Historian Richard Landes gave Pallywood its name. I excerpted his recent essay ”Jihadi journalism” on mainstream media photographers riding along with Hamas on the October 7 massacre. Professor Landes now returns with the Tablet essay “Pallywood’s latest blockbuster” to document the production featuring the Al-Ahli Hospital. A funny thing happened on the way from Pallywood. He concludes with these observations:
Had it been merely an Islamic Jihad rocket that fell short, the chances of it eliciting this kind of outrage are nil. The only way the media story could potentially have an impact on U.S. policy is if it were an Israeli strike targeting a hospital and killing hundreds of innocent Palestinians.
Hence, once the evidence became clear on Oct. 18, CNN had to adjust and explain that, actually, it didn’t matter who was responsible. “In the eyes of the international community maybe this does make a difference. But in the eyes of the streets, no,” opined Erin Burnett. Burnett then turned to her colleague Clarissa Ward in Ashkelon for comment. Ward repeated verbatim the narrative from the previous night without any concern for how little sense it now made. What mattered was the desired political effect. “The focus now,” Ward commented, “is very much on the reaction and the fact that for many Arab states, this is now becoming a national security issue in their own countries because people are horrified. People are angry.” And so, Burnett and Ward doubled down, the former declaring the hospital blast “a huge inflection,” and the latter concurring that “there’s no question this feels like a watershed moment.” That was the hope, at least.
Hamas’ Al-Ahli Hospital information operation succeeded in enlisting the cooperation of Western media organizations. By the time the evidence became clear, the damage had been done, both in the Middle East and in the West, where Hamas supporters rallied in the streets. Although President Biden accepted Israel’s evidence that proved it was not responsible, the pressure at home was such that Biden had to apologize to Muslim American leaders for questioning the figures provided by the Hamas health ministry.
Curiously, the campaign in the U.S. to declare Pallywood a “false narrative” intensified after the Al-Ahli op was exposed. Just this week, NPR ran a segment (citing the same fact-checker used by Rolling Stone) on the Pallywood “pejorative.” The timing dovetails with the White House’s Islamophobia initiative, which provided the necessary framework for the campaign: The Pallywood conspiracy theory is a form of hate speech that endangers Muslim lives in America, and is a manifestation of Islamophobia. There is no place for it in America.
Read the whole thing here.