The video's caption also includes laughing emojis.

Misbar, an Arabic fact-checking service, investigated the video in 2021 and again amid the Israel-Hamas war.

The outlet identified the men in the clip as Palestinian influencers who have Down Syndrome, a genetic disorder (archived here and here). Misbar reported they are from the West Bank and that the video was a comedic scene.

Other videos show the men drawing crowds and visiting a Palestinian official (archived here, here, here and here).

AFP has debunked other misinformation about the Israel-Hamas war, including false "crisis actor" claims, here.

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