Chicago stands in the middle of the Negev desert; a ghost town whose history directly mirrors the story of the conflict for Palestine
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Chicago is a fake Arab town built by the Israeli Defense Force for urban combat training. It is a place that is familiar to Israeli and American soldiers but until now largely unknown outside Israel. Chicago stands in the middle of the Negev desert; a ghost town whose history directly mirrors the story of the conflict for Palestine. During the war in Lebanon, its labyrinth of streets and alleys were adorned with abandoned cars, imitating areas of Beirut. During the first and second intifada its concrete walls were covered with Arabic graffiti reminiscent of Gaza city, and an additional area was constructed to simulate the refugee camps of the occupied territories. During the first Gulf war American Special Forces had their first taste of the Middle East in Chicago in the Israeli desert.
Everything that happened, happened here first. In rehearsal.
Complete with homes, shops, streets, mosques and a refugee camp, Chicago represents an Israeli military fantasy: an Arab town devoid of people. It is a fantasy that was at the heart of early Zionist propaganda, expressed in the famous slogan “A land without people for a people without land”. In an attempt to scrutinize this and other myths about the state of Israel, photographers Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin have produced a highly original, visual analysis of contemporary Israel. In their images nothing is as it seems. A watermelon is revealed to be a suicide bomb; a tranquil forest becomes the site of a forensic investigation; a sniper’s lair suggests a national neurosis. Through this collection of simulated landscapes, buildings and objects, a new perspective on Israel begins to emerge.