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April 25, 2022 10:55 am

‘Investigation’ Into ‘Destruction of Gaza’s Antiquities’ Glosses Over Real Archaeological Crimes

avatar by Rachel O'Donoghue


Streaks of light are seen as Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepts rockets launched from the Gaza Strip towards Israel, as seen from Ashkelon, Israel April 21, 2022. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

The UK-based “research group” Forensic Architecture insists that it scrutinizes “human rights or environmental issue[s] not otherwise adequately addressed by the state in which it took place.”

Yet its latest “investigation” into the alleged destruction of antiquities in the Gaza Strip by Israel — which comes hot on the heels of another libelous “Palestine” piece from last year — completely glosses over the real archaeological crimes taking place.

Indeed, if the group wanted to dispel any notion that its investigations are motivated by a deep-seated hostility towards Israel, it probably would not have opened its latest report into the alleged destruction by Israel of Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine-era antiquities located in Gaza with a quote from Al-Haq.

The Palestinian NGO, which was proscribed by Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz last year over its links to the terrorist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), accuses the Jewish state of deliberately “targeting cultural heritage” in the coastal enclave.

Accordingly, the Forensic Architecture report, which claims to rely on satellite imagery, photos, and the help of some unnamed “residents and fishermen” who supposedly walked researchers through “exposed remnants at risk,” opens with the following colorful description:

Along the coastline of the Gaza Strip, beneath layers of rubble, lies one of Palestine’s hidden treasures and one of the region’s most important archaeological sites. Repeated bombings, and the humanitarian disaster inflicted on Palestinian communities by the decades-long Israeli occupation and siege, as well as advancing coastal erosion and necessary development within the enforced densification of Gaza, have placed this unique site under existential threat.

For a study that is ostensibly solely focused on the ancient cultural treasures that may one day cease to exist because of Israel, there seems to be an inordinate focus on other alleged Israeli “crimes.”

For example, Forensic Architecture deviates from its examination of threatened historical sites to include the false and widely debunked “apartheid” claim, as well as to castigate Israel for defending itself after Hamas initiated a war last May when it fired a salvo of rockets at Jerusalem.

Further to this point, there is not a single mention of Gaza’s terrorist rulers — Hamas — in the entire report, which is clearly an oversight given the terror group’s complete disregard for the kind of antiquities that Forensic Architecture professes to care so deeply about.

For instance, there is no reference to the Hamas-ordered destruction that occurred at Gaza’s earliest archaeological site. As reported in 2017, the group ordered bulldozers to flatten the site to make space for construction works and terrorist infrastructure.

In 2013, Hamas oversaw the demolition of other ancient treasures, including part of the UNESCO heritage site Anthedon Harbor, which dates back 3,000 years, in order to build more bases for terror training.

Hamas’ war against other sites of great archaeological significance has been documented elsewhere in detail (see, for instance, here).

Furthermore, the priceless antiquities that have been sold off by the terror organization — likely to fund the opulent lifestyles of its leadership — have been ignored in the study, such as the bronze statue of the Greek god Apollo that was discovered by a Palestinian fisherman before being confiscated and later appearing on the auction website eBay with a $500,000 listing price.

Forensic Architecture’s report does at one point hint at the possibility that Gazans themselves are not blameless when it comes to the disappearance of ancient artifacts — yet even this is couched in such as way as to still be the Jewish state’s fault:

Space is precious in Gaza. The Israeli occupation, resulting in overcrowding and poverty, as well as pressures inside Gaza, have necessitated the construction of essential technical and social infrastructure over known historic sites.

While it might be true that Gaza is overcrowded, Forensic Architecture refuses to acknowledge the reason for this. The narrow land strip is governed by a group whose sworn goal is the destruction of the Jewish state. Indeed, the movement of people out of Gaza is controlled for this very reason: to prevent repeats of the kind of terror attacks that have already claimed the lives of so many innocent Israelis.

As mentioned, the report quotes in detail Al-Haq, including references to the group’s “legal” analysis, “Cultural Apartheid: Israel’s Erasure of Palestinian Heritage in Gaza,” which accuses the Jewish state of systematically seeking to erase “Palestinian cultural heritage to deny the Palestinian people of their right to self-determination over their cultural resources, and by extension threatens their existence as a people.”

However, perhaps Forensic Architecture should not have omitted the fact that Al-Haq is hardly a trustworthy source on matters pertaining to Israel given its links to the PFLP. Nevertheless, Forensic Architecture’s biased report has been disseminated by a number of specialist art publications.

Brooklyn-based arts website Hyperallergic describes the study as an examination of “Israel’s repeated attacks on an important Palestinian archaeological site in the Gaza strip.” It goes on to claim that Israel is guilty of conducting “discretionary archaeology,” and has “faced accusations of a political agenda” over excavations it has carried out.

Another outlet, Artnet News, parrots Forensic Architecture’s suggestion that Jerusalem is deliberately targeting ancient sites, describing “Israel’s bombardments of the archaeological remains of Gaza’s very first seaport.” Again, any mention of Hamas’ actions to obliterate this structure to make space for a terror base is absent.

Given the misleading contents of this latest report targeting Israel, it is quite clear that Forensic Architecture is completely biased against the Jewish state. Last August, it already was accused of cobbling together a “factually incorrect and dangerously one-sided account on an extremely complex foreign policy issue” over its exhibition that suggested Israel was perpetrating a kind of environmental warfare against Palestinians.

HonestReporting also previously called out the group for accusing the IDF of “executing” a terrorist who deliberately rammed his car into a soldier.

The author is a contributor to HonestReporting, a Jerusalem-based media watchdog with a focus on antisemitism and anti-Israel bias — where a version of this article first appeared.

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