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Marta Campabadal Graus
By Marta Campabadal Graus November 30, 2023

Evidence lacking for 'crisis actor' claims about Palestinian in Gaza TV footage

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  • The man Newsmax called a "crisis actor" is a social media influencer who has been posting about Gaza and the al-Shifa Hospital.

A Palestinian social media influencer with a wide audience has been posting videos about the war in Gaza, including of the Israeli military’s raid of al-Shifa hospital. Saleh Aljafarawi has tens of thousands of followers on Instagram, TikTok and YouTube; he is not a journalist, but TV channels including MSNBC, the BBC and Al Jazeera have aired some of his footage from the conflict, and Al Jazeera labeled him a "journalist" in its clip. 

A broadcaster for the conservative channel Newsmax TV, Rob Schmitt, cast doubt on Aljafarawi’s legitimacy in a Nov. 10 segment that called out MSNBC. 

"With fake blood in his hands, it’s this guy right here," Schmitt said. "Does MSNBC not pay attention to anything? This guy is everywhere, he’s a crisis actor. He’s at every possible crisis they have. He gets paid by Hamas and MSNBC puts him on TV, what a joke." 

The Newsmax chyron read, "MSNBC airs Gaza ‘Crisis Actor.’" An Instagram user shared Schmitt’s clip, which contains sensitive content. It was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

PolitiFact’s review of Aljafarawi’s social media accounts and background did not reveal evidence of him being a "crisis actor" or faking the scene at the hospital. 

It’s not the first time we’ve seen the "crisis actor" phrase used against people in Gaza. 

We have also fact-checked claims that Israeli children on CNN were "crisis actors" after the Oct. 7 Hamas attack.

Israel’s X account called Aljafarawi a "crisis actor." Aljafarawi has talked of Israel as "occupiers," accused Israeli airstrikes of targeting women and children, and celebrated the firing of rockets toward Israel, saying "God is most great," in Arabic. 

PolitiFact asked Newsmax for comment but received no answer. We also contacted MSNBC and Aljafarawi but did not hear back.

Aljafarawi’s original video on Nov. 10 shows Aljafarawi with blood on his hands, running around the facility. He shows a broken ceiling with a hole, and then a little girl who also has blood on her hands and face. The caption of the post, originally in Arabic, said, "They bombarded the hospital," according to Instagram’s automatic translation. (His video has been removed; an archived (and graphic) version is here.)

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MSNBC journalist Chris Jansing played Aljafarawi’s clip Nov. 10 and translated his report as, "We carried them with our hands. Our hands. They bombed them, bombed them, inside the hospital. Oh god, oh god, please god, have mercy on us." 

Schmitt in the Newsmax segment also shows a composite of photos that people who claim that Aljafarawi is an actor have spread. 

The images try to show Aljafarawi in different roles, such as a "freedom fighter," "blood donor" and "war correspondent." But several of the photos do not show him at all, and others were taken from his social media accounts out of context.

The "revived corpse" photo does not show Aljafarawi; it’s of a kid in a Halloween costume posted October 2022 to Facebook by a woman in Thailand, The Associated Press reported

Collage circulating on social media that claims Aljafarawi is a "crisis actor".

Another image of Aljafarawi as a "resilient patient" had been on TikTok since at least August. The AP reported that the image, taken from a video of an injured teen in a hospital bed, dates to August and does not show Aljafarawi.

The "freedom fighter" image of Aljafarawi with a gun was taken from a music video that was deleted a few weeks ago. In the music video, he was posing as a singing Hamas fighter.

The other photos of him as a "foster father," "tour guide" and as an "American idol" are from his social media accounts, in which he describes himself as a 26-year-old Palestinian living in Gaza. Before the Israel-Hamas war started after Hamas attacked sites in southern Israel Oct. 7 attack, Aljafarawi was already a social media influencer, but his content was mostly footage of his travels or music videos. He also posts videos of himself reciting passages from the Quran.

We rate the Newsmax segment’s claim that MSNBC aired a Gaza "crisis actor" False.

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Evidence lacking for 'crisis actor' claims about Palestinian in Gaza TV footage

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