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Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine
UK architects, planners and other construction industry professionals campaigning for a just peace in Israel/Palestine.


Letter to Chatham House protesting at Jerusalem Mayor's visit

16 March  2010

Dr. Claire Spencer
Middle  East & North Africa branch
The Royal  Institute of  International Affairs
Chatham House, 10 St James's Square,  London  SW1Y 4LE

Dear Dr. Spencer

Nir Barkat, Mayor of Jerusalem -  Jerusalem: A  Modern Vision-22 March 2010

We heard with astonishment and a  great  deal of concern about the forthcoming event,  saying:

Jerusalem  faces many challenges of both domestic  and international proportions. Mayor  Nir Barkat, a former high-tech  entrepreneur and international businessman will  present his modern  vision for the city focusing on lasting economic  development and  opening up Jerusalem for the world.”

As an  organisation  working for a just peace in Israel/Palestine, we feel that it is  a  retrogade step to invite this mayor who has done more in recent times to entrench Israel’s hegemony over East Jerusalem, creating what is in  effect an  apartheid city, that was so clearly described in the  brilliant Chatham House  report “Jerusalem the Cost of Failure”,  which says  ”any   positive development is the cessation  of the current levels of human and  structural inequality and of  exclusive Israeli rule over East  Jerusalem.”

Nir Barkat’s  ‘modern vision’ is well known and has been  exhaustively documented  by numerous reputable sources, particularly Ir-Amim,  and B’Tselem.  He has shown himself, despite proclaiming his ‘secular’  credentials,  to be a most ruthless enforcer of house demolitions, and  supporter  of the most extreme settler organisations like Elad in Silwan and   Ateret Hacohanim in Sheikh Jarrah. The most brutal and racist reign  of terror  and humiliation is being imposed on East Jerusalem, with  dispossessed  Palestinians thrown out onto the streets, curfews and  restrictions of access  to the Al Aqsa mosque, and extreme police  force used on those who peacefully  demonstrate against these  injustices.

Whatever Israel is doing in East  Jerusalem is  completely illegal under international law and the 49th Geneva   Convention, especially with the frenzied proliferation of settlement  building,  and the infiltration of Israeli settlers into the heart of  Palestinian areas,  as you report states:” it is clear that a policy  of gradual expulsion is in  place
.” International censure has had no   effect.
In May 2001, the head of the International Red  Cross  delegation to Israel and the Occupied Territories said that  settlements are  "equal in principle to war crimes". "The transfer,  the installation of  population of the occupying power into the  occupied territories is considered  as an illegal move and qualified  as a 'grave breach.' It's a grave breach,  formally speaking, but  grave breaches are equal in principle to war crimes",   
Rene Kosirnik, head of the ICRC  delegation to  Israel and the OPT, press conference 17 May 2001.)   "

Arguably  what Nir  Barkat is pursuing in his ‘modern vision’ can be conceived  as war crimes, and  his ‘opening up Jerusalem for the world’ is  nothing but using biblical  fantasies of the City of David, to create  the type of Disneyland tourism that  he hopes will attract hoards of  visitors to the intemperate and unorthodox  archaeological  excavations being carried out by Elad. These parks and walks  are  used as the justification for demolishing hundreds of Palestinian   properties that are ‘illegal’ due to the impossibility of obtaining  permits to  build, and to form a binding ring around the city that  will foreclose the  possibility of a viable shared capital, and with  potential completion of E1,  any viable contiguous Palestinian  state.

We, as architects and planners  are particularly  concerned with the travesty of architecture and planning and   professional ethics used in carrying out all these building  projects. These  are being driven forward regardless of the  consequences on the helpless  Palestinian population by the Mayor,  backed by the Israeli state. The  inequalities of municipal services  provided to these residents entrenches the  warehousing,  fragmentation and apartheid condition of the city, which was  meant  to be a ‘corpus seperatum’ city for all, administered by the UN in the   1947 partition.

Giving the mayor the opportunity to present  his vision,  affords him the respectability he craves, but without  advancing the peace  process, which his actions to date shows he is  determined not to do, except to  present some measures that will  camouflage their real intent of consolidating  Israel’s hold on the  whole of Jerusalem. Every effort seems to be spent on  negating any  economic development for Palestinians. Despite proclamations of   ‘concessions’ for Palestinians, these never come to  fruition.

We know  that Chatham House is a progressive and  reputable institution which “promotes  open as well as confidential  debates about significant developments in  international affairs”. In  this case Chatham House is inviting someone who is  creating facts on  the ground against international law, to put forward a  vision for  Jerusalem that would be illegal under UN resolutions and the Geneva   Conventions.

While we are sure there will be a critical  appraisal and  response to Barkat’s plans by your members, from long  and bitter experience we  know that only determined action will make  Israel take any notice of what the  free world says. We respectfully   suggest that a stronger message to send  to the Israeli Mayor  would be to withdraw this invitation to address Chatham  House,  unless you can obtain assurances that he will change his tune, and put an end to the injustices of the occupation before any ‘visions for  the future’  are proposed.

Yours  sincerely

Abe  Hayeem, RIBA
Chair,  Architects & Planners for Justice in  Palestine