Jerusalem Official Demands 'Zionist Architect' for National Library

Attorney Yair Gabbay takes issue with architect Rafi Segal, who co-edited the controversial book 'A Civilian Occupation: The Politics of Israeli Architecture.'

A Jerusalem planning official has threatened to slow down permits for the construction of the new National Library until a "Zionist architect" replaces the current designer, Rafi Segal.

Attorney Yair Gabbay of the Jerusalem Planning and Building Committee takes issue with Rafi Segal, the architect whose plan for the National Library was chosen in a competition. Segal co-edited the controversial book "A Civilian Occupation: The Politics of Israeli Architecture."

Gabbay demands that David Blumberg, chairman of the National Library Board, "cancel the results of the tender and start a new process to choose a worthy planner for the National Library from among the Zionist architects living in Israel."

Segal said this stance borders on libel.

"I believe that any democratic body must deplore such moves. The design I proposed for the National Library project is rich with Jewish symbols," said Segal, who lives in New York.

"I love Israel very much; otherwise I wouldn't have committed my life to work promoting Israeli culture. The accusations are very insulting, especially since my work in the United States seeks in part to add to Israel's prestige."

Originally, Segal's book was censored by the Israeli architects' association, but it was republished in 2003 with contributions by international architects and theoreticians.

Gabbay sent copies of his letter to the Prime Minister's Office and the Jerusalem municipality. Gabbay said the book "reflects the depths of insanity plumbed by frustrated people who can't get their way via democratic means."

Gabbay insisted that his move was not a crusade against architects with leftist leanings. He said architects can't enjoy public funds while "spitting on Israel all over the world."

Gabbay is leading a lobby, with support from people in the Jerusalem municipality, that would try to stop the project by stalling it in various planning committees.

According to the Jerusalem Planning and Building Committee, "An international committee examined all the proposals and chose the architect that would lead the project."