On Tuesday, February 23, Al-Haq and Forensic Architecture released a publication and video (“The Extrajudicial Execution of Ahmad Erekat”) alleging that Israeli forces acted unlawfully in shooting Ahmed Erekat when he rammed his car into a soldier at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Jerusalem. As with other projects involving Forensic Architecture and NGOs regarding incidents in the Arab-Israeli conflict, the report presents a façade of hi-tech “methodologies” and video analysis (known as the “CSI effect”).
However, rather than offering new or concrete evidence, it is clear that NGOs cannot know and do not incorporate the assessments of the Israeli forces on the ground. The NGO accusers are unable to provide answers to the fundamental questions required to prove their assertions: What were the officers at the checkpoint thinking in the split seconds of the attack? Is their response different than how any other reasonable person would act?
Indeed, the NGOs’ report and the accompanying fancy graphics cannot recreate the in-the-moment experience of the officers, and the entire analysis is based on speculation. For instance, Al-Haq and Forensic Architecture claim, based on slow motion and still frame analysis, that the incident was “the result of an error or a vehicle malfunction” and “raise doubts that this was an intentional attack.” They do not know, and that issue is irrelevant to the questions of whether the soldiers credibly perceived the ramming as a terror attack.
In addition, there is contradictory information provided regarding the position of Erekat’s arms when he was first shot. In the video made to accompany the report, the NGOs emphasize, “here, we see Ahmad raising his hands in the air” – suggesting, without evidence, that Erekat was shot while trying to surrender. Likewise, in the report, in one place, the NGOs claim, “After the impact, Ahmad leaves the vehicle unarmed and moves away from the soldiers, raising his hands in the air. Ahmad is first shot…” – indicating that he raised his arms before he was shot. Elsewhere, they write, “When the first two shots are fired, Ahmad is raising his arms and moving backwards” – meaning that he raised his arms concurrent to being shot. Yet, in the summary, the NGOs assert, “Two other soldiers then shoot Ahmad, who raises his arms and falls to the ground” – implying that it happens after being shot.
Once again, the NGOs cannot tell us if the soldiers, positioned on the opposite side of the car, thought Erekat was raising a firearm as he exited his car, or if his arms were raised as an involuntary response to being shot.
Finally, the Erekat incident was one of dozens of car-ramming attacks targeting Israeli soldiers, police officers, and civilians in recent years. This context, too, is essential for understanding the response of officers at the scene.
It is also significant that, in their analysis, the NGOs rely on an unverified article from B’Tselem, written in 2017, claiming to establish the Israeli army’s purported open-fire regulations in 2020.
The identities of the NGOs behind the publication are also central to understanding the claims. Both Al-Haq and Forensic Architecture are political advocacy organizations with long records of false claims and distorted analysis used to promote Palestinian accusations against Israel. They do not provide credible research and analysis.
- Al-Haq is a leader in lawfare campaigns targeting Israel, and was one of the main groups lobbying the Prosecutor to open an International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation against Israel and the Human Rights Council’s discriminatory BDS Blacklist. The Palestinian NGO promotes highly distorted interpretations of international law, manipulations of concepts such as “Business and Human Rights, and other unverified and unjustified claims in order to further this agenda. Al-Haq’s General Director Shawan Jabarin has been linked to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), designated as a terrorist organization by the US, EU, Canada, and Israel. Al-Haq is funded by the EU, Italy, Norway, Ireland, Denmark.
- Forensic Architecture is a pseudo-research project that consistently generates analyses that are both inaccurate and blatantly prejudiced. After the 2014 Gaza War, in partnership with Amnesty International, it contributed to unsubstantiated charges of Israeli war crimes in that conflict, using superficial and impressive visuals accompanied by a lack of evidence and a credible research methodology, as well as the absence of military and legal expertise. According to its website, “We are part of the Technology Advisory Board of the International Criminal Court (ICC).” The Forensic Architecture project is funded by the European Union, and is receiving nearly €2 million in 2016-2021.
The NGOs’ political agenda is highlighted in the analysis and the report’s conclusion, which attempts to link Erekat’s death to the Black Lives Matter protests: “his killing illustrates both the entangled struggles of Palestinian and Black liberation, as well as the disposability of Black and indigenous bodies in hyper-militarized settler-colonies.” In this regard, that radical activist Angela Davis narrates the video is telling.