UK Art Gallery Exhibit on ‘Toxic Clouds’ Charged With ‘Inflammatory Language’ Against Israel
A prominent British art gallery is presenting an exhibition that charges Israel of engaging in apartheid and occupation, drawing criticism from some visitors and a UK pro-Israel group.
The exhibition at the Whitworth Art Gallery in the United Kingdom, titled “Cloud Studies,” examines “toxic clouds” and how “air is weaponized” in places around the world, including Lebanon, London, Indonesia, and the on US-Mexico border. Visitors learn how “tear gas clouds spread poison where we gather, bomb clouds vaporize buildings, chemical weapons suffocate entire neighborhoods and air pollution targets the marginalized.”
The exhibit will run at the art gallery, which is a part of the University of Manchester, through October 17, and was created by Forensic Architecture (FA), a research agency based at Goldsmiths, University of London.
At the start of the exhibit, visitors are shown an opening statement that says, “Forensic Architecture stands with Palestine,” according to The Jewish Chronicle. The publication also noted that the exhibition discusses Israel’s military actions in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, and talks about the Palestinian “struggle against apartheid,” the problem of “settler colonial violence” and “occupied Gaza.”
“I don’t remember experiencing anything so hate-filled in an art gallery,” one visitor told the outlet. “The information is totally decontextualized and there is no mention of Hamas or the reasons for the conflicts.”
UK Lawyers for Israel wrote to the vice-chancellor of Manchester University with concerns about “the impact of the inflammatory language and representations contained in the exhibition on the Jewish people in Manchester,” according to the JC. But FA’s Israeli-born director Eyal Weizman said he does not believe that the exhibit will cause harm to Manchester’s Jewish community.
“I disagree with those that say so: like anti-Palestinian racism, we oppose and condemn antisemitism, and wrote it in our statement,” he said, adding that it’s “correct” that the exhibition does not reference Hamas or its rocket attacks on Israel. He argued, “We did not report on the rockets, nor did we report on the reason that the rockets were fired, in the dispossession of Palestinian families in Jerusalem and the tear gassing of al Aqsa Mosque.”
Weizman said that “as a Jew,” he thinks FA did “more to dispel prejudice and hatred, including that against Jews, than an unqualified support of apartheid in Palestine … I hope that one day you would come to support, and even be proud of, those of us promoting such values in Palestine and elsewhere.”
In June, the art gallery was criticized for posting a statement on its website expressing solidarity with “Palestine” and support for “decolonialization” in light of Operation Guardian of the Walls. The statement was later removed following complaints from UK Lawyers for Israel.