Israeli gov’t faces questions over flotilla video hoax

(JTA) — The Israeli government is facing questions over whether it was involved in an online video attacking the Gaza flotilla that was revealed to be a hoax.

The video depicts a man claiming to have been rejected from participating in the planned second flotilla to Gaza because of his work as a gay rights activist.

Within hours of the posting on YouTube, the pro-Palestinian blog Electronic Intifada noted that the supposedly amateur video looked professionally made, with lighting, multiple camera angles and voiceovers. The man in the video, who called himself Marc, was soon identified as Israeli actor Omer Gershon.

Questions then swirled about whether the Israeli government was involved in creating the video.

According to The New York Times, an intern in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office was among the first to distribute the video using his personal Twitter account. The video was also promoted on the Twitter accounts of Israel’s Government Press Office and Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The New York Times reported that several Israeli officials declined to comment on suggestions by pro-Palestinian bloggers that the Israeli government might have been involved in the video’s production. However, in an update, The New York Times reported that an Israeli government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that as far as he knew the Prime Minister’s Office was not behind the video.

The Israeli Prime Minister’s Office also issued a statement.

“Various bodies dealing with international media campaigns continuously monitor and distribute Internet content when they recognize content that can serve Israel’s campaigns,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement, Haaretz reported.

Haaretz reported that it had sent the Prime Minister’s Office questions asking whether the Israeli government had participated in the making of the video. The newspaper reported that the Prime Minister’s Office’s response did not include a denial of government involvement.

When news spread that the video was fake, both offices deleted their Twitter posts, with the press office issuing a new one: "The ‘Gay activist’ video was an apparent hoax and we were duped. The GPO tries to verify beforehand and does sincerely apologize."  Yigal Palmor, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told The New York Times that the video was “revealed to be not a documentary but rather a mockumentary.”

In the video, "Marc" said he expected the flotilla participants to be like "a cross between Che Guevara and Mother Teresa with a keffiyeh," but instead was informed that his gay rights activism would not serve the organizers’ cause.

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