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A Civilian Occupation: The Politics of Israeli Architecture Hardcover – Bargain Price, November 17, 2003
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From Publishers Weekly
After winning a competition among 10 major firms, Israeli architects Segal and Weisman were selected to represent their country in last summer's World Congress of Architecture in Berlin, and put together an exhibition for which this book was to serve as a catalogue. Both exhibition and catalogue were banned, however, by the Israel Association of United Architects. After the 5,000 copies originally printed were suppressed (with the authors grabbing up 850 or so), Tel Aviv-based Babel picked it up, co-publishing with Verso. It is unlikely this 6.25"×8.5" book will cause as much of a stir in the U.S., despite some arts pages coverage this past summer, but, among other contentions, it draws direct connections between government operations like "Defensive Shield" (here depicted as a bulldozer destroying a Palestinian house and dragging the rubble across a road) and the planning and design of Israeli settlements within the West Bank. In a series of 14 short, linked essays that include 25 color and 116 b&w illustrations, more than 10 architects and photographers argue that, among other tactics, the hilltop locations of many settlements are part of a strategy for military domination that values the holding of high ground via civilians (often heavily armed) and the Army deployed to protect them. Whatever readers make of the provocative arguments here, they are made by qualified writers in an even-voiced, well-documented manner. Any discussion of the subject of the Israeli settlements-an issue deeply related to the siting of Israel's highly fortified "fence" between Israel and the West Bank-would be incomplete without considering them.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
“The Politics of Israeli Architecture undertook the first detailed examination of the spatial form of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, examining how their physical layout is informed by the politics behind them.” (Esther Addeley - Guardian )
“A Civilian Occupation is a stinging critique of the Israeli architectural community's role in the rapid colonization of the Occupied Territories, particularly the West Bank. With strongly argued, detailed maps and dramatic aerial photographs, it shows how 800-plus Israeli settlements—architect-designed, strategically perched on hilltops and sealed to Palestinians—are the keys to government control of the Territories.” (Nick Rockel - Adbusters )
“A Civilian Occupation is a damning study of the politics of 'settlement.' The architects show how ancient techniques (seizing the nearest strategic hilltop) and modern ones (print advertising to entice settlers) have been combined to accomplish what is, euphemisms notwithstanding, an imperialist campaign.” (Martha Schwendener - Art Forum )
“Metropolitics of horror: Globalization is certainly not the end of the world, but nevertheless, it seems like a 'journey to the center of the earth.' In this hyper-center, everything is telescoped under the formidable pressure of media and events in a false proximity that has nothing real except its own communicative hysteria. All, all at once! That is today's axiom of globalization. Hence, instead of ancient geopolitics—the territorial extents managing the necessary intervals of space between the states—emerges a metropolitics of the instant where the clash is permanent. From now on, this 'axis of the world' has only one name, Jerusalem, the holy city that became the suicidal resonance box of the new milllennium. ... Therefore, it is only logical that Israeli architects would wake up and revolt against the atrocities. But can we still listen to the builders, when the demolishers are recruiting everywhere, sometimes even among architects, as the example of one of the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks shows?” (Paul Virilio )
“This remarkable collection indicts, with remarkable clarity, the role played by architecture in both the politics and practices of occupation. It exposes the tragic dissonance between an architectural culture born of optimistic and ameliorative dreams and its now willing collusion in the ugliest of repressions. ... A Civilian Occupation, in sadness and anger, points up the ultimate irony, the way in which those white colonies, so arrogant on their hilltops, simultaneously promote the ghettoization of Israelis and Palestinians both. Here, once again, the putative 'rationality' of technocratic solutions proves to be—in its chilling banality—a truly modern form of evil.” (Michael Sorkin )
“The concept of building the state of Israel was long central to the Zionist dream. But after Israel's independence in 1948, the phrase took on a more literal meaning. A half-century later, this slice of history helps explain the intensity of a dispute currently dividing Israeli architects. Some argue that the architectural profession has, perhaps unwittingly, contributed to escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Others respond that architecture is neither political nor ideological and, as such, has nothing to answer for.
” (Alan Riding - New York Times )
“An incriminating piece of work that shows how deeply implicated Israeli architects have been in the state's expansionism.” (Anne Karpf - Jewish Chronicle )
“It is a disheartening destiny that, unlike the agricultural settlements of left-wing Zionism, these arrogant latter-day Israeli encampments have settled nothing, least of all the land itself. In a score of aerial photographs one can observe the paradox of suburban, hill-top fortresses, totally and utterly inimical to the culture of an ancient landscape. ...As mentioned in this book, no future resolution of the conflict will ever be able to heal the scar inflicted by this tragic combination of political and topographic violence.” (Kenneth Frampton )
“The Israel Association of United Architects thinks that these ideas are not architecture.” (Uri Zerubavel, chair of the IAUA )
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Top customer reviews
By exposing the simple truth that architecture and planning cannot be dissociated from political power, and by revealing systematically Israeli architecture's most basic condition (and most hidden secret) from the Thirties to our days, this book has succeeded to jam a whole profession: in Israel it no longer possible to be an architect without taking into consideration the political dimension of any "architectural" choice or dilemma.
Therefore, the true lesson of this pioneering small book is not only about the evil banality of Israeli architecture, but also about the potential evil banality of any architecture. The debate inaugurated in "A Civilian Occupation" should serve us as a reminder that the idiosyncratic and narcissistic approaches that characterize a great deal of the contemporary architectural discourse, either through its spectacular expressions (Liebeskind, Gehry), through its pro-capitalistic ideologies (Koolhaas) or through its pseudo-avant-garde strategies (Tschumi, Eisenman), are today a luxury that very few can afford. The acute test case of Israeli architecture displayed in this important book is only one more proof that sometimes architecture can kill.
The book begs the question of what is so interesting about a village in the west bank. The Authors are entirely racist in that they do not also covers similar settlements in the American west or the Moroccan occupied Western Sahara. This book doesnt draw any parrallels between places throughout the world where immigrants have designed new communities, out of fear or in order to live safely and in culturally homogenous places. THus in the end this racist narrow minded presentation falls far short oft he great work it could have been. it could have shown how early Islamic occupation of the same area was also dominate dby hilltop villages and armed military camps, as in the Roman period. THe subject lacks depth and history, whereas the subject itself; how immigrants settle land, is an amazing one.
Seth J. Frantzman
I think it was political when Arabs built their homes with doors so low that folks couldn't ride their horses through them. And obviously, it was political in 1936 to 1939, when Jews built 57 "stockade and tower" settlements, many of them in a single day. But most of the politics I saw in this book was pro-ethnic cleansing of Jews from the West Bank, from the contributors.
This book does have some maps and photos. You may want to look at them in the library. But don't buy the book.
The book says that Jews are putting up buildings in the West Bank. It implies that such construction is hideous. It calls all this "arrogance." And it says that even a Jewish withdrawal from the West Bank will not undo all the damage. But I think anything it says about the West Bank can be equally well applied to the rest of the Earth, and I think the bogus argument for removing Jews from the West Bank is no different from the one to remove them (or any other people) from this planet.
In fact, Israel is land-poor. Its people ought to have a right to buy land and live on that land, just as people everywhere in the world ought to have such a right. The West Bank is disputed land, not the personal property of some Goddess who has permitted only Her People, the West Bank Arabs, to live on it. Jews need to have as much of a right to live in the West Bank and build on it as do Arabs. The authors, by failing to agree, have shown their opposition to human rights, not just for Jews, but for everyone.