Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

A Civilian Occupation: The Politics of Israeli Architecture

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

A Civilian Occupation: The Politics of Israeli Architecture

Article excerpt

A Civilian Occupation: The Politics of Israeli Architecture By Rafi Segal and Eyal Weizman (eds.), Verso, 2003, 191 pp. List: $20; AET: $15.

A Civilian Occupation, by Israeli architects Rafi Segal and Eyal Weizman, opens a debate that exposes the truth that architecture-and architects - cannot be dissociated from political power. The book demonstrates that architecture is neither politically naive nor an innocent activity. Rather, it proves that Israeli architecture is at the very core of political issues. As Sharon Rotbard writes in the preface, "There is nothing innocent about regarding architecture as an autonomous process."

This is because Israeli architectural planning decisions do not follow criteria of economic sustainability, ecology or efficiency of services, but instead are employed in the service of strategic and political agendas. Segal and Weizman define the Israeli state strategy of territory use as a profoundly spatial affair reserved for the people "who effect political goals with actual changes on the ground."

The winners of an architectural competition organized by Israel Association of United Architects (IAUA), the representative body of Israeli architects, Weizman and Segal were chosen to prepare an exhibition of Israeli architecture at the Berlin Union Internationale des Architectes (UIA) congress held in 2002. Their proposal's aim was to examine the role of Israeli architecture in the Middle East conflict. Soon after its publication, however, Israeli authorities destroyed those copies of the book already printed and prohibited its distribution. …

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