Mark Weiss – Telegraph.co.uk June 29, 2011
Official Israeli government websites were forced to remove a video clip of a man claiming to be an American gay rights activist who was banned from participating in the flotilla to Gaza after it was revealed to be a hoax.
However, pro-Palestinian groups are claiming the Israeli government had produced the footage to discredit the flotilla, which is due to set sail in the coming days with about 300 international activists who aim to break Israel’s maritime blockade on Gaza.
The 3-minute video, uploaded onto YouTube, showed a man calling himself Marc Pax saying he was denied permission by the organisers to join the protest because the participation of a gay activist would not “serve the interests” of the flotilla.
Pax then criticised the groups participating in the flotilla for having close ties to Hamas, a group which denies basic human rights to Gaza residents.
The clip was widely distributed via links on a number of Israeli government websites.
The Palestinian blog Electronic Intifada identified the clip as staged and Marc Pax was soon identified as Omer Gershon, an Israeli actor involved in marketing.
An intern working in the prime minister’s office in Jerusalem had posted the clip on Twitter, and government websites put up links to the clip.
The links were removed after the hoax was revealed, with apologies from Israeli officials that they had been “duped”. Palestinian bloggers claim the whole affair was the latest Israeli attempt to discredit the flotilla.
Flotilla organisers, waiting to set sail from Greece, earlier blamed the Mossad for the sabotage of the propeller of one of the ships. They also blamed Israel for a host of bureaucratic obstacles faced by the vessels before the Greek authorities will let them leave port.
Israeli officials denied any wrongdoing, and claimed that intense diplomatic pressure by Israel, and warnings by the United States, European governments and the UN, led to a number of boats pulling out and the relatively small number of participants.