A YouTube video casting a flotilla headed to the Gaza Strip as anti-gay has been shown to be professionally made, and may be part of an orchestrated campaign with ties to the Israeli government.
In the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the latest weapon — in public relations — is a video.
It's not the first time the Gaza flotilla has been embroiled in controversy regarding videos. A year ago, both sides argued over videos that showed a raid on the flotilla that resulted in 9 casualties and dozens wounded. Due to the lack of context in the footage, each side used it to further their own agendas.
In the video, shown below, a man identifying himself as activist-since-college "Marc" relates an experience, vlog-style, about how he tried to hook up his "LGBTQ network" with a flotilla headed to Gaza, to protest Israel's continuing blockade and instead found not only rejection, but ties to Hamas, the political party that has controlled the territory since June 2007 (when the blockades began).
He sounds sincere, but also sounds a little too polished for your typical YouTuber. And that's because he is a professional actor The New York Times identified as Tel Aviv-based actor Omar/Omer Gershon, whose distinctive features also grace a Puma video (seen clearly at 1:07 minutes in).
In his description of the video, "Marc" writes:
Mother Teresa with a keffiyeh! We like to believe that things like this don't happen anymore in our community, f***ing unbelievable. I'm not a usually a fan of putting down people in public, but this is a story I felt I had to share- what happened when my LGBTQ network tried to hook up with the flotilla to Gaza. Let me know if you've had similar experiences- firstname.lastname@example.org.
He targets specific groups: Viva Palestina, FreeGaza.org, The Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief. The flotilla is made up of activists from several countries.
The video is pretty slick, for a supposedly amateur production, with nice camera work, some B-roll footage of the "activist" strolling and nicely edited images of the above groups' logos.
And let's not forget the monologue, which hit all the notes of a testimonial.
"I was picturing a cross between Che Guevara and Mother Teresa, with a keffiyeh," he narrates. "I thought, this is something I want to be a part of." He said he sent one of the groups an email identifying himself as the leader of a gay rights network and "would love to bring some pride to the next flotilla."
Gershon's character, who says he's "no Middle East expert," says the flotilla group said no to his offer, and then in doing some research found that the group had ties to Hamas, which he directly ties to homophobic articles and language.
But the New York Times revealed a web of connections from Gershon to an Israel advocacy non-profit, and to the Israel Security Agency, Shin-Bet.
Bloggers Max Blumenthal and Benjamin Doherty, who writes for Electronic Intifada — a "not-for-profit, independent publication committed to comprehensive public education about Palestine and Palestinians" — sussed out the suspicious video and found links to Israel's government through tweets that promoted the video.
They also found no evidence of Marc's activism beyond this one video. (Then again, since "Marc" isn't real, then there wouldn't be any history, would there? We emailed Marc. No response yet.)
Doherty also accused the video of being an example of "pinkwashing":
This is a transparent effort to justify the oppressive and criminal siege of Gaza — and possible violent Israeli attack on the upcoming Flotilla — by describing Palestinians as dangerous, violent homophobes and misogynists. Pinkwashing is a tactic that pro-Israel groups and the Israeli government have been consciously using to try to divide and co-opt the Palestine solidarity movement and its connection to other movements around the world.
The video ends with Gershon uttering PSA-like lines: "These are the people the flotilla groups are hugging... Be careful who you get in bed with. If you hook up with the wrong group, you might wake up next to Hamas."
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