Forensic Architecture shortlisted for Turner Prize? #WeCallBS

The Turner Prize – given annually – is awarded for contemporary art by a British artist.  The winner receives £25,000, the other three nominated £5,000 each.   It often attracts controversy – no-one will forget Tracey Emin’s bed (nominated in 1999).

The 2018 winner will be announced on Tuesday 4 December (9.30pm BBC News Channel).  There are four nominations.  One is called ‘Forensic Architecture’: ‘An interdisciplinary team that includes architects, filmmakers, lawyers and scientists, Forensic Architecture’s work uses the built environment as a starting point for explorations into human rights violations.’

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Forensic Architecture is described here. The team is based at Goldsmiths, University of London. Their Director is Professor Eyal Weizman. Who is he?

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You don’t have to look far to see that Professor Weizman is one of those Israeli-born expatriate academics who abuse their position to denigrate and vilify the country of their birth, promoting BDS and brainwashing their students and colleagues into hating Israel.  Here is the cover of one of his books:

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He was (of course!) a prominent supporter of the failed attempt to get the Royal Institute of British Architects to call on the International Architects Union to suspend the Israeli Association of United Architects.

His book ‘Forensic Architecture’ provides additional evidence on his motivations…….

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Israel’s presence in Judea and Samaria is falsely described as ‘colonisation, domination, separation and violence’.

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Weizman repeats the myth that Israel is stealing water from the Palestinians.

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What is ‘forensic’ about ignoring the evidence that the al-Dura footage was probably staged? ‘Evidence’ appearing to vilify Israel is pounced on; evidence incriminating the Palestinians is ignored.

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More ‘evidence’ that Weizman dismisses, because it fails to vilify Israel – in fact, the opposite! Marc Garlasco, Human Rights Watch’s “senior military expert” and co-author of numerous reports condemning Israel, was an avid collector of Nazi memorabilia!

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Weizman ludicrously says that the IDF (“the most moral army in the world” – Colonel Richard Kemp) shoots to kill anyone in Gaza who tries to photograph them. It’s nonsense.

Forensic Architecture works across the world: with Greece, Syria, Venezuela, Libya, UK, Pakistan, the Yazidi and more – the full list of their investigations is here. But given Weizman’s animus against Israel, it’s no surprise that the two investigations chosen for the Turner Prize Judges both vilify Israel.

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Appallingly, the official Tate Catalogue for the Turner nominee exhibition claims that the ‘Beduin population is unrecognised by the Israel State’ – utter rubbish.

The first Forensic Architecture Turner Prize exhibit attempts to ‘prove’ that Israel is ‘repeatedly and forcefully’ displacing the Beduin ‘from the land that it has inhabited for centuries’. That is simply a lie, no other word for it. The truth is here.  Israel’s government is trying to ensure that the Beduin – who, remember are a Nomadic People – are not living on unrecognised sites without services such as running water and electricity but move to existing recognised sites with such services installed. What a disappointment for the Israel bashing conspiracy theorists!

The second Forensic Architecture Turner Prize exhibit is supported by a video in the Tate exhibition (but not available online as far as I know). It concerns the event at Umm Al Hiran in the Negev on 18 January 2017 when an Israeli policeman Erez Levy was killed by a car driven by a Beduin villager, Yaqub Musa Abu al-Qi’an. The first response of the Israeli authorities was that al-Qi’an was a terrorist who deliberately rammed the policeman (he was then shot dead). The police chief said he spread incitement at a school where six other teachers were arrested for their affiliation with ISIS. When more evidence came to light – including from Forensic Architecture – the Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan began to accept that the police may have shot al-Qi’an before his car hit Levy. It then ran down the hill out of control, gathering speed. It hit and killed Levy before being stopped by the police. Another Minister later apologised to the family of al-Qi’an.

The problem is that the exhibit is presented free of context. Umm Al Hiran was an unrecognised Beduin village, as described above. The Israeli government tried to persuade its inhabitants to move to a recognised site but foreign NGOs and anti-Israel activists whipped up opposition, producing the escalation which led to the shooting of al-Qi’an, presumably for terrorist-related offences.

Like its Director Eyal Weizman, Forensic Architecture has a history of falsely demonising Israel.  In July 2015 they released their ‘Gaza Platform’ which claimed to contain an abundance of information about Israel’s Operation Protective Edge. To quote NGO Monitor, ‘this pseudo-scientific exercise repeated Amnesty’s standard political bias and was immediately exposed as factually inaccurate – terrorists were identified as civilian health care workers; a “journalist” doubled as a Hamas operative, etc. And here.

UK Lawyers for Israel sent a submission on Amnesty International to the Charity Commission which included analysis of Forensic Architecture’s ‘Gaza Platform’. It noted that Forensic Architecture has been described as ‘Biased as Hell’.  Here’s an extract from UKLFI’s submission:

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UKLFI has sent the following to the Chair of the Turner Prize Judges, Alex Farquharson, Director of Tate Britain:

I regret that we found that the content of that Platform [the Gaza Platform] and the Report based on it and the methodology used to produce them were wholly lacking in objectivity and integrity. Indeed they amounted to modern blood libels likely to promote antisemitism and attacks on Jews. I attach a copy of our analysis and direct your attention particularly to sections 6 and 7 where the Platform and Report based on it are discussed.

‘We are concerned that if the Prize is awarded to Forensic Architecture, this will result in further publicity being given to these lies. We respectfully urge you and your fellow Judges to take this into account when judging the Prize.’

Nominating Forensic Architecture for an ‘art’ prize is patently absurd. It doesn’t produce ‘art’ – it produces investigative journalism. The same as for example Andrew Norfolk of The Times: Where is his Turner Prize nomination for exposing the sexual abuse of mostly white girls, typically aged around 12 or 13, by gangs of middle-aged men, mostly of Pakistani origin, in Rotherham? Moreover unlike Andrew Norfolk, Ezer Weizman is not subject to commercial judgment : If Norfolk published an investigation that was factually incorrect, his newspaper would suffer commercially and he could lose his job.  Weizman – by contrast – would still receive his full academic taxpayer-funded salary at Goldsmiths.

Since Forensic Architecture does not produce ‘art’, we can safely judge it on the quality of what it does produce – namely, investigations.  And in the case of Israel, those have been shown to be driven by the Israel-hating animus of BDS-supporting Professor Eyal Weizman and to contain untruths.

Memo to Turner Prize Jury: If you are going to consider investigative journalism as ‘art’, so be it. But then you have to judge it by the standards of that genre, the most important of which is surely accuracy.  Award the Turner Prize to Forensic Architecture and you are validating as accurate the context-free and distorted work about Israel of a group known for its bias, led by a man who supports boycotting Israel and who has a history of mendaciously demonising that country. The purpose of these two exhibits is not to uncover the truth. Rather, it is to fuel opposition to Israel, which in turn fuels antisemitism toward the Jewish Community.

Is that really what you want?

Postscript: Congratulations to Charlotte Prodger on win.

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