JNF 60th Anniversary Dinner at Windsor Castle prompts APJP
letter to HM.
Her Majesty The Queen
London SW1A 1AA
RE: Israel's 60th Anniversary JNF dinner at Windsor Castle on 7 April 2008
After 40 years of Occupation of the West Bank and Gaza strip, Israel intends to celebrate its 60 years of Independence. Yet there has been no peace, or justice for Palestinians while Israel continues its relentless and illegal settlement expansion on confiscated Palestinian-owned land, and builds its Separation Wall that has been declared illegal by the International Court of Justice in 2004. Vast areas of the West Bank and East Jerusalem have been annexed, making a viable Palestinian State impossible. Gaza is imprisoned in a crippling siege with excessive force being used by the IDF against children and civilians, causing many deaths, which the UN Secretary General has branded as disproportionate, and collective punishment. This has bred the unending cycle of violence.
With this continuing scenario, it is particularly disappointing to hear that the Jewish National Fund and the United Jewish Israel Appeal are holding a fund-raising 60th anniversary dinner at Windsor Castle attended by HRH, the Duke of Edinburgh with Israeli President Shimon Peres as the guest of honour. Since 1948, the JNF was the beneficiary of land that was taken from the 530 Palestinian villages and a dozen large towns that were deliberately destroyed, its inhabitants having fled in fear and even killed under order by Israel's leaders, creating 750,000 refugees.
Contrary to the JNF’s benign image, huge tracts of Palestinian agriculture, farmland and orchards were uprooted to make way for the sterilizing impact of pine forests. This ethnic cleansing has been well documented by the new Israeli historians like Ilan Pappe, and Israeli human rights organizations, which reveal the myths of ‘making the desert bloom’ that the JNF has tried to project. This confiscation without compensation is now ongoing in the Negev, within Israel.
The JNF, through its ‘Blueprint Negev’ plan, intends to create 25 new towns over the coming years, bringing 250,000 new Jewish-only residents to the region, according to its website. To make way for new JNF communities, ‘unrecognized’ Bedouin villages were destroyed during 2007 in military-style operations displacing hundreds of families, all citizens of Israel. The JNF is also planting forests on Bedouin land, such as the Ambassador Forest on the lands of the Elokbi Tribe north of Beersheba.
As architects and planners in the UK and internationally, we are most concerned about the ethics of Israeli architects designing and building on these lands, and the devastation of the environment that the JNF and the IDF are party to.
We have already written to the Prime Minister about the contradictions of his being a patron of the charity JNF-UK and thus an unbiased participant in the Middle East peace 'process'. The presence of HRH, the Duke of Edinburgh at the JNF celebrations in Windsor Castle this April, would damage the UK’s international standing and its relations with countries concerned about the result of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. We respectfully urge your re-consideration of allowing this event to take place at Windsor Castle.
Ted Cullinan CBE RA
Eva Jiricna, CBE RA
Abe Hayeem, RIBA, Chair APJP
Haifa Hammami, Sec, APJP
Hans Haenlein RIBA
Tchaik Chassay, RIBA
Cezary Bednarski RIBA
Kate Mackintosh, RIBA, MBE
Louis Hellman, RIBA
Jake Brown, RIBA
Mike Macrae, RIBA
John Murray, Architect
Walter Hain, Architect
John van Rooyen RIBA
David Berridge RIBA
Hubert Murray, RIBA, AIA
Martin O’Shea, RIBA
Nicholas Wood MA (Cantab)ARIBA,FRGS
Sara Wood,MA Oxon
Michael Gwilliam, Planner
John Hodge, RIBA
Malcolm Hecks, Architect
Karin Pally, TPIA Santa Monica, LA
John Lynes, FSIBSE, FSLL
Kelvin Bland, Architect
Francesca Visconti, Architect
Faisal Khan RIBA
Asif Khan MRTPI
Mari Riddle, Urban Planner, CA
Mick Scott, Architect
Chris Teague, RIBA
Wade Sowman, Planner,NZ
Rand el Haj Hasan
Here is the reply from the Duke Of Edinburgh's Office:
" From: Private Secretary to H.R.H. The Duke of Edinburgh
10 March, 2008
The Duke of Edinburgh has asked me to thank you for your letter dated 1st March to me in which you commented on the wisdom of the dinner at Windsor Castle to be held in April to mark the 60th Anniversary of the State of Israel.
You comments have, of course, been noted and whilst not wishing to be drawn into a discussion about the points raised in your letter, I feel you may wish to be aware that the proceeds from the dinner are going to a number of charities, one of which will be the Israeli Youth Award for Young People, which is the Israeli branch of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. This charity plays a significant part in attempting to bridge the gap between young people of all faiths and backgrounds, in amongst other places, Israel and Jordan.
APJP reply to HRH The Duke' Private Secretary:
Brigadier Sir Miles Hunt-Davis, K.C.V.O., C.B.E.
Private Secretary to H.R.H. The Duke of Edinburgh
Dear Sir Miles
RE: Israel's 60th Anniversary JNF dinner at Windsor Castle on 7 April 2008
Thank you very much for your very prompt reply to our letter of 10 March to H.R.H.The Duke of Edinburgh regarding his hosting of the JNF/UJIA dinner at Windsor Castle.
I do appreciate that one of the subjects of the fund raising - the Israel Youth Award - is doing some good work with youth in all faiths and backgrounds as you say In Israel and Jordan. Yet what is being done for the Palestinian youth in Gaza and the West Bank? The Gaza under-19s team which had been invited to play British football clubs was refused entry by the UK last year. The players had overcome difficult circumstances to qualify for their national team even though there are few proper football pitches and Israeli forces had bombed Gaza's main stadium.
In general, Palestinians are being herded into vast prison-like cantons, strangulated by checkpoints and Jewish-only highways, with daily incursions by the IDF who assassinate activists, arrest youth indiscriminately, and destroy homes, farms and schools, and continue confiscating their land to build illegal settlements and the obscene Separation Wall. This is what has been achieved for peace after 60 years of Israeli Independence and what will underlie the celebrations – the destruction of hope.
Although the Duke’s Award may bridge some sort of social gap between these youths of the different communities, it unfortunately does not address the basic inequalities between the Palestinian and Jewish citizens of Israel. In fact it is the Jewish National Fund that is still instrumental in Judai-ising the Galilee and the Negev, continuing with the divisive and racist policies that are the antithesis of Israel’s own Declaration of Independence based on the principle of civic equality for all citizens. Even the World Zionist Organisation has called upon the government of Israel “to act urgently to implement its decisions to reduce the gaps between the Arab citizens and the Jewish citizens in the State of Israel in all areas of life”. One cannot disconnect the treatment of Jewish-Arab relations in Israel from Israel-Palestinian relations.
As it is obvious that the dinner will go ahead (I believe without Shimon Peres attending), it is regrettable that the excuse of the Israel Youth Awards will be seen as a sop to the other charities like the JNF. The majority of the funds raised will continue to underline the Israel/Palestine divide. Unfortunately the presence of the Duke, hailed by Israel supporters, will be seen by those struggling for a just peace, as lending respectability to Israel’s continuing Occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people.