By Rishvik Chanda:
The conflict between Israel and Palestine in the turbulent middle-east is one of the most prolonged instances of conflict in modern history. The two states have been clashing since the mid-20th century over issues of border, security, control of Jerusalem and a host of related issues resulting in large-scale civilian deaths. Data regarding attacks, casualties and destruction are debated over, each side accusing the other of being politically or ideologically driven and manipulating the information. But recently, human rights groups have turned to technology to build up a body of more objective and valid evidence regarding the violations.
There have been massive casualties on both the sides, but in the 2014 Operation Protective Edge by Israel is said to have caused the most destruction- around 900 civilians are reported to have been killed in bombings and another 7100 have been injured. While Israel maintains that the death of civilians is collateral damage in attacks against Hamas fighters, Palestine says that the civilians were directly targeted. Israel is being accused of targeting schools and hospitals, a gross violation of international human rights, in order to cripple Palestine by destroying its social and educational institutions.
Many, such as the famous critic of American foreign policy, Noam Chomsky, points out that Israel is heavily supported by America in order to control the middle east, a part of the wider project of American hegemony. From the other side, it is argued that damage inflicted by Palestine is under reported and blocked out because of the sympathy Palestine receives by the global Muslim population. Because of this ideological-political nature of the conflict, most reports and information coming out of either nation needs to be treated with caution.
This is where technology comes into play. Amnesty International, teaming up with Gaza-based human rights groups and London-based Forensic Architecture, has created a digital interactive map called the Gaza Platform to expose the systematic nature of the violations committed during the 2014 attacks on Gaza. Claiming there are connections between scattered events, Eyal Weizman, Director of the Centre for Research Architecture, explains, “Buildings become evidence and we are like architectural detectives”. By recording the time and location of each attack and collating, mapping and analysing and revealing the pattern behind the attacks by Israel, the main objective is to create accountability for war crimes and breaches of international humanitarian law that may have occurred during the attack. Through satellite imagery and footage and personal testimonies of the 2014 Operation Protective Edge, they seek to understand the complex narrative of warfare.