Manchester’s Whitworth Art Gallery director Alistair Hudson sacked after Zionist witch hunt

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The University of Manchester has asked Alistair Hudson to step down as director of the Whitworth and Manchester Art Gallery. This blatant act of censorship and victimization has been widely condemned by students, scholars, museum professionals and artists, and must be widely opposed.

The Whitworth Art Gallery with the Cloud Studies exhibit being promoted on the building (WSWS Media)

This follows controversy over last year’s exhibit ‘Cloud Studies’ by the Turner Forensic Architecture (FA) prize-nominated investigative firm, which was attacked by Israeli state supporters . Cloud Studies was part of the Manchester International Festival (MIF) 2021 which said of the exhibition that it was “commissioned for the Festival by the Whitworth and the MIF” and “is an exhibition about the militarization of the air we breathe…”

FA is a research group that produces architectural evidence in legal contexts and for advocacy purposes. Using scientific techniques from meteorology, architecture and satellite imagery, FA extrapolates changes resulting from human, military or industrial intervention, allowing it to investigate various crimes of imperialism.

The ‘cloud studies’ included the use of tear gas against protesters in Santiago, Chile, in 2019, the impact of the Port of Beirut explosion in 2020, and the petrochemical pollution of a stretch of the Mississippi River. near Baton Rouge. But the dispute that led to Hudson’s dismissal grew out of the FA’s investigation into Israeli government war crimes against Palestinians.

Featured “Cloud Studies” The use of white phosphorus in an urban environment. FA’s evidence of its use and impact had forced the Israeli government to end the use of this barbaric weapon.

The results of Forensic Architecture’s analysis show the distribution of herbicide concentration as it moves west into Gaza. (Image: Forensic Architecture and Dr. Salvador Navarro-Martinez)

In Herbicide war in Gaza, Palestine, FA investigated the use of herbicides along the Gaza border. Deployed as a way to improve the visibility of military operations, they were only sprayed when the wind blew them over Gaza, not Israeli soil, creating a 300-meter dead zone of former arable land on the Palestinian side of the border.

most powerfully, The Bombing of Rafah established an account of the “deadliest and most destructive day of Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza”, August 1. Denied entry to Gaza, the FA and Amnesty International had to construct this through thousands of images and videos posted online or sent to them directly.

The Complex-Image. The story of Rafah, Gaza, August 1, 2014 falls somewhere between hundreds of images and video clips existing in disparate locations, on activists’ smartphones, press clippings and social media posts. . 3D models provided an optical device and a way to compose the relationship between multiple images and videos in space and time. This assemblage of evidence is what allowed a narrative of events to emerge. (Forensic Architecture, 2015)

The FA’s opening statement, “Forensic architecture stands with Palestine”, commented on the latest attack on Gaza, in June 2021, honoring those who “continue to document and recount the events on the ground and to fight against this violence, apartheid and colonization”.

Its mission is to reveal the truth about the situation and to campaign for changes in Israeli law and practice. But this is unacceptable to UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI). Founded in 2011 by British lawyers with the stated aim of combating “ use and abuse of the law by the enemies of Israel” (emphasis added), its first action was to secure the arrest of a humanitarian aid ship to Gaza, which they claimed was “circumventing restrictions authorities on the transfer of material to terrorists”.

During the assault on Gaza in June 2021, the Whitworth Art Gallery posted a statement of solidarity with the Palestinian people online. UKLFI objected and the statement was withdrawn.

The UKLFI denounced the FA’s opening statement as “propaganda” and accused the Whitworths of “inflammatory” language which could cause “racial discord”. The University of Manchester, which runs the gallery, withdrew its statement and issued a cowardly apology. When the FA then threatened to pull the exhibit rather than present it in a watered-down form, a controversy of statement and counter-statement, legal advice and provocation erupted.

Manchester’s Jewish Representative Council asked the public “not to assume that any statement in this exhibit is true”, while insisting that “to claim that Israel is a colonial enterprise is anti-Semitic”.

In the words of British-Israeli professor Eyal Weizman, founder of the FA, he became “a tits” (madness).

Weizman and FA were already UKLFI targets. In 2018, the UKLFI lobbied the Turner Prize with a smear campaign against the FA, calling its material on Palestine “modern blood libels likely to promote anti-Semitism”.

Confirming that the International Holocaust Remembrance Association’s (IHRA) redefinition of anti-Semitism was a political weapon to prevent legitimate criticism of the Israeli state, the UKLFI attacked Weizman as “opposing [to] the internationally recognized definition of anti-Semitism.

The FA exhibition took place. While the UKLFI attacked the university for reneging on the removal of the FA’s opening statement, they were bolstered by its willingness to accommodate their right-wing attacks, and they did not back down. In the words of UKLFI chief executive Jonathan Turner in September, they “suggested that the university take appropriate disciplinary action” against Hudson.

It’s now done.

Once again, the argument played out around the UKLFI providing legal laundering for Israeli state activity. Turner accused Hudson of “falsely assuring the Vice-Chancellor that they had established the accuracy and legality of the work” in “Cloud Studies”. UKLFI continues to insist that ‘Cloud Studies’ was inaccurate, saying a freedom of information request ‘showed that no attempt had been made to verify its accuracy’.

FA strongly denies any suggestion of inaccuracies. He has contributed extensively to courts, tribunals, and truth commissions, and has continued to probe for truth and evidence in cases where legal laundering already exists.

In 2018, the FA investigated the Israeli police shooting and killing of Palestinian Bedouin Yacoub Abu al-Qian during protests against forced evictions from Umm al-Harin for settlement construction. Police initially incorrectly claimed that al-Qian had been driving towards them when they opened fire on his car. Later, clearly contradicting the medical reports, they claimed that he had been hit by stones.

Photogrammetry and 3D modeling were used to reconstruct the scene in order to track the movement of the car and the location of the police officers and to calculate the slope of the terrain, the speed and the distances at each instant of the event. (Forensic Architecture, 2018)

This account has been accepted as the official record. It wasn’t until 2020 that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu finally apologized for the murder. FA, however, continued to investigate. When this project was nominated for the Turner Prize, UKLFI accused an earlier FA article of lacking objectivity and launched its ‘blood libel’ smear.

The UKLFI was founded ‘to fight BDS [the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement] and the delegitimization of Israel. Whitworth’s announcement coincided with moves by the government to prevent investments in public sector pensions from being linked to BDS.

Former Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick told parliament the proposal “should be just the start of a wider effort to tackle BDS within the private sector, and that we as government let us live up to our clear commitment to a comprehensive BDS bill.”

The decision against Hudson is a right-wing attack on freedom of speech and artistic expression. Weizman told the press that Hudson had made the Whitworth “an art space where the important questions of our time could be asked.” He pointed to a “series of bullying actions by the University of Manchester, initially aimed at silencing our solidarity with the Palestinians, then at stifling open debate and taming the art of politics more generally. This move will reduce space for art and artists.

The university now says, “We absolutely respect academic freedom,” while declining to comment on Hudson, saying, “Personnel matters are strictly internal to the university.” He says he did not “give in to outside pressure”.

Over 170 staff from the University of Manchester have sign a “statement of opposition to the attempted expulsion of Whitworth Art Gallery director Alistair Hudson”, calling it a “serious violation of the freedom of academic and artistic expression”, and demanding his reinstatement and an apology. The letter said it was ‘prejudicial and dangerous’ that the university ‘supported the idea that a statement against Israel’s war crimes against the Palestinian people was an act of anti-Semitism, and forced its withdrawal’ .

The signatories also acknowledged that this attack is not limited to the issue of Israel but more generally reflects the academic treatment of staff. Forcing Hudson out six months after the event, they wrote, “is therefore not only punitive, but also shows that UoM will not support and defend its personnel when and if under pressure from outside organizations.” .

Alistair Brown, director of policy for the Museums Association, called the sacking “…deeply wrong, senseless and unethical”.

Oliver Basciano, editor of ArtReview, called it a “shame”. A group of 23 artists, including Turner Prize winners Helen Cammock, Tai Shani and Oscar Murillo, have announced they are pulling their work from the Manchester leg of the British Art Show 9 in support of Hudson. The show, held every five years, was due to take place at the Whitworth in May. The artists tweeted their condemnation of the university’s “capitulation” to the UKLFI, writing that “the truth must be made public and cultural spaces must remain open to difficult discussions”.

Around 150 protesters demonstrated outside the university on Tuesday last week. A banner read: “The purpose of art is the struggle for freedom”. Speakers included local Labor councilor Ekua Bayunu, who spoke of the “great work being done at the Whitworth…to place a creative institution firmly at the center of communities”.

But it was Labor that has been at the forefront of a witch hunt using the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism as a weapon to control any left-wing sentiment, targeting the ‘left’ of the party. – an offensive that Jeremy Corbyn not only refused to oppose but even presided over the expulsion of many of his key supporters. Bayunu’s response was now a desperate appeal to the Blairite leader Sir Keir Starmer, made as part of the “Don’t leave, organize yourself” group.

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