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MIT Museum

The MIT Museum reflects MIT's deep support for capitalism and US imperialism. The museum's exhibits regurgitate the university's neoliberal propaganda about how techno-scientific "innovation" is improving the world, while advancing racist and ahistorical characterizations of Palestinians and other peoples in the Global South.Image of the Wall Street Journal's coverage of The Enemy, an exhibit that ran at MIT Museum, showing the two "sides" of the so-called "Israeli-Palestinian conflict."

In 2017, the MIT Museum ran a virtual reality exhibit entitled The Enemy. Created by photojournalist Karim Ben Khelifa in collaboration with MIT's Center for Art, Science & Technology Media Lab and MIT faculty member D. Fox Harrell, the exhibit used "virtual reality" to give audiences a window into various "conflicts" around the world, including the so-called "Israeli-Palestinian conflict." As the MIT Museum website states, "Through 360-degree imaging and recordings, participants will encounter combatants on opposite sides of conflicts in Israel/Palestine, the Congo, and El Salvador. In their own words, each will offer personal perspectives on war, including thoughts on motivations, suffering, freedom, and the future."

The exhibit presented a false symmetry between these two "sides" in this struggle between colonizers and the colonized, erasing the history and present realities of ethnic cleansing and theft of Indigenous peoples' land and resources. Visitors were at one point presented with two figures, "Combatant Abu Khaled, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine" and "Combatant Gilad, Israeli Defense Forces." The audiences listened as Ben Khelifa asks the two figures the exact same questions, and the virtual reality headset is used to monitor how much time each visitor spends around each of the figures. The exhibit tries to convey a symmetry between the two virtual figures (each says, for example, that he wants "a better future for their children," etc). Visitors who spend more time with one figure are reprimanded by a liberal narrative, their identification with one figure over the other is evidence for "bias."

Visitors to The Enemy at MIT Museum.

The Enemy erased the historical and present reality of European settler-colonialism in Palestine, reducing the Palestinian struggle for liberation to an Islamophobic caricature. In the exhibit's racist and ahistorical presentation, everything boils down to a sappy plea for "empathy" - why can't the two "sides" just get along and see that they both want a good future for their children? 

Given this packaging, it's not surprising that The Enemy received enthusiastic coverage from the New York Times and Haaretz.  


265 Massachusetts Ave Building N51, Cambridge, MA 02139

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