An Ouster at the Institute

A scandal erupts within the AIA after the president of its Middle East chapter was removed for organizing a webinar on the “ethnic cleansing of Palestine.”

Image by Salem Al Qudwa from Open Gaza, edited by Michael Sorkin and Deen Sharp (Courtesy AUC Press & Terreform)

In May of last year, president of AIA Middle East Ali Lari thought he had done a rather difficult thing: diffused a sensitive political situation without compromising the AIA’s stated commitments to equity and human rights.

The topic at hand was the occupation of Palestine by Israel. That spring, Israel’s (still ongoing) blockade and repression of Palestine had ignited into a major flashpoint that killed more than 240 Palestinians and displaced 52,000. Israel’s conduct has been roundly condemned by the United Nations, Human Rights Watch, and other humanitarian organizations. The intensely asymmetrical conflict is often explained in explicitly architectural and urban planning terms. By way of example, the Michael Sorkin and Deen Sharp–edited anthology Open Gaza: Architectures of Hope presents the built condition of the Gaza Strip as a harbinger of widening circles of surveillance, provisional adaptive reuse, resource scarcity, and colonial occupation. “The United Nations a few months ago declared that Israel’s practices are tantamount to apartheid,” says Lari. “Aparth…

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