Middle East conflict on the Internet: Sometimes seriously injured, sometimes cheering: That’s what’s behind the mysterious “Gaza Joe”
The information war about the Middle East conflict is raging on the Internet. Saleh Aljafarawi – called “Gaza Joe” or “Hamas actor” – is a controversial figure. While he claims to be an artist from Gaza, many accuse him of making propaganda for Hamas. Despite or precisely because of these allegations, Aljafarawi reaches around 2.5 million followers with his accounts.
On X, some call him “Gaza Joe,” others call him a “Hamas actor.” Some say he is being paid by the terrorist group to stir up sentiment against Israel. Saleh Aljafarawi, at least that is the name above the young man’s social media profiles, can regularly be seen in videos from the Gaza Strip on the Internet. He is accused of carrying out propaganda for Hamas.
According to the recordings and according to his own statements, Aljafarawi lives in the Gaza Strip. He writes about himself on his YouTube channel:
“My name is Saleh Aljafarawi, I am 25 years old, a Palestinian living in Gaza, an artist. I will create videos that you will enjoy, God willing. I love you all. And don’t forget to subscribe to the channel.”
Influencer known for spreading propaganda videos
The account’s profile picture shows a young man with short black hair with a goatee, mustache and side whiskers. Aljafarawi is wearing a dark suit with a red pocket square and red tie. He takes a photo of himself with his cell phone, smiles, and shows off his braces. He has long been considered an online influencer, known for spreading propaganda videos in support of Hamas. His activities have attracted attention, particularly against the backdrop of the Middle East conflict.
Aljafarawi is considered a crisis actor for Hamas. The clips of him circulating online sometimes show him with a machine gun in his hand, sometimes with what appears to be a bleeding baby in his arms. Sometimes he shows himself cheering when rockets are fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip, sometimes crying when Israeli rockets hit Gaza back. Another clip is said to show Aljafarawi lying in a hospital bed.
Hospital video raises questions
However, doubts arise again and again about the authenticity of the scenes. Sometimes it’s the chronological sequence that doesn’t make sense, sometimes it’s the “props” or the “act” itself that users accuse it of being fake.
The suspicion of propaganda was recently confirmed primarily by the hospital video in which Aljafarawi lies apathetic and apparently suffering in bed. Two men hold the man’s hand, caress his face, comfort him. The man keeps drawing his eyebrows together in bed. An EKG is connected to his chest and a ventilator is stuck in his nose. The associated devices can be seen in the background. But clearly no one is turned on.
A day later, Aljafarawi, whom some claim to have recognized in the hospital bed, appears in a new video. In it he can be seen running through the streets and filming the various locations of the air raids. This was despite previously posting a video in which he pretended to be in a hospital bed in critical condition.
“Don’t worry, he got through,” writes one X user, obviously ironically. And that “even though all monitors and medical devices were switched off.” Another user commented, also ironically: “The actor paid by Hamas who almost died in the hospital in Gaza yesterday is praising Allah in the streets today. An endless soap opera.”
But the man in the hospital bed may not be Aljafarawi. The person in the video is said to be Mohammed Saeed Zandek, who lost a leg in an Israeli attack on a refugee camp in the West Bank in July, writes “Old news“, an Indian non-profit fact-checking website. Accordingly, the now viral video was shared on August 19, 2023.
The case shows how fierce the information battle is waged by both sides on the Internet.
Around 2.5 million followers on Instagram
Aljafarawi’s Instagram account is his main channel with 1.4 million followers. This is where he shares most of his posts. Among other things, he is also active on YouTube and TikTok, each with around 10,000 followers. Meta is said to have recently reacted to his posts and blocked his Instagram account. Research by FOCUS online cannot confirm this.
Aljafarawi now uses three accounts. Between 1.6 million and 32,000 users have accumulated here. In total, he reaches around 2.5 million users with his profiles on Instagram. Under a photo of himself, he writes: “Even if they delete a thousand accounts, I will still make accounts and post.”
So it can continue to cause confusion and fuel the conflict. Concerns remain that Aljafarawi may continue to play a suspected role in spreading misinformation and distorted narratives, adding to the complexity of information warfare in the conflict between Israel and Hamas. When asked by FOCUS online, he has not yet commented on the allegations made against him online.