twitter facebook youtube

Architect[e], writer, editor & podcaster

THE RIGHT TO THE RUIN: CIVILIZATIONAL ABSENCE IN THE POST-NAKBA LANDSCAPES / May 2013

Bayt Jibrin (photo by deborah_bright)Originally published on May 21, 2013 on The Funambulist / Re-published in The Funambulist Pamphlets: Volumes 06: Palestine (Punctum Books, 2013)

What is wrong with the pictures we can see on the website of the Israeli association Zochrot? The landscapes are beautiful and seem to be almost untouched by humans. The problem is that they are taken where Palestinian villages used to be before 1948. Five days ago was the 65th anniversary of the Nakba (catastrophe), the day when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians had to flee from their land when the State of Israel was established. Zochrot attempts to familiarize Israelis pwith the tragic consequences that their country caused, to advocate for a Palestinian right to return and to contribute to a bi-national reconciliation. In this regard, Zochrot has established a map (in Hebrew only) with an inventory of Palestinian villages evacuated and destroyed after 1948.

Sometimes, their destruction opened space for new Israeli towns, but as these photographs reveal, it was a much more profound destruction than a ‘simple’ takeover. Palestinian villages have been annihilated to the very last stone. Such a clear act of negating the presence of a civilization before the existence of Israel is even more shocking and disturbing because it occurred only a few years after the industrialized Nazis killed millions of Jewish people, as well as Roma, homosexuals, handicapped and communists. Ruins of these villages would have told a narrative involving the Palestinian existence prior to the state of Israel and would have implied their evacuation from it. This narrative was apparently not part of the newly born State that got rid of it through the violent erasing of these historical tracks. The ruin implies a tragic situation, but the negation of the right to the ruin goes even further: it is an absolute re-writing of history as it attempts to erase a part of history.

I had the opportunity to question this problem by creating an architectural project (see Chapter 22 and 23). This project, presented in Weaponized Architecture: The Impossibility of Innocence (dpr-barcelona, 2012), dramatizes an architectural disobedience to the colonial law that prevents Palestinian construction in 63% of the West Bank. The architecture I designed functions as both an agricultural platform and a sheepfold, with various tactics of camouflage. From a distance, it looks like a fragile Bedouin encampment. However, the project also incorporates the hypothesis of its own destruction by the Israeli army in case it were discovered. Its materiality and its ‘uneven geometry’ were designed in such a way that it would require too much energy to fully destroy it by an army. The project would thus become a ruin that would still carry the narrative of its existence and continue the territorial resistance against the colonial law in the West Bank. In this sense, the ruin can constitute a political testimony as the expression of existence.