Reprinted from Honest Reporting.
Forensic Architecture is a British “research agency” based at London’s Goldsmith’s University that investigates what it describes as “human rights violations including violence committed by states, police forces, militaries, and corporations.” The group, which claims to use cutting-edge techniques such as “spatial and architectural analysis, open source investigation, digital modelling, and immersive technologies” to expose alleged injustices, recently came under the spotlight when a row over its latest exhibition erupted.
It all started when the Whitworth Gallery – part of Manchester University – began hosting Forensic Architecture’s collection titled, ‘Cloud Studies,’ which purports to expose the environmental impact of Israeli military action in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, as well as how “air is weaponised” in diverse locations such as Lebanon, Indonesia and the United States.
When the exhibition opened on July 2, visitors were presented with a statement that read in part:
While working on this exhibition, Forensic Architecture witnessed with horror yet another attack by Israel’s occupation forces on Palestinians [.…] The ferocity of the bombing produced man-made environmental disasters, with underground explosions leading to artificial earthquakes under Gaza City. At the same time, the targeting of agricultural storage facilities produced massive ‘airquakes’, with clouds of toxic fumes covering entire residential areas.[…]
We honour the courage of Palestinians who continue to document and narrate events on the ground and to struggle against this violence, apartheid and colonization. We believe that this liberation struggle is inseparable from other global struggles against racism, white supremacy, antisemitism, and settler colonial violence and we acknowledge its particularly close entanglement with the Black liberation struggle around the world.”
In response, UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI) organized a meeting with gallery representatives in which members pointed out that the statement was a “factually incorrect and dangerously one-sided account on an extremely complex foreign policy issue,” and queried whether it was appropriate that a publicly-funded body like Whitworth should be promoting such a biased narrative.
Gallery bosses apparently agreed and the statement was promptly removed.
Following threats from Forensic Architecture to pull the exhibition in its entirety, the Whitworth relented and restored the statement, but this time with a rebuttal from Manchester’s Jewish Representative Council that warns visitors are about to see “false statements.”
Celebrating this partial victory, Forensic Architecture took to the opinion pages of the Guardian to call the gallery’s U-turn a win for free speech in “cultural spaces.” Describing its work as “political art” that seeks to intervene in “political realities,” the article defends the use of language such as “ethnic cleansing” and “apartheid” because these characterizations “describe the reality of Palestinian life.” The piece also appears to suggest the Israeli army is committing a kind of environmental warfare on Palestinians by way of reference to the “clouds of toxic fumes rising over the bombed-out chemical facilities in Beit Lahia.”
The gallery’s decision to allow the statement to be included, albeit with the addition of a counter-statement, sets a dangerous precedent. The problem is that while Forensic Architecture might like to present this as a free speech issue, it is not. The fact is, Forensic Architecture is not an art collective and this was not just an art exhibit. As the group proudly extols on its website, it conducts “investigations” which it claims have been used in both national and international courtrooms, as well as parliamentary enquiries.
The problem is that visitors who paid for tickets to see ‘Cloud Studies’ most likely did not believe they were seeing an artistic interpretation of political issues. Rather, given Forensic Architecture’s own account of the scientific methods it employs, many could not be faulted for thinking that they are seeing the result of a “forensic” investigation of the conflict between Israel and Hamas, with its associated libelous conclusions.
At no point in the exhibition is any reference made to Hamas – the US and EU-designated terrorist group that rules over Gaza and whose indiscriminate rocket fire at Israel instigated the 11-day conflict in May. For a collection that claims to lay bare the environmental effects of targeted strikes on Gaza, not mentioning the rockets that emanate from within the enclave – some of which fall short of their targets and kill Palestinian civilians – shows a flagrant disregard for the truth.
But perhaps the most egregious of the all the omissions in the exhibition is ignoring the environmental disasters perpetrated by Palestinians themselves. As HonestReporting previously detailed, between May and July this year, rioters in the West Bank burned more than 70,000 tires in what can only be described as ecological terrorism. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, tires release all manner of toxic materials when set alight, including gasses and heavy metals. In addition, burning just one tire produces over two gallons (7.6 liters) of toxic oil runoff that can contaminate soil and groundwater.
Unfortunately, Forensic Architecture has a history of obscuring facts when it comes to issues pertaining to Israel. For example, HonestReporting previously called out the body for accusing the IDF of “executing” a terrorist who deliberately rammed his car into a soldier in an investigation titled, “The Extra-Judicial killing of Ahmad Erekat.” The group was also the source of a front-page New York Times article that conspiratorially suggested the unintentional death of a Palestinian medic was perhaps not accidental.
Forensic Architecture may claim its latest victory of being able to present defamatory “evidence” that distorts the Jewish state’s image is a win for freedom of expression. It is not. It is a win for propagandists being given a green light to serve up anti-Israel lies under the guise of “political art.”
To register discontent with the Guardian for allowing its pages to be used to spread false narratives about Israel please contact: email@example.com
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I don't necessarily endorse all content from this site but it's always good to get different perspectives. https://honestreporting.com/guardian-lends-credence-to-forensic-architectures-libelous-palestine-exhibition/