Anti-Israel propaganda in UCL’s refugees exhibition

At University College London (UCL) there is an exhibition called ‘Moving Objects’ in the Octagon Gallery (entrance via ground floor of Wilkins Building).  It began on 18 February and lasts to 6 October.

The blurb on the website says it is about refugees.   So does the introductory panel.

UCL AUG19 1

In truth it is anti-Israel propaganda. Hardly any refugees are featured apart from Palestinians.   At the same time as Arabs fled from the new State of Israel in 1948 (under the command of their leaders) and in subsequent years, thousands of Jews were being expelled from Arab countries. Why does the exhibition not include them?

UCL AUG19 2

There is a map of Israel (exhibit 31) with the country entirely erased and with a Palestinian flag on top.

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The caption’s suggestion that it is ‘a pre-1948 rural vision’ is outrageous.  This is pure anti-Israel propaganda.

UCL AUG19 4
Just as bad – in fact worse – is exhibit 25a. It shows an airmail letter dated July 1957 from Jordan, addressed to someone in the USA.

UCL AUG19 5.jpg

But the CAPTION states ‘Posted from Palestine by a sister to her brother before 1948. This letter was sent by a sister to her brother at the time when Palestine was still on earth. ‘

1. The letter is postmarked 1957 not ‘before 1948’ !

2. The caption suggests there was a country called ‘Palestine’ before 1948 which was ‘still on earth’ –the subtext being that Israel (created in 1948) destroyed the country called ‘Palestine’ which was the home of the ‘Palestinians’.

This is a complete falsehood. ‘Palestine’ was the name of the region which the League of Nations in July 1922 entrusted Great Britain with a Mandate. This encompassed both present day Israel and present day Jordan.  The name ‘Palestine’ had nothing to do with the descendants of refugees who now call themselves ‘Palestinians’.  It was not until years after Israeli independence in 1948 that the Arabs living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip were called Palestinians.

This letter is simply a letter from Jordan.

I have complained to UCL. I will publish their response here. This is yet another example of truth about Israel in UK academia being wilfully supplanted by lies. One of the academics who created the exhibition is Dr Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, a Professor at UCL. She has form. She signed a petition stating ‘Israel’s policies have brought Gaza to the brink of economic, social and ecological collapse’ (the truth is that it is Hamas which is the obstacle to progress in Gaza) and that Israel ‘inflicts collective punishment on the people of Gaza’ (the truth is that Israel acts to defend its citizens from rocket fire and only restricts the import of items which can be used to make weapons). She also was at SOAS – the well-known incubator of Israel demonisation and antisemitism – for two years in research and teaching jobs.

UCL was the university where anti-Israel students succeeded in violently closing down a meeting by an Israeli in 2016.  Hen Mazzig and the Jewish students were denied free speech.  How ironic then that free speech is now being used at UCL to promote anti-Israel propaganda in the guise of an exhibition to publicise issues around refugees. And how shocking that in six months, no-one seems to have noticed the abuse or complained about it (David Collier alerted me to the exhibition after Daniela Vinkeles Melchers, a student on a summer course at UCL, alerted him).

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Postscript

Here is an email from Professor Sasha Roseneil Dean of the Faculty of Social & Historical Sciences at UCL (emboldening mine):

I think it’s a really poorly put together exhibition and am pretty disappointed by the quality of the curation… The four exhibition cases don’t hang together – and it’s not really made clear that they are (I think) from four different projects, only very loosely related.  In terms of the work that the student is referring to, I can see the student’s point. Israel is presented as not existing in the embroidered map. But this is a set of objects co-curated by UCL academics and “displaced people”, and it represents the latter’s world view, stories and versions of history, imagined worlds, memories, wishes etc, rather than any sort of “objective truth”. The commentaries do say that these are the objects and stories of the people, and don’t claim to be presenting historical truth or contemporary actuality. But the complexity of ethnographic research, and the fact that ethnographic research deals with the writing (graph) of “peoples” (ethnos) in their own terms and stories, isn’t at all well conveyed so that it is easy for a visitor to think this is the (UCL academic) curator’s presentation of the history or current reality, or even imagined future, of Israel-Palestine… (which it might also be…)… It’s a very tricky instance where academic freedom/ interpretation/ research on a contentious issue comes into conflict with deeply held beliefs and alternative versions of history/ truth… Here we have a presentation of some Palestinian people’s own objects and experience, and a set of objects curated by UCL academics around this theme. One might say, perhaps, that there should have been some kind of counter narrative offered, given this, but on the other hand, it is, surely, legitimate to present the stories of Palestinian people, without having to present the stories of Jewish-Israelis… (just as it would be the other way round). So, it is very tricky.

Postscript #2

Email received 26/9/19 from Fiona Ryland, Chief Operating Office at UCL. What  a disgrace (though she said earlier that they did change the date on the caption on 25a)

‘Dear Mr Hoffman,

I am responding to make you aware that we have undertaken a review of the Moving Objects exhibition, in consultation with academic colleagues with relevant expertise. This is an exhibition that draws on ethnographic work and was co-curated with refugees and asylum seekers. The exhibition explores the perspectives of people who have experienced displacement. UCL is committed to principles of academic freedom, and it is the right and responsibility of scholars in a university to draw on their research expertise to represent how peoples, societies and cultures see themselves. This exhibition will continue as planned.

Kind Regards

Fiona’