My friend, the artist and broadcaster Nathan Gray [Instagram], describes the current war in Gaza as the “New Berlin Wall”, as it has polarised a city that is home to significant migrant communities from both Palestine and Israel. In a country held accountable for the Jewish Holocaust and which considers Israel’s security and right to exist its “Staaträson”, anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim and anti-Arab sentiment have surfaced since Hamas’ 7 October attack in southern Israel. From a distance in Finland, I began to approach these developments via anti-racism frameworks; being attentive to (historical) forms of biological race and ethno-nationalism, alongside more recent concepts of ethnocracy—a term coined by Oren Yiftachel, a Professor of Political Geography, to describe circumstances in which democratic processes are unequally distributed among citizens, biased towards ethnic groups in power.
At first thought it may seem strange that the anti-Semite’s outlook should be related to that of the Negrophobe. It was my philosophy professor, a native of the Antilles, who recalled the fact to me one day: “Whenever you hear someone abuse the Jews, pay attention, because he is talking about you.” And I found that he was universally right—by which I meant that I was answerable in my body and my heart for what was done to my brother. Later I realized that he meant, quite simply, that an anti-Semite is inevitably anti-Negro.
Fanon (Black Skin, White Masks) cited in Gilroy 2000, p. 1.
Writing at the turn of the last century, Gilroy argues that the ambition of anti-racism work should be to dismantle race as a category of difference, and he urges his readers to be wary of emergent forms of racism arising from technological developments, such as genetics.
Like many others, doomscrolling through a feed of “atrocity images” and trauma over the past two months, my interest was piqued last week with the publication of an investigation “‘A mass assassination factory‘: Inside Israel’s calculated bombing of Gaza” by +972 Magazine and Local Call , an independent, bipartisan and non-profit platform established by Israeli and Palestinian journalists. Authored by Yuval Abraham [Instagram], the article outlines Israel Defense Forces (IDF) use of machine learning and AI in determining military targets, in particular a system named Hasbora (The Gospel). There has already been much discussion about the inherent bias in such systems and criticism about their use in policing, so Hasbora’s deployment in a situation where vengeance is a motive is alarming. It should be noted, as Abraham states at the beginning of this interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!, that this report was vetted by the Israeli military censor. That is, the IDF has some interest in publicising this information. A recent article in the New York Times reveals how Israel’s security intelligence failed to act on early indicators of Hamas planning an attack on 7 October, thus Abraham proposes that the Netanyahu government is under pressure to produce a “victory image” for its citizens, and arguably one that foregrounds its technological prowess.
Investigative journalist Antony Loewenstein, whose recent book The Palestine Laboratory (2023) is concerned with how Israel develops and tests its sophisticated military and surveillance technologies in Gaza, is often called upon to comment on these issues. Contained within a security wall, Egypt’s national border and the Mediterranean Sea, Gaza is often described as an “open-air prison”. With over 2 million people in area that is approximately 365 square km, it is one the most densely populated regions in the world. As noted by scholars Eyal Weizman (2007) and Jasbir K. Puar (2017), Gaza is tightly controlled; dependent on aid, supplies and (communication) infrastructures that are ultimately managed by Israel, calculated according to what is necessary for survival. Thus, it can be easily analysed as a bio/necro-political regime. Following the end of the cease-fire on 30 November and as the staggering civilian death toll continues to climb, the US and other allied states, including the UK, Germany, the Netherlands and Australia, are qualifying their statements of unequivocal support for the war Israel names “Operation Iron Swords”, cautioning the Zionist state to minimise civilian casualties while continuing to sanction its efforts to completely destroy Hamas. In an interview with Amy Goodman and Juan González on Democracy Now!, Loewenstein points out that these states are continuing to export arms to Israel, and that some of them have significantly expanded these exports since 7 October. Alongside arms proliferation and shared intelligence, these states are also implicated in global supply chains that produce these weapons technologies. As such, the images (and information) currently flowing out of Gaza are effectively, as Al Jazeera presenter Jonah Hull puts it, a “live-fire, real-time experiment” demonstrating these technologies and their concomitant political strategies.
This podcast, “The Image of Gaza”, returns to the theme of “optics”. It is a montage/mixtape of news media, music, infomercials and street recordings that serve as a prompt to think about the images flowing out of the war and how they are being received and interpreted by different interests. These include:
– affective “atrocity images” of an exceptional humanitarian crisis at scale and evidence of possible war crimes
– a “victory image” that Israel’s Netanyahu government is under pressure produce following security intelligence failures to act on early indications of Hamas’ 7 October attack
– a “live-fire, real-time experiment” demonstrating Israel’s military technologies and that attest to a global weapons market and production supply chains that implicate the US, UK, Germany, the Netherlands and Australia in the war.
Media used (in order)
Music: “Drone Command”, Marc Torch
A song that was briefly removed from Spotify in May 2023, provoking a backlash against the popular music-streaming platform.
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Yasmeen Daher from Palästina Spricht/Palestine Speaks addresses a demonstration in Berlin, 4 November 2023.