The Guardian, The Economist and the building blocks of delegitimization

A guest post by Lyn Julius

‘Urban warfare’  – using buildings as weapons in the Israel-Palestinian conflict – has long been an element in the arsenal of those who seek to de-legitimise Israel by politicising its architecture. While most of their efforts have been directed at delegitimising Israeli settlements in the West Bank, now the fight is moving to Israel’s Jewish heartland, namely Tel Aviv itself.

The latest to take a wrecking ball to Israel’s founding myths is architect, writer and publisher Sharon Rotbard, whose book ‘White City, Black City’ has recently been translated into English and published by Pluto Press, which specialises in far-left and anti-Zionist texts.

A book that should have languished in obscurity on the political margins has been catapulted into prominence by two reviews – in the Guardian and in The Economist.


Guardian, Jan. 22

In 2004 UNESCO declared Tel Aviv’s White City – a collection of thousands of buildings epitomising the Modernist style of Bauhaus architecture – a World Heritage site. It was a source of pride for Israel, increasingly isolated and beleaguered in the midst of the Second Intifada.

Rotbard splits hairs:  the Modernist city is not strictly Bauhaus, he claims – only three of its German-Jewish refugee architects graduated from the Bauhaus training school.

His main argument is that the White City is more  like Tel Aviv’s sister city Algiers,  built in the 1930s by French colonists. Jewish Tel Aviv has supplanted its much older Arab city to the south, Jaffa, Palestine’s modern hub. Tel Aviv has encircled it, suffocated the life out of it, chased out its inhabitants so that the White City could stay ‘whiter than white’.

The first Jews to settle Tel Aviv were young Jewish men – very like today’s ‘West bank settlers’. What’s more, the Arab medina of Jaffa  has been bulldozed and grassed over. The idyllic orange orchards to the north of Jaffa were swallowed up by Tel Aviv and turned into ugly polluting, industrial neighbourhoods.

Conclusion: Tel Aviv is a colonialist city which has crushed and sucked the lifeblood from Jaffa.

Such agenda-driven propaganda is forced to whitewash certain key historical facts: namely Jews were trying to escape the stinking, seething port as early as the the 1880s. Jaffa was never an overwhelmingly ‘Arab Muslim’ city but always had substantial numbers of Christian and Jewish residents.  The first Jews to move out of the city into ‘Little Tel Aviv’ – Neve Tsedek and Kerem Hateymanim – were Mizrahi and Sephardi Jews. Most importantly,  Jews  were driven out of Jaffa to found the new city of Tel Aviv because Arabs attacked them – especially in the 1920-21 riots. 

Jaffa sustained extensive damage during the Arab revolt when the British authorities blew up rioters’ homes. Whatever destruction ‘Jewish paramilitary fighters’ wrought on Jaffa is a consequence of the Arab decision to draw Jaffa into the 1948 war.

Sharon Rotbard, who himself was born in Tel Aviv, is a member of the city’s elite. It has been fashionable for these champagne socialists to bash Israel in synchronicity with architects worldwide – in the knowledge that Israel will take the brickbats gracefully – and do nothing to dislodge them from their comfortable sinecures and lectureships.

34 replies »

  1. Lyn, write a letter to the ‘Economist’. They’re usually pretty good at printing responses to their pieces.

  2. This book is a page out of the far Left Israeli hate-hysteria. It is the usual attempt to create a parallel hate narrative, like Pape or Salaita or White & Sand. Nothing new here really.

    I encourage all to buy and read :
    “A Place in History: Modernism, Tel Aviv, and the Creation of Jewish Urban Space” by Barbara Mann
    “Tel Aviv: From Dream to City.
    Schlör, Joachim ”

    We need to understand the the Left *must* force a hate narrative because it has failed to kill Israel on every other front. One bullshit fact is that you are only a Bauhaus architect if you studied at the Bauhaus. How stupid is that ? I can commission an architect today to build me a house in Bauhaus.

    • “One bullshit fact is that you are only a Bauhaus architect if you studied at the Bauhaus” – yes, that is dumb beyond words. But when someone is consumed by psychotic hatred, facts don’t matter. Look at Sand, Pappe, Chomsky. All seriously unhinged.

    • “One bullshit fact is that you are only a Bauhaus architect if you studied at the Bauhaus.”

      Yes, Dani, that one also struck me as putting one over on an unsuspecting public. Shameful.

    • Dani, I agree with you on many things but not on this:
      “”…the Left *must* force a hate narrative because it has failed to kill Israel on every other front.”

      The left? Really?
      Didn’t you mean the extreme left?

        • No I would not,
          but stuff they feature is far left. Rotbard is far left. Shlomo Sand is far left, he also is an author they write about.

          UK media pick far Leftist actors and mainstream them. These two clowns are active post Zionists who belong to the political fringe in Israel. Rotbard wrote a book about IDF refuseniks, one of whom is now a productive author for . These people are at the far Left fringe.
          Who wrote the piece at The Economist ? One of the LSE Dames ? She has the Economist in her CV.

        • Interestingly, Islamism in my mind is a form of National Socialism.

          It is the Arab/Persian version of European fascism.

          The European Left in the 20s & 30s failed to recognize fascism for what it is, as does the modern Left in regard to Islamism.

          Hence Judith Butler’s/Chomsky’s and other Leftist actors inability to recognize what is happening in the Middle East and AFG/PAK. They think it is some sort of liberation movement, when it is fact the opposite.

          • Islamism started in the late 1920’s ( Muslim Brotherhood was founded in 1928 ).

            Do you think this is a coincidence ?

            Could those early fascist Arabs have modeled their back-to-the-roots politics on Europe’s back to the roots fascism ?

            I am 100% sure of this. Similar dynamics can be found in Thailand and Japan. Fascism is not a unique European act.

          • Dani, “The European Left in the 20s & 30s failed to recognize fascism for what it is…”

            They were too fragmented busy in slagging each other.
            But in essence you are correct.
            The Arab AntiSemitism has been giving carte blanche to carry on after WW2 unchecked for too long.

            And the funny thing is that the Europeans suggest Jews are the ones chasing money, when all along the reason why such blatant AntiSemitism was left unchecked was because These same Europeans were chasing Arab money!

            You couldn’t make it up!

            • All the European Leftist terrorists of the 70s and 80s received their weapons and militia training in the Arab Middle East. They also had safe houses there and could withdraw to Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Jordan etc. They had the same training Arab terrorists had. One German terrorist has written about how he met the young Yassar Arafat in a cave in Jordan, and found him creepy.
              A few years ago I met a Corsican lady who told me how she had been trained in Libya as a Corsican terrorist.
              The Western hard Left are a continuum of that time. Their logic, their written words have been before.

              • “One German terrorist has written about how he met the young Yassar Arafat in a cave in Jordan, and found him creepy” – talk about lack of self-awareness.

        • Sadly Leah they they tend to be on some aspects of life.
          Funny enough, on others aspects (such as giving platform to certain facsists) they tend to be further right wing than many of the central right wing parties.

          Go figure.

        • Are you suggesting Obama and J-Street are attempting to destroy Israel?
          Meretz are after Israel’s distruction through any means?

          • Obama and J-street definitely want to destroy Israel.
            Meretz thankfully too weak and blessed with a clinically stupid leader so no chance.

            • Obama and J-street definitely want to destroy Israel.

              I thought Dani’s comment was ludicrous enough, suggesting that the left are trying to “kill Israel”!
              But this outtrumps it on the utterly delusional front. Gets the full thumbs-up from the regular bigots and maniacs, of course!

      • When I write Left with a capital L, I mean the far Left.
        Like Judith Butler, who says Hezbollah is Global Left. The German Die Linke are the Communists in East Germany. Sand, Pape, Sheen, Salaita, Blumenthal, Rotbard…. all of these actors are Socialist/Communist they are Left, and they say so. Sheen even dresses up with a Red Brigade cap and a Khmer Rouge scarf. Many come from Communist families. Read about their biographies……..

        Understanding this helps with deconstructing their work. Like Islamists the Western Left is not up front about where they come from and where they wish to go. Post Soviet Union the choice of words has changed. Erdogan, Morsi… dig ?

        Another good example is the American Chris Hedges. In the USA you are dead in the water if you say out loud that you are a Socialist. So they tweek the wording.

      • When it comes to Israel , there is little difference between “far”, “hard” or “moderate” left. There is a difference , semantically at least between them, even on Israel, but where they nearly all agree , is that Israel is the problem, not the Arab, despite glaringly obvious attributes of fascism, apartheid and slavery(very anti-working class) that pervades in the Arab world. On this topic the left develop a deliberate blind spot to propagate a narrative that fits its ideological ambitions. In short, it shoots the arrow and draws the bullseye.

  3. Pluto Press is a nasty publishing house. I have been watching them for some time. Total Communists, they press that hate every day. Check out their website.

  4. Also fascinating reading with many photos and architectural plans :

    They Laid the Foundation: Lives and Works of German-Speaking Jewish Architects in Palestine 1918-1948 by Myra Warhaftig

    This book is about the many German and Austrian architects who literally built the foundations of Israel in Mandate Palestine. From power stations, to hospitals, to schools, to residential housing. Each architect has his or own chapter with photographs and when available plans. Fascinating read. The beauty and quality of life they created is awe inspiring. It must have been a great time to be an architect. A clean slate, an eager administration and a need for every conceivable building to be built in a style that fit the politics, climate and identity of a modern nation.

    • It sure was, but why forget the many Poles and Russian?
      My grand mother finished her degree in Engineering in Warsaw in 1931 heading out to Palestine to work in one of Rotenberg’s projects.

    • “Today’s Home Office tells them in effect: if you ban speakers even though they are not provoking violence, we can demand that you spy on Islamist extremists, even though they are not engaged in violence” –

      • Perhaps my comment was misunderstood. It was directed at the imbecile who can see no connection between Islamic extremist propaganda on campuses and violence.