Israelis in Berlin censorship row
The association representing architects in Israel is facing accusations of censorship after it blocked a controversial exhibition planned for the International Union of Architects' (UIA) World Congress of Architecture in Berlin next week. The Israel Association of United Architects (IAUA) has refused to allow two of its members to display the exhibition - on the politics of Israeli planning policy - claiming it is damaging to the Israeli state.
The exhibition - prepared by Eyal Weizman, a young Tel Aviv- and London-based architect who also teaches at the Bartlett, and his partner Rafi Segal - was commissioned by the IAUA for its national submission. It examines the resettlement of the Israeli territories over the past 20 years, the layout of the settlements, and the forces and processes that brought them about.
Weizman said: 'We wanted to unpack the spatial matrix that defines Israeli politics - it's a matrix of control. It's obvious to anyone that architecture in Israel is the arm of the state, which achieves its aims not through the army but through planning and space.'
Weizman and Segal won a high-profile competition in January to curate the Israeli submission to Berlin. According to Weizman, their competition entry promised a critical view of Israeli architecture.
But the IAUA was 'shocked' when it saw the final content of the exhibition last week, just days before it was due to be displayed. It demanded that the exhibition, and the catalogue accompanying it, be withdrawn, threatening the pair with legal action.
Weizman said he had now received a number of offers from around the world to host the exhibition, including the offer of an independent space from the UIA. He is also considering a number of offers from publishers wanting to print the catalogue, but is exploring the legal situation.
London-based architect Abe Hayeem, a member of the peace group Just Peace UK, said the exhibition revealed the 'amoral approach' of the Israeli state to the occupation and settlement of the territories. 'The main issue is that Israel doesn't want any bad publicity, ' he said.
But the IAUA's chairman, Uri Zerubavel, claimed to have the support of his membership. The exhibition would have been damaging to the reputation of Israeli architects abroad, he said. Zerubavel also claimed to have been misled by Weizman and Segal, whose competition entry had been a balanced view of the historic development of Israel.
The exhibition was 'pro-political, anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist, ' he said. 'We are not Nazis or Maoists that burn books, but my first impression was that I would like it to be demolished. If such a political essay should come from a political party that's OK. But when it comes as the official exhibition of Israeli architects it must be balanced.'
lndian best-selling novelist and environmental campaigner Arundhati Roy, French sociologist Jean Baudrillard and Queen Noor of Jordan are among those expected at the congress. The triennial congress' theme is 'Resource Architecture', tackling issues including: cultural and social change; housing and urban development; and strategies for sustainability. Other speakers include Adriaan Geuze, Frei Otto, Renzo Piano and Ken Yeang. The congress runs from 23-26 July. Look out for daily reports on our website from Wednesday 24 July.