A Civilian Occupation

Publication – Tel Aviv, Israel

2002 – 2003

Civilian Occupation is the name of a banned exhibition catalogue, which was later published as a book in 2003, edited by Rafi Segal and Eyal Weizman. The original exhibition entitled, 'The Politics of Israeli Architecture', was prepared in response to an open architectural competition organised by the Israeli Association of United Architects (IAUA). The exhibition was to be their contribution to the International Union of Architect's congress which was held in Berlin in 2002. Segal and Weizman's response explored the role of architecture in the continuing occupation of Palestine and the politics of the Middle East. The IAUA objected to the proposal and withdrew support from the exhibition citing budgetary concerns; they also destroyed the five thousand copies of the exhibition catalogue which had already been published.

The book, A Civilian Occupation, finally brought this work into the public sphere. In it Israeli architects, writers, photographers, journalists and a film maker reflect on the spatial dimension of the Israeli occupation, exploring the ways in which specific architectural strategies have been used to control territory and to wield power. The essays are accompanied by maps, photographs and statistical data that reveal in detail the complicity of architectural practice in the occupation, from the strategic placement of settlements on hilltops that act as fortresses to survey the Palestinian villages below, to the role of infrastructure such as bypass roads in fragmenting Palestinian territory. The exhibition also included a map produced by Weizman, in collaboration with the Israeli human rights organisation B'Tselem, which showed for the first time all the Palestinian villages located in the West Bank alongside the Israeli settlements. The latter are usually represented as points but through mapping their precise locations, size and spatial form, the map revealed them to be carefully designed to achieve certain strategic goals such as bisecting a road or surrounding a Palestinian village. It also revealed how the settlements have managed to completely fragment Palestinian territory whilst only occupying a small fraction of the land.

The book thus shows clearly and in great detail how architecture is never an isolated or neutral profession and whilst the Israeli case may be an extreme example, the proliferation of urban enclaves, gated developments and evictions everywhere shows the relevance of this work to the profession in general. The interview with Thomas Leitersdorf, the architect of Ma'ale Edummim, the city which has grown to be the largest settlement in the West Bank serves as a warning to architects willing to follow their dreams to build at any cost.

Other Work

Jeffrey Kastner, Sina Najafi and Eyal Weizman, 'The Wall and the Eye: An Interview with Eyal Weizman', Cabinet, 2002, http://www.cabinetmagazine.org/issues/9/wall.php [accessed 31 March 2010].

Rafi Segal, Eyal Weizman and Daṿid Ṭarṭaḳover (eds.), A Civilian Occupation: The Politics of Israeli Architecture (Tel Aviv/London: Babel/Verso, 2003).

Eyal Weizman, 'Introduction to The Politics of Verticality', Open Democracy, 2002, http://www.opendemocracy.net/conflict-politicsverticality/article_801.jsp [accessed 31 March 2010].

---, Hollow land: Israel's Architecture of Occupation (London: Verso, 2007).

Eyal Weizman and Markus Miessen, 'The Wall: Settlement Archeology', Bidoun Magazine, http://bidoun.com/bdn/magazine/05-icons/the-wall-settlement-archeology-eyal-weizman-with-markus-miessen/ [accessed 31 March 2010].

References About

Paul Brown, 'Professionals in Israel', Open Democracy, 2002, http://www.opendemocracy.net/ecology-politicsverticality/article_196.jsp [accessed 31 March 2010].

Bryan Finoki, 'Congrats to Eyal Weizman', Subtopia, 2006, http://subtopia.blogspot.com/2006/05/congrats-to-eyal-weizman.html [accessed 31 March 2010].

Quotes

"The politics of Israeli architecture is the politics of any architecture. It involves-to paraphrase some common architectural slogans-much more than 'more ethics and less esthetics': architecture is not just a magnificent game and urbanism is not always a gay science. To really appreciate them, you don't need to commit murder. And if you can't be responsible, don't be irresponsible, because when more is more, enough is enough."
- Sharon Rotbard quoted in, Rafi Segal, Eyal Weizman and Daṿid Ṭarṭaḳover (eds.), A Civilian Occupation: The Politics of Israeli Architecture (Tel Aviv/London: Babel/Verso, 2003), p. 16.

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