The State of Israel will prove itself not by material wealth, not by military might or technical achievement, but by its moral character and human values.
DAVID BEN GURION
Is there an alternative to the territorial strangleholds that characterise the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, carving the country into a tortured web of settlements, strips, banks, unrecognised villages, demarcation lines, fences and no man’s lands? Where do we go from a status quo that, all too often, looks less like a stable situation than a chaotic chain reaction based on the meltdown of territory, religion, segregation, culture, politics and history? Should we place the emphasis on methods and solutions to address the conflict’s causes? Or focus instead on tackling its political, social, economical, religious, cultural, human, geographical and urban effects? Perhaps we would be better employed finding models, visions and strategies to cope with the situation, and others like it, thereby reclaiming the tool, once intended to create culture and now used to erase it: the tool we call architecture and planning?
These issues are illuminated by the articles that follow this introduction, a series of stories based not on theory, but on concrete, real-life examples: in particular, that of the ‘unrecognised’ Palestinian village of Ein Hud, and its struggle for acceptance. The factual history of Ein Hud is the best possible commentary on the unfounded theory that surrounds the conflict. It is also the best possible response to those who see a way out of the present situation in the rhetoric of demolition, tradition and imposition. They apply concepts that lead to such abstract ideals as restoration, preservation, separation, history and difference. They are creaing causes that neither they themselves, nor those they impose them on, want. Reality, for them, is an everlasting state of emergency. A regime of preemptive planning is their main object. They push their opponents into the corner of protest and contemplation. But we think there is another reality out there, a reality leading to a point of no return. Other people, for whom the way out isn’t that clear, invest their rhetoric in raising a debate, for themselves and others. They go for the effect that needs to be brought about. Their interest doesn’t lie in the counter-project or the opposition, but in taking in a position. It lies in raising a debate, raising consciousness and reclaiming architecture and planning.
This is a reality in which the ‘concrete chainsaw’ (as the French-Israeli director Simone Bitton calls the Wall in her documentary film Mur), separating the haves from the have-nots, doesn’t just have to be seen as just another symbol of oppression. On the contrary, it can be used to find ways to think, act and move forward. Research and activism aren’t just tools for placing this line on the agenda, but can actually be used to localise the agenda within architecture and planning: an agenda that reads reality, and not its twisted interpretation. In this collection of articles, don’t expect to find distortions such as that made by an Israeli landscape architect: Fencing not only creates injustices, but also provides intimacy and protection in many instances. If we acknowledge that fences create injustices, the second part of the sentence is at best, self-deception, and at worst, an hallucination, if it is a comment on the work this and other architects are required to carry out at the command of the decision makers.
Taking the building process as the epicenter of thought and action is not an attempt to introduce an arbitrary element of interpretation into a causal cultural relationship, but a method to explode and deepen this causality and explain its underlying agenda. Does it make sense to question whether building is a cause or an effect in the Israeli-Palestine conflict? Is it useful to ask if its own cause is protection, and its effect injustice? We don’t think so. We would rather view building as neither cause nor effect, but as a tool used to obtain power, to suppress, deny, refuse, control, violate and destroy basic human rights - on both sides. Here, building is a weapon of mass destruction.
In order to formulate an opinion about this ongoing state of emergency, FAST (the Foundation for Achieving Seamless Territory; our acronym embodies the urgency of the project) takes architecture, planning and territory as the basis for a strategy to overcome the conflict of causality. To this end, it is necessary to explain the three levels on which we operate: the situation as found, the issues at stake, and the strategy to be undertaken. FAST doesn’t intend to sketch a path that needs to be followed, leaving its implementation to the goodwill of promises. Rather, it acts, finding methods to implement the legal and the possible, localising an agenda beyond feeble, fancy and formless architectural research, mapping and design. If there’s a future for architecture and urbanism in this and similar apartheid-like situations - and the issue of imposed unrecognition as described in this dossier also currently affects the Roma gypsies in Europe, the Mapuche in Chile, and the Kalahari Bushmen in Botswana, among others - it will be one in which research, design and activism strive through jurisdiction for seamless territories and universal human rights.
The situation as found
In 1897, at the summons of the spiritual father of the Jewish state, Theodore Herzl, the First Zionist Congress convened and proclaimed the right of the Jewish people to national rebirth in their own country, a right later recognised in the Balfour Declaration (1917), and reaffirmed in the Mandate of the League of Nations (1922), which stated, the Government of His Britannic Majesty, and adopted by the said Powers, (is) in favour of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people. However, this was accompanied by the proviso that the rights of the Palestinians were to be protected: It being clearly understood that nothing should be done which might prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.
In the first half of the 20th century, there followed a return of Jewish people to the land of Israel, the revival of the Hebrew language, the building of villages and towns and the establishment of an economy and culture that was self-determining - a process that fed the aspiration for independency. The genocide of millions of Jews during the Second World War highlighted the problem of Jewish statelessness. On November 29, 1947, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution calling for the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz-Israel; the General Assembly required the inhabitants of Eretz-Israel to take such steps as were necessary on their part for the implementation of that resolution. This United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine, a plan to resolve the Arab-Jewish conflict in the British Mandate of Palestine, was approved by the United Nations General Assembly at the UN World Headquarters in New York.
UN recognition led inexorably to a sovereign state. On May 14, 1948, the members of the People’s Council proclaimed the establishment of the State of Israel. It was a state based on Zionist ideology – and Zionism now shifted its focus to an increasingly territorial agenda and mandate: supporting the development and defence of the State of Israel, while encouraging Jewish people from all over the world to settle there. In the early years of the state’s existence, more than 500 Palestinian villages and cities were destroyed and over 800 new Jewish cities, villages and other types of settlement were founded. By the 1960s, the state had confiscated or otherwise acquired 93% of the country. While more then five million Jewish people from all over the world found a new home in Israel, over 600,000 Palestinians became refugees. Effectively, the State of Israel had simply been established on top of another one, leading to a territorial and cultural cover-up, and an inevitable territorial battle, not only in Gaza and the West Bank, but also within the formal 1967 borders of Israel.
For the Palestinians who remained in Israel, Israeli land policy now often denied their right to a home, by confiscating their land, refusing building permits, and refusing to acknowledge existing settlements. The so-called ‘unrecognised villages’ come into existence through a top-down strategy of dislocation, derooting, institutionalised temporality, non-existence, denial and repression, and the bottom-up strategy of closeness, proximity, community and promise. This forced interplay has a strong impact on human behaviour and fundamentally affects the basis of life - shelter, access, culture and recognition – on both personal and community levels. A forced departure, under the guise of security and temporality, isn’t problematic until we realise that it is only a strategy (or a solution) for separating people from their land, rights and sense of community.
Forced evacuation or separation opens a broad spectrum of possibilities and expectations, with only one destiny: the wish to return when everything is over. In an everlasting state of emergency, that idea of returning was and is suspended by the Israeli state, as is the idea of staying somewhere temporarily. For some, like Salim Shawamre (see The Builder’s Tale), even the idea of living in a tent is denied by a Kafkaesque Israeli land policy. Forced evacuation means moving out of sight, moving out of contact, moving out of history, presence, future, and moving out of thinking and memory. For Palestinians, it means becoming a phantom people dwelling on ghostly ground.
While some Palestinian settlements are merely unrecognised, others are surrounded and limited – so Adel Sawaed‘s house is ringed by those of Israeli settlers in A Home for Adel and the Palestianians of Led are surrunded by a wall (see The Wall of Led). In The Geography of Fear, Gershon Baskin talks about the hyper-separated condition of Jerusalem. Borders will always exist; they define ‘yours’ and ‘mine’, creating spaces for relationship and demanding mutual respect. The wall, however, makes the difference between inside and outside; it creates a condition of human artificiality within the vast open space of the world. In a strange way, we only can be free within the borders we define ourselves. If our space is not vast and open, but limited, and (for whatever reason), already defined, we need our own borders within that artificial condition. We do not deal with a separation of openness versus enclosure, but of enclosure within enclosure. If borders within that condition are unilaterally imposed, not bilaterally negotiated, questions need to be raised.
A situation is created
We must use terror, assassination, intimidation, land confiscation, and the cutting of all social services to rid the Galilee of its Arab population.
DAVID BEN GURION
Separations, walls, and fortifications can have different shapes, colours, textures, and depths. They can create situations, events, programmes and conditions. As architects and planners, we understand the way our professional tools are being used as weapons, borrowed for the development of seams that tear apart our country and install isolated islands of seamless identity. Agricultural fields, national parks, cities, gardens, military areas, culture programmes, farms, roads, infrastructure and services, trees, acoustic walls, industrial parks – any aspect of the landscape can be turned into an element of fortification (serving as protection, defense and attack), or can become a separating wall, between the two different systems and population groups: Palestinians and Israelis.
Confronted with a scattered territory, we cannot undo what’s done, turn back time and restore a (fictive) borderless condition. We can’t and don’t pretend nothing has happened, is happening and can still happen. What one can ask is to undo the separation, and to uphold equality as a condition and consequence of respect. Analysing the contemporary condition, we can’t deny that we are confronted with a territory that has multiple faces, the official and the unofficial, the recognised and the unrecognised, the myth and the reality, the causes and the effects. To bring the pieces together one can use many strategies: welding, symbiosis, parasitism, bonding, connecting, linking, adhering, fixing, or solidifying. Actually, the means are not important, only the end, which is seamlessness. Separation turns seamless when we erase disruptive borders, whether these are architectures, cities, walls, fences, ditches, checkpoints, mentalities, politics or strategies. Not that these aren’t necessary, but their current implementation intends to occupy and intimidate, not to cultivate and liberate. It leads to a state in which continuity is the paradoxical key-concept: continuity in place, access, location, culture, memory, time and evolution. Out of that continuity, discontinuity is politically and mentally carved, stripped, eliminated and erased, paving the way to embody the same discontinuity both territorially and physically.
As architects and planners making plans, masterplans, spaces, buildings, and giving shape to people’s (living) environments, we find ourselves as major players, or master puppets of political planning, in this territorial conflict. We find ourselves in situations in which governmental bodies abuse plans and masterplans to promote ideological agendas, through which human rights are violated. We find ourselves fighting to provide better living conditions to the inhabitants of our country, better services, homes, infrastructures, and economical development; fighting to provide present and future sustainability to the different population groups and communities. We hear architects, landscape designers and planners talk in poetic clichés about snow-capped mountains, colourful carpets woven with threads of soil and stone, vegetation and water, galloping camels and prancing goats, villages of muslims, orchards flowering in pink, rivers swollen with water, skyscrapers illuminated at night with dazzling lights... and there are even pathos-filled lines hinting at ‘wars of faith’ that have broken out over the millennia in ‘the land of promise’. We read critics’ words about the lack of awareness in the above-mentioned architects of even a hint of the destructive conflicts that are taking place in these places. We see a Palestinian family, handing a baby from one to another during an attempt to cross a border wall.
We don’t want to take part in political arguments, we don’t propose a global solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and we don’t plan to start peace treaties, but we do aim to expose injustice and to fight for equal planning solutions, equal services, and equal rights for all. We call for worldwide professional communities to participate in the creation of better plans, better masterplans and better solutions for places that have been neglected or harassed by governmental bodies.
The approach, issues at stake and perspective
Israel is one country, with two systems. These systems exist, manifest and operate through borders, checkpoints, and through recognition and unrecognition. What does it mean when you refuse to recognise something? Does it mean you withdraw yourself from the topic? Ignore, deny, overlook (in this case, both literally and metaphorically), refuse and reject it? In denying its existence, do you exclude it from reality by all the possible means offered by the system you created? It certainly means that someone, a person or a group, is aware that this lack of recognition exists. The supposed ‘temporary’ nature of the situation is a good excuse to leave something unrecognised. But what are real people to do with this territorial temporality, this forced dislocation without an alternative, and existence in a non-existant situation? And how can we react to an imposed masterplan that can turn an unrecognised village into a recognised one overnight, and which lacks any accurate reflection of reality? Dealing with this in terms of walls, fences, ditches and so on, the closing of two systems leads to a situation where people no longer know whether they are a danger or in danger. The other is recognised through the sheer act of building a separation line. But in a continuous territory, it is clear recognition versus unrecognition. Everything is known, even the unknown.
You cannot build a wall around an unrecognised village, even if you’d like to prevent its sprawl and expansion; for building a wall would legitimise its existence. Only demotivation seems to work, replacing the memory with a guerilla assault of art, identity, memory and territory. The art of transforming the built environment uses manmade myths of presence and absence, leading to a system of belief in which human values and moral character come into sharp focus through the application of intimidation, land confiscation, and the cutting of all social services. In this case, one should honestly raise the question of whether architecture and planning are being used to organise or disorganise space. For once a village is unrecognised, collective forms of existence are denied and put outside the legal system, and rights and laws become irrelevent: they can’t be applied to a non-existent situation.
But this unrecognised landscape isn’t inhabited by phantom people, but by minority communities currently denied the political, civil, economic and cultural rights that they should have according to international human rights principles. To raise this issue within the field of planning and architecture (for some villages the tools to keep the state of unrecognition pending, for others the sole recognition of their existence), work needs to be done to link community, national and international levels, insisting on equality, seamlessness and non-discrimination. Domestically, we need the implementation of international minority rights protection. At the same time, discussion is needed, to provide insight into the reality as found.
To facilitate an extended environment for addressing these political and ideological conflicts we must bring various disciplines into play: law, geography, journalism and the media, activism, and many others. We need to mobilise national and international public opinion and to create a public debate about the issue of human rights violations through planning.
The Ein-Hud Project
Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages. You do not even know the names of these Arab villages, and I do not blame you because geography books no longer exist. Not only do the books not exist, the Arab villages are not there either. Nahlal arose in the place of Mahlul; Kibbutz Gvat in the place of Jibta; Kibbutz Sarid in the place of Huneifis; and Kefar Yehushua in the place of Tal al-Shuman.
There is not a single place built in this country that did not have a former Arab population.
DAVID BEN GURION
Our first project copes with one village that sadly reflects the complex reality of ideological planning in Israel, a typical example of the Israeli-Palestinian tragedy.
The story of Ein Hud represents the history of the State of Israel, as an embodiment of two parallel societies, two parallel planning systems, one building, the other destroying. Ein Hod – Ein Hud is the story of two villages, each representing a different reality and completely opposite living conditions. Through the series of articles we have included in this dossier, the various layers of Ein Hud-Ein Hod are revealed, as well as the reasons for our work.
Ein Hod is the biggest artists’ village in Israel. It was established at the beginning of the 1950s by a group of artists led by Marcel Janko. He’d found a Palestinian village with hundreds of years of history; a village that had been confiscated in 1948 by the Israeli military, its 900-odd villagers made refugees in a single stroke. A village constructed in the ‘Islamic style’, composed of arched stone buildings. The Israelis renamed the place Ein Hod, the ‘place of beauty’. The new name, sounding almost exactly like its original name of Ein Hud, has a different meaning. They changed its identity and saw in it their reconnection with their ancient Mediterranean roots. It became their new home, and a symbol of a new ‘arts and crafts’ society. The Israeli government listed the village under the status of ‘community settlement’ , this was a new term for a government-sponsored gated community. Such communities are established in strategic locations in order to promote Jewish presence in the area and prevent Palestinian ‘encroachment’ over public land (see Bitter Wine in the Desert). Ein Hud, the working Palestinian village, became Ein Hod, an exclusive gated community for artists.
While the new village was taking shape right on top of a confiscated one, the extended family of Muhamad Mahmud Abu al Hayja fled from Ein Hud to their own land in the mountains, only 1.5 km away from their village. The family eventually lost all hope of returning to their homes, so built new ones in their hiding place. The called the new village Ein Hud, after the old one. The new Ein Hud was an ‘unrecognised village’ (until February 2004), and its people classed as internal refugees. This meant that, for over 50 years, they lived without services, water, electricity, schools or medical care, struggling with the authorities day by day for their right to a home, for their right to exist. Finally on last February 2004, after years of continuous struggle, the government recognised the village – or rather 80 dunams of it, a very insufficient area for its present existence and its future development.
With this act of recognition, the Israeli government imposed a masterplan on Ein Hud for the development of the village. The total plan gives the village a total amount of land of 80,000 square metres (1 dunam = 1,000 square metres; the village area should total 80 dunams), an area it has already outgrown. Of this, 13 dunams (13,000 square metres) in the village centre is considered a ‘military area’, so cannot be developed at all.
Today, Ein Hud has 250 inhabitants and is part of the Hof Hakarmel jurisdiction area. This jurisdiction area enjoys an average area per person of 6 dunams (6,000 square metres), while Ein Hud was awarded 0.36 dunams (360 square metres) per person in the plan – about one-twentieth of the average allocation. The designated area for the development of public spaces, open spaces and commerce is already occupied by homes that automatically become illegal with the approval of the masterplan and may be demolished; if they are not demolished, the village has no space for the aforementioned activities. The masterplan doesn’t take into consideration large parts of the village; it leaves no space for future expansion, demographic growth, economic development, or future sustainability. Through the switch from unrecognised to recognised, the imposed masterplan pushes this village further into a straitjacket of political planning.
Our project aim is to reveal the story of Ein Hod – Ein Hud; to connect national and international NGOs and law departments to help the villagers of Ein Hud; to engage reporters and journalists to contribute in mobilising public opinion and creating a public debate about the situation; and to engage the professional communities and produce an alternative solution, by holding an international architecture competition.
What can be done in a situation in which a top-down planning instrument is totally at odds with the grass-roots reality of unrecognised villages – and, in fact, with basic human rights? Is it possible to show the effect these planning ideologies, procedures and politics have on the daily existence of those who are submitted to them? It is at any rate clear that the current situation is not sustainable, and that to change it we need to initiate a debate, wake up an apparently sleeping national conscience and reclaim a misused profession. But we can only reclaim it with an awareness created from reality, not myth, and with postitive action based on tools, methods, design, strategies and societies. In other words, the commitment to change must lead to action. Shouldn’t the discussion happen as reality unfolds, claiming concepts, designs and the right both to speak and to be taken seriously? Shouldn’t we trace the methods that lead to unrecognition and question their motives and effect? It might be possible to find freedom in innocence, but definitely not in ignorance, or self-imagined ignorance. Defeating, undermining, criticising this status quo happens if one moves critique from a cultural, academic debate into a pragmatic, legal debate. The praxis of architecture and planning is the one that can inscribe reality, even if that reality incorporates the concept of unrecognition. Discussing the impact of architecture on human rights starts on a practical level, on moving clearly and decisively.
More than fifty years on, we are discovering the importance of the David Ben Gurion statement we quoted at the beginning of this introduction: The State of Israel will prove itself not by material wealth, not by military might or technical achievement, but by its moral character and human values. Half a century on, the use of material wealth, military might and technical achievement on a territorial level is proving only a disaster – and leading to profound international disapproval of Israel’s moral character and human values. FAST stands for reclaiming a nation’s moral character and human values, by reclaiming architecture and planning. Now and in the future, it’s our aim to inject the principles of human rights and humanistic morality into the State of Israel’s much-abused field of planning.