In the wake of recent Israeli airstrikes in Gaza, a deeply disturbing video has gone viral on social media. It features the lifeless body of a five-month-old Palestinian child, Muhammad Hani Al Zahar, tenderly held by grieving family members. However, an unsettling wave of misinformation has tainted the tragic reality captured in these visuals. Several social media users have claimed that the infant featured in the video is, in fact, a plastic doll, an example of 'Pallywood' — a term employed by pro-Israeli channels to describe alleged staged scenes by Palestinians with fake victims. This unfounded narrative, unfortunately, has found some traction.
Unmasking the Misinformation
The claims circulating the internet, suggesting the video to be a purposeful deception, hold no factual ground. A host of journalists and photographers who have been close to the situation have debunked these false assertions. These professionals, including Palestinian journalist Hani Abu Rezeq and photographer Omar Aldirawi, have verified the authenticity of the footage. Their work has been shared extensively on Instagram, and additional photos by photographer Ali Jadallah are available on Getty Images.
Understanding the Misinterpretation
The false narrative has largely stemmed from the stiff appearance of the deceased baby in the video. This stiffness, often erroneously cited as proof of the baby being a doll, is due to a natural postmortem process known as rigor mortis. The phenomenon, which typically sets in several hours after death, results in the stiffening of the body's muscles, explaining the baby's rigid appearance in the disturbing footage.
The need to combat misinformation is paramount, given the sensitive and devastating nature of the situation. Even reputable news outlets such as The Jerusalem Post briefly echoed the false narrative, later retracting the article for failing to meet editorial standards. Fact-checking organizations, including VRT NWS, have been instrumental in debunking these unfounded claims, emphasizing the critical importance of responsible journalism and the dissemination of verified information.