Saturday, March 20, 2010 at 11:23PM
ARCHITECTS & PLANNERS FOR JUSTICE IN PALESTINE
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
Re: 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.
Abe Hayeem, RIBA
Chair, Architects & Planners for Justice in Palestine