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June 2, 2022 11:03 am

Israel Guilty of ‘Indirect Chemical Warfare,’ Says Forensic Architecture and Terror-Linked Palestinian NGO

avatar by Rachel O'Donoghue


Streaks of light are seen from Ashkelon as Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepts rockets launched from the Gaza Strip towards Israel, May 15, 2021. Photo: REUTERS/Amir Cohen

Had Forensic Architecture wanted to dispel the notion that its latest probe of Israel was biased, it might not have used the Arabic term “Al-Nakba” (“catastrophe”) to refer to Israel’s founding in its latest report.

Instead, the British research group’s newest “investigation” goes even further than those published previously, displaying an obvious animus toward the Jewish state.

At one point, Forensic Architecture event hints at the ancient antisemitic “poisoning the well” charge.

The investigation, which was co-authored by Palestinian NGO Al-Haq as part of a new partnership between the two organizations, accuses Israel of perpetrating “indirect” chemical warfare against the Gaza Strip:

On the evening of 15 May 2021 — the 73rd anniversary of al-Nakba and during Israel’s latest military attack on Gaza—the Israeli occupation forces [sic] bombed the Khudair Pharmaceuticals and Agricultural Tools Company in Beit Lahiya, the largest agricultural chemical warehouse in Gaza.

Incendiary artillery shells set fire to hundreds of tonnes of toxic pesticides, fertilisers, chemicals and other farming materials, initiating a toxic cloud that enveloped large parts of northern Gaza. The Israeli army did not provide a statement about the attack. […]

Israeli occupation forces’ shelling of the Khudair Agrochemical Warehouse, with knowledge of the presence of toxic chemicals stored therein, is tantamount to chemical weapons through indirect means. Such acts are clearly prohibited … and prosecutable under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

In the report, Forensic Architecture cites a “fluid dynamics expert” who claims there is a “high risk of ‘irreversible damage’ to human health” from the spread of hazardous chemicals from the warehouse — an accusation that is suggestive of the centuries-old antisemitic “poisoning the well” conspiracy.

The fact is, there is no evidence that the IDF deliberately targeted a chemical store. Rather, there is plenty of evidence that shows strikes on Gaza were aimed at taking out the vast network of tunnels being used by terrorists to store weapons and launch attacks.

Curiously, Forensic Architecture does not reveal the events that preceded Israel’s defensive actions in Gaza last year — Gaza’s terrorist rulers choosing to wage war by firing a salvo of rockets at Jerusalem on May 10.

As with Forensic Architecture’s last anti-Israel hit piece, which examined the supposed archeological crimes the Jewish state is perpetrating in Gaza, Hamas is not mentioned once in the entirety of the report.

For an investigation that is supposedly revealing the “ongoing environmental disaster imposed on Palestinians living in Gaza,” there is a total disregard for the actual ecological crimes that have been perpetrated by Hamas and continue to wreak havoc on the environment.

In 2018, Gazans assembled thousands of tires that were then burned at violent protests near the Strip’s boundary with Israel. Indeed, so damaging was the impact of the blazes that Jerusalem pleaded with the World Health Organization to step in to prevent “ecological catastrophe.”

“This is a serious environmental issue that will harm the health of the residents and will cause unprecedented air pollution,” wrote Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, the then-head of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom, adding: “I call upon you, as the head of an international organization whose goal is to promote health and protect natural and environmental resources, to do everything in your power to publicly warn against this ecological catastrophe and to protest Hamas’ irresponsible behavior.”

As HonestReporting has previously detailed, the burning of just one passenger car tire produces over two gallons (7.6 liters) of toxic oil runoff, inevitably contaminating soil and groundwater.

It should also be noted that Forensic Architecture relies on the evidence of “munitions expert” Chris Cobb-Smith, who alleged that Israel used M150 artillery to create smokescreens to mask troop movements. He claimed that such artillery is “inherently inaccurate and unsuitable for use in an urban environment.”

Yet, Cobb-Smith’s testimony is called into question when we consider the fact that he has a history of spreading falsehoods about Israel.

As reported by watchdog group NGO Monitor, Cobb-Smith in a 2009 interview with Amnesty International “relied on highly questionable evidence and a dubious interpretation of international law to falsely claim that Israel illegally used white phosphorus in Gaza 2009.”

Meanwhile, Forensic Architecture’s partnership with Al-Haq is telling, given the fact that the latter is one of the six Palestinian NGOs that were last year proscribed by the Israeli government over their links to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a terrorist organization.

For those not familiar with Al-Haq, which claims to document alleged human rights violations, here is a run-down of some of the less savory aspects of the Palestinian group:

  • Its director since 2006, Shawan Jabarin, served as a senior PFLP official in the past, and has maintained close ties to PFLP operatives. He was tried and convicted for his role in the PFLP and has served multiple prison sentences. In 2007, a judge described Jabarin as a “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Some of his time is spent in conducting a human rights organization, and some as an operative in an organization which has no qualms regarding murder and attempted murder, which have no relation whatsoever to rights. Quite the opposite, they reject the most basic right of all, without which there are no other rights, that is, the right to life.”
  • Al-Haq’s former Director of the Skills and Training Department, Ziyad Muhammad Shehadeh Hmeidan, who held the post until 2017, was arrested over his affiliation with PFLP “terrorist operations” several times.
  • Employee Zahi Abdul Hadi Muhammad Jaradat, who was involved in Al-Haq’s fundraising, was similarly arrested over PFLP links.
  • Majed Omar Daud Abbadi, who worked at Al-Haq until 2016 as Project and Planning Director, was involved in the PFLP for a number of years.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time that Forensic Architecture has levied utterly baseless accusations against the Jewish state (see here, here, and here).

Yet, in teaming up with Al-Haq, which maintains ties with a terrorist group that has perpetrated countless attacks against innocent civilians, it seems as if Forensic Architecture’s concerted smear campaign will only intensify.

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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