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Exhibition | Ground Truth: Testimonies of Destruction and Return in Al-Araqib

  • Italian Academy for Advanced Studies 1161 Amsterdam Avenue New York, NY, 10027 United States (map)
The opening reception will be held on October 10th at 5:30PM. Registration recommended.

The Center for Palestine Studies & the Italian Academy for Advanced Studies at Columbia University, in partnership with the NGO Zochrot, is hosting a three-week-long exhibition on the theme of Bedouin ownership of Negev lands and the ongoing Israeli state campaign to uproot the Palestinian Bedouin from the northern threshold of the desert.

A joint project of Al-Araqib Popular Committee, Zochrot and Forensic Architecture (Goldsmiths University, UK).

EXTENDED Exhibition Dates:
October 10th - November 9st, 2018
Monday through Friday
9:30AM - 4:30PM

Italian Academy for Advanced Studies
1161 Amsterdam Avenue
(Between 116th and 118th Streets)
New York, NY 10027


Ground Truth: Testimonies of Destruction and Return is an exhibition focused on two counter investigations concerning the Palestinian-Bedouin villages of Al-Araqib and Umm al-Hiran in the Naqab/Negev region of southern Israel.

The first investigation presented is based on the products of an ongoing research project – a collaboration between the inhabitants of Al-Araqib, Zochrot, and the Forensic Architecture research agency at Goldsmiths, University of London. The project aims to collect, document and produce historical, spatial, legal, and material evidence mapping historical remains that attest to the sedentary settlement of Al-Araqib’s indigenous inhabitants on their land – a moment before they disappear.

Destroyed and rebuilt over 130 times in the past 70 years, Al-Araqib has become emblematic of the broader struggle of so-called “unrecognized villages” outlawed by the Israeli government on the northern threshold of the Naqab/Negev desert. Since the Nakba – the uprooting of about 750,000 Palestinians in 1948 – Israel has promulgated a system of laws enabling it to easily dispossess the Bedouins, adopting a labyrinthine legal logic that prevents most of them from holding on to their ancestral lands. This process has relied on various appropriation laws that all ignore the area’s indigenous past. In particular, they ignore the property laws and land tenure system that have governed the area for generations, in agreement with the country’s previous rules. The ongoing erasure of these villages from maps, satellite images and historical records, so-called “land reclamation” works, and the intensive afforestation led by Israel are all designed to prevent Bedouin families from returning to their lands on the day when their struggle for recognition of land rights prevails.

Against these ongoing acts of dispossession, destruction and erasure, the project exposes evidence which attests to patterns of Al-Araqib residents’ cultivation and settlement of the desert threshold lands for centuries, thereby restoring the traces to the representational and geographic space from which they have been erased.

The second investigation focuses on the killings of Yaqub Musa Abu al-Qi’an, resident of the village Umm al-Hiran, and of the Israeli police officer Erez Levi on October 18, 2017, during a police raid aimed at demolishing the village to make space for a new Jewish settlement. Shortly after, the Israeli government and police claimed that Levi’s death was the result of a ‘terror attack’ by al-Qi’an, and suggested that he had links to the terrorist group ISIS.

Forensic Architecture’s investigation of the events, in collaboration with the photographic collective ActiveStills, exposes this false narrative, and establishes the veracity of local resident and activist claims that Abu al-Qi’an lost control of his vehicle and ran over Levi only after being shot by Israeli policemen, and that he was subsequently left to bleed out and die. The investigation uncovers the few seconds in which the incident unfolded, and the months-long process of investigation and exposure, telling these stories against the long-term historical context of the region.

Ground Truth is a term coined by NASA to refer to the simultaneous measurements of data on the ground and from an airplane or satellite in order to validate those measurements. Similarly, the evidence produced and displayed in this exhibition is the outcome of the calibration of archival repositories and spatial information systems with contemporary images, videos, documents and materials – summoned and cross-referenced – allowing the articulation of complex public claims through the uncovering of political violence undertaken by the state. The notion of Ground Truth thus highlights the ever-present gap between reality and its representation, and the importance of such anchoring in testing different possible realities.

The exhibition will be accompanied by an afternoon symposium on October 11th, 2018.

Curator: Debby Farber, Zochrot

Principal Investigator: Prof. Eyal Weizman, Forensic Architecture | Project Manager, Researcher and Photographer: Ariel Caine, Forensic Architecture | Al-Araqib: Sayakh al-Turi, Aziz al-Turi, and Nuri al-Uqbi | Umm al-Hiran: Naja Abu al-Qi’an, Ra’ed Abu al-Qi’an

Project Partners: Public Lab (Hagit Keysar), ActiveStills (Keren Manor, Oren Ziv, Yotam Ronen), Prof. Oren Yiftachel, Miki Kratsman

This event is co-sponsored by Studio-X Amman at Columbia GSAPP and Columbia Global Centers | Amman, The Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities, and the Department of Religion.