Letter to the Organizers of the 10th International Architecture Exhibition at the Vennice Biennale

From the www.monabaker.com archive (legacy material)

PACBI | 3 September 2006

We the undersigned groups and organizations request that the Venice Biennale cancel the country exhibition of Israel entitled “LIFE SAVER – Typology of Commemoration in Israel – Architecture and Society” for the following reasons:
The Israeli participation is supported by the Israeli state, a state that continues against all International laws and UN resolutions to occupy the West Bank and Gaza Strip; to deny the right of return for Palestinian refugees; and to wage a daily war against Palestinian children, men and women, their homes and livelihoods.
The Israeli state is still engaged in a war with Lebanon that started less than two months ago and resulted in the killing of over a thousand Lebanese, the destruction of infrastructure, roads, buildings, bridges, electricity power plants, and thousands of homes, and the denial of the right of education to thousands of Lebanese children who cannot attend a new school year because their schools have been destroyed.
Israeli architects, engineers and planners are fully engaged in the planning and implementation of a system of oppression and control that began with the appropriation and confiscation of lands since 1948, and continues today in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the form of illegal settlement building, bypass roads, and the construction of the Apartheid Wall.
Nowhere in the exhibition is there any mention of the 418 Palestinian villages destroyed and wiped from memory as a result of the creation of the state of Israel; neither is there any recognition of the 750,000 Palestinians thrown out of their homes, who together with their children and grandchildren continue to be refugees unable to return to their homes until this day.
The exhibition contains models of memorials commemorating both the victims of the Holocaust as well as those killed during Israel ‘s various wars since 1948. The history of the holocaust and its Jewish victims is thus confused with that of Israel ‘s colonial history and the death of soldiers killed while invading, occupying and annexing Arab lands.
Tula Amir, the exhibition curator writes in the introduction to the exhibition:
“The justification of Israel ’s wars legitimates the loss of life in the past and its possible loss in the future; the continuation of unconditional cooperation between the country’s military and defense establishment and its individual citizens; and an unequivocal understanding that this struggle is the only means for Israel ’s survival.”
This paragraph can be read as a critique of this type of architecture; however, the fact that it is being displayed at this level little over a month after Israel has just gone through another one of its cycles of destruction is a celebration of it. The attempt to dissect it and analyze it in an abstract manner from an architectural point of view is not convincing. Nowhere in the quotations from the curator is the exhibition presented as a way to examine Israel ‘s past or to try to learn from all its bloody history. The entire exhibition accentuates Israel as a victim state constantly under attack and in danger, so that wars can be justified and awarded legitimacy. The title “Life saver; typology of commemoration in Israel ” only serves to emphasize this fact.
It is inconceivable how the Venice Biennale, an international celebration of art and architecture, of civilization and the progress of humanity, can provide a venue for such a blatant justification for and commemoration of genocide, war and bloodshed.
We therefore call upon you to cancel such an event, the inclusion of which will mark the entire Biennale.
• Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) info@boycottisrael.ps, boycottisrael@palnet.com www.pacbi.org
• The Palestinian Engineers Association – Jerusalem Center info@paleng.org
• Society of Palestinian Architects info@paleng.org
• RIWAQ, Centre for Architectural Conservation riwaq@palnet.com, www.riwaq.org