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July 27, 2007

MIT Contest Not Only Biased, But...

CAMERA's article about MIT's Just Jerusalem contest concentrates on the severe anti-Israel bias of the contest's steering committee and jury.

There is, however, another important point to be made about the contest, which was cogently expressed by an alumnus of the MIT School of Architecture and Planning who wrote to us. He wonders

whether the competition exercise has any validity at all. The objective seems noble. But I cannot see how creating a vision for something that doesn't exist — Palestinian and Israel accord — can help to make it exist, when there are fundamental problems that must be resolved before any plan can be drafted. To do this is like planning a wedding for two people who mistrust and even hate each other, who have long been divorced, planning as well how they will live together in the same house — and believing all the while that by holding up such a vision everything will fall into place.

I've pondered my knowledge of the history of cities and of national states, and I cannot find any parallel or precedent to using a design vision to unify two warring parties. The reunification of Berlin and Germany is not a pertinent example. They were unified culturally prior to physical unification. A little know plan for the Mekong River basin prior to the Vietnam War (published in Scientific American in the early 60s) doesn't serve either. The people in the basin were pretty much the same ethnically. And look what happened.

Certainly much can be done to improve the condition of Palestinians in the Jerusalem area, but this exercise may not be an effective way to do it. It might create only disillusionment.

I think this MIT exercise might do more harm than good, setting up Israel as a pariah for not being more supportive of something they cannot support. Israel is not about to offer up Jerusalem, or split it. It's that simple, jurors and their biases aside.

I hope that MIT gets this and other critical commentaries. I hope to hear more about the discussions on this matter within the MIT community.

Posted by GI at July 27, 2007 09:55 PM


Very well put. I think Israel's position and its justice should be explained to people. To many well-meaning people, Israel looks obstructionist with the eternal-undivided position.

I think we should hit the MIT campus and present this stance to passers-by, be open to discussion and have people take a position, or pass. Record the results and if the campus agrees with us, let's present this to the steering committee and jury and see if they'd be willing to address community's diversity of views.

Posted by: Maven at July 28, 2007 01:55 AM

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