The Architecture of Apartheid Cannot be Sustainable

We, the undersigned, Concordia Art History Department alumni, historians, architects, artists, curators and planners of Montreal, are circulating this statement to voice our opposition to the “Sustainable Architecture Exhibit” and the panel “The Ethics of Sustainability in Israeli Art and Architecture,” and more generally to the participation of the Concordia Art History department in the “Sustainable Israel” conference, taking place May 31-June 3, 2015 at Concordia University.

Gaza

The Concordia Art History department has always positioned itself as a center for the critical study of art and architecture, boasting among its faculty, professors who work on feminism, post-colonialism, space theory and anti-racist and anti-oppressive analyses. For those of us who have graduated from its programs, we know that the department offered a privileged space to explore issues such as social justice, equality, and diversity in art and architectural history. In our art history studies at Concordia, we were taught to think critically about the built environment and about spatial justice.

As members of the arts and architecture communities in Montreal, we are shocked and disappointed to learn that the department is participating in the panel titled “The Ethics of Sustainability in Israeli Art and Architecture.” Panels such as this one, which does not appear to question the fundamentally unsustainable nature of art or architecture realized on stolen, illegally-occupied land, ultimately serve to obscure the reality of Israeli apartheid and occupation by assessing this work primarily from a sustainability perspective.

In any case, collaborating on such a panel within a conference sponsored by the Israeli Consulate in Montreal and the Canadian Centre for Israeli and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), whose mandate is to “increase support for Israel,” and which boasts other panels featuring speakers from the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) Command and Staff College and the Israeli Knesset, clearly locates the discussion within the perspective of those who seek to systematically deny Palestinian human rights.

Along with the panel, the department participated in the organization of the “Sustainable Architecture Exhibit” entitled “Envisioning the Israel of Tomorrow: Technion Presents Student Projects in Sustainable Architecture and Design.” This exhibit presents the work of students at Technion University in Haifa, an institution which plays a significant role in the Israeli military-industrial complex. It is an important hub for the research and development of technologies destined for use by Israeli military technology manufacturers and, ultimately, the Israeli army.

Indeed, architecture is a key weapon of Israeli settler-colonialism, facilitating Israel’s colonisation of Palestinian land and the forced displacement of Palestinian people. Flying in the face of international law, the Israeli government continues to encourage the construction of new settlements on stolen land as part of its illegal occupation of Palestinian territories. Palestinian houses are bulldozed; entire villages and neighbourhoods are destroyed; Palestinian vernacular architecture is eliminated. Forests and parks are used to cover the ruins and erase the indigenous Palestinian presence on the land under the cover of “sustainability” and “greening.”

Israeli architecture and design are also used to limit the mobility of Palestinians, whether they are Israeli citizens or living in the Occupied Territories, through the infamous wall, checkpoints, roads and other infrastructures of movement-control and apartheid.

Illegal occupation of stolen land, displacement, colonialism and apartheid cannot be and are never sustainable. So-called “sustainable” Israeli architecture is nothing but the greenwashing of this state’s racist policies.

The Concordia Student Union (CSU) recently voted to join the movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israeli apartheid, which includes an academic boycott of Israeli institutions. We encourage our fellow scholars in art history and architecture, as well as planners, architects, and artists to join the BDS movement, launched by more than 175 Palestinian civil society groups in 2005, by refusing to attend this event as well as similar events in the future, until Israel complies with the main demands of the BDS movement:

1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall;
2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.

References:

“Structures of Oppression: Why McGill and Concordia universities must sever their links with the Technion University,” April 2011, http://www.tadamon.ca/post/8105, 2-3.
Visualizing Palestine, “Israel’s System of Segregated Roads,” infographic, http://www.visualizingpalestine.org/visuals/segregated-roads-west-bank
“Academic Boycott,” Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement, http://www.bdsmovement.net/activecamps/academic-boycott
Palestinian Civil Society Call for BDS, 9 July 2005, http://www.bdsmovement.net/call

***

Signatures :

1- Noémie Despland-Lichtert, B.F.A Art History, Concordia, 2011. M.Arch, McGill, 2013.

2- Dounia Salamé, B.F.A Art History, Concordia, 2011. M.Sc. Études urbaines, INRS-UCS, 2015.

3- Stéphanie Laoun, B.F.A Art History, Concordia, 2011.

4- Erika Brandle Mouton, B. Arch, McGill, 2013. M.Arch, McGill, 2015.

5- Michel Despland, PhD, Harvard, 1966. Dr. Honoris Causa, Uqam, 2014. Société royale du Canada.

6- Lama Sfeir, M. Arch, Belgrade Institute.

7- Claire Hurtig, MA, Art History, University of Toronto, 2006.

8- Godefroy Desrosiers Lauzon, BA et MA Histoire UQAM, PhD Histoire Université d’Ottawa.

9- Sarah Galarneau, B.F.A Art History, Concordia, 2011.

10- Marie-Ève Desroches. M.Sc. Études urbaines, INRS-UCS, 2014.

11- Sarah Nesbitt.
Comment: Though I think it is possible that the voices of the professors in art history can productively add to the conversation about Israel’s actions, especially since canada is similarly politically dubious, our participation does go against the vote for bds, as this conference directly supports organizations involved in Palestinian occupation. I hope that in the future any decision to participate in something like this will be very carefully considered.

12- Feras Al-Assafin.

13- Claire Forsyth BFA Studio Arts 2012.

14- Tala Al Jabri, B Com, McGill, 2011.

15- Tarek Lakhrissi, MA, Art History, UdeM.

16- Sorraya Guembhyt, BA Film Studies, Minor Art History, UdeM.

17- Laurence Desmarais, BA Art History, UQAM 2012.

18- Geneviève Rail.
Comment: I would like to stay that I am all for Israel studies, Jewish Studies and the like. For five years our Institute had as a Principal the late Dr. Lillian Robinson. Lillian was a Jewish feminist and our Institute benefited greatly from her presence and interest in Jewish issues. We have offered a course called “Jewish Women in North America,” we have named scholarships that we still distribute on a yearly basis in her honour, and currently have a successful visiting professor program with her name. In brief, our Simone de Beauvoir Institute has, in its own way, demonstrated commitment to understanding Jewish identities and experiences. That said, I am concerned that by supporting a “Sustainable Israel” conference, our university is aligning itself with academic institutions that are deeply complicit in oppressive policies against the Palestinian people (through institutional links such as university exchanges, joint programs and research initiatives). In light of CAUT and CUPE positions on the cultural and academic boycott of Israel and in light of the world-wide Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel (until it complies with International Law and Universal Principles of Human Rights), I feel that, at a minimum, we need to have reassurances that any event hosted by Concordia would be committed to and promote peace and anti-militarism, that it would have Jewish and Arab-Palestinian scholars, and that a diversity of Israeli experiences would be in focus. Since that is not the case, I denounce the participation of the Art History Department in the “Sustainable Israel” conference.

19- Abby Lippman, PhD, Professor Emerita.

20- Camille Larivee.

21- Alexandra Laverdière.

22- Freda Guttman, B.F.A. Rhode island School of design; past part time professor in Fine Arts, Concordia.

23- Heather Mclean.

24- Mathieu Gagnon.

25- Xenia Benivolski.

26- Sue Ferguson, Wilfrid Laurier University.

27- Amina Joober, B.F.A Art History, Concordia, 2011, LL. B. UdeM 2015.

28- Sabine Friesinger.

29- Chadi Marouf.

30- David Comedi, Professor of Physics, National Research Council and National University of Tucumán, Argentina.

31- Mariah Gillis.

32- Katherine Garven, BA, International Development, McGill University, Graduate Diploma in Communication Studies, Concordia University.

33- Wilser Canel.

34- Katie Nelson, Philosophy Major & Human Rights Minor.
Comment: Apartheid is not sustainable. Let’s create communities that are cooperative and at the same time reaffirm Palestinian human rights.

35- Rami Yahia.

36- Jack Mc Laughlin.

37- Jasmin Cormier, UQAM.

38- Mary Ellen Davis.

39- Michelle Gagnon-Creeley.

40- Jeremy Tessier, BA, Human Environment & Urban Studies, Concordia University.

41- Seán Amir Hayes, Political Science and Israel Studies Undergraduate Student, Concordia .
Comment: As a student of Israel Studies, I wrestle with the implications of engaging with institutions that are complicit in the Occupation often. This event unfortunately seems to have squandered an opportunity to have a real conversation about the implications of asymmetrical development and discrimination in Israel and the Occupied Territories; opting instead for an approach of greenwashing. Israel’s ethnocratic character creates adverse systematic barriers to the collective rights of development and self-determination for Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line. I welcome efforts that highlight that a sustainable Israel is one that isn’t engaged in an self-destructive occupation, and I fear that this event contributes little to nothing on that front.

42- Jason Butters, MA History, Concordia University.

43- George Szypulewski, Human Being, Planet Earth.

44- Christopher Bacon, Print Media major, Concordia.

45- Wassim Kassir.

46- Kyle Ritchie, BA political science, Concordia.

47- Samuel Vanzin.

48- Adam Riga.
Comment: For the victims.

49- Jon Milton.

50- Norma Rantisi.

51- Kerri Flannigan, BFA Studio Arts, Concordia University.

52- James Cairns, Wilfrid Laurier University.

53- Nina Patterson, Film Studies and Art History Undergraduate, Concordia.

54- Mohammed Abdul Rahman.

55- Kashif Mahmood.

56- mohammed abdul lateef

57- Douglas Smith, MA Hispanic Studies, Concordia University

58- Jess Dorrance, MA, Art History, McGill University.

59- Chloe Boone.

60- Deema Emad.

61- Anonymous

62- Waed Elaarag.

63- Katie Moroney, BA, Philosophy.

64- Heather Holdsworth, BA History, McGill.

65- R. MM

66- Tanis Franco, MA, MLIS.

67- Faisal Joudah.

68- Simon Mercier-Nguyen B.D.I., M.Sc. Aménagement, University of Montreal.

69- Patrick Blair, BFA Film Studies.

70- Joachim Despland.

71- Dorian Valérie Lebreux, BA Honors University of Toronto, MA York University.

72- Phillipe REVAULT, Prof.architecte et ACT Consultants.

73- Kevin Gould.

74- Miguel Mesa del Castillo Clavel.

75- Marie Simard, MLIS.

76- fanie villemaire.

77- Viviane Saglier.

78- Thien Viet Quan, BFA, Photography, Concordia University.

79- Said Yassin.

80- Ayanna Dozier, Graduate Student in the Dept. of Art History and Communication Studies, McGill University.

81- Audrey Dahl, Concordia.

 

If you’d like to add your signature, you can do it at: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1E_js_YGyvNRto15djfL0b9No7XprLB_JrX6rDcUdOzw/viewform

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