ARCHITECTS & PLANNERS FOR JUSTICE IN PALESTINE
23 September 2011
To: Nir Barkat
Mayor of Jerusalem
Safra Square 1, Jerusalem, Israel
Dear Mayor Barkat
RE: The Alternative Plan for Al-Bustan (“King’s Garden Site”)
We wrote to you last year (April 2010) to call a halt to the requisition and demolition of Palestinian homes in Silwan and the establishment of the City of David. Since then, you have handed over the national park into the hands of Elad, an illegal and dangerous move, condemned by archaeologists and NGOs like Ir Amim, Emek Shaveh and BIMKOM. Meanwhile Silwan residents have been subjected to almost daily terror meted out by the brutal security police funded by the State, with killings, injuries and arrests, including many children. It has turned Silwan into a war zone.
We hear that the Kings Garden project designed by Arieh Rahamimov has been approved by the Jerusalem Municipality Planning Committee, against proper planning procedures, and with the total opposition of the residents of Al-Bustan, many of whose homes are still under threat of demolition. One of your proposals to move homes in the western quarter of Al-Bustan into additional stories built over ‘partner families’ in the eastern quarter is impractical and will enforce construction against the will of community involved. Any family living in eastern Al-Bustan who refuses to share their home in accordance with this irregular agenda is threatened with home demolition as well. All this is, in any case, illegal under international law. In the latest of the twists and turns and obfuscations that have been employed by your municipality, you are back to total expropriation and demolition of the houses, which will make thousands homeless.
In your recent visit last year to Chatham House in London on 22 March 2010, you presented your Modern Vision for Jerusalem, including the plan for a ‘King’s Garden’ in Silwan. You said "The whole world is watching us. This obligates us, Jews and Arabs, to work together, without discrimination, to advance the city's interests”.
The world is indeed watching with incredulity the breaches of human rights and international law directed against Palestinians that constitute your ‘modern vision’ which has been exhaustively documented and condemned by reputable Israeli sources, particularly B’Tselem, Ir-Amim, and Peace Now, and by the Wadi Hilweh Community Centre. Silwan community organisations are never consulted or listened to, and are subject to enforced closure and restrictions by your police forces. The UN, US, the EU (all members of the Quartet) have repeatedly asked Israel to desist with these plans, as with all settlement building in the Occupied West Bank, to no avail.
Your vision of ‘restoring’ the gardens of King David and Solomon to what it was 3000 years ago is a dangerous nationalist fantasy. There are no such archaeological findings in the area and there is no real archaeological reason to build a tourist park on the land of the al-Bustan neighborhood, or in Wadi Hilweh. The ‘Parks Projects” being secretly implemented, will completely separate East Jerusalem, cutting off all Palestinian movement and development from the West Bank. The plan is politically motivated and is one that actually excludes the Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem and has the goal of expanding tourism settlement in Silwan for the benefit of the Elad settlers. It is noteworthy that the municipality appointed architect Arieh Rahamimov to draw the plan, is the same architect who is working on a number of plans in Silwan for the settlers of the Elad organization - in order to establish Jewish hegemony over Jerusalem - and ignore and erase any other evidence of other peoples’ existence. It is also designed to prevent any viable sharing of Jerusalem with the future Palestinian state, so vital to security and peace of both Israelis and Palestinians in the Middle East.
Such projects have also been condemned by the International Union of Architects, against UIA Resolutions and Accords. http://apjp.org/letter-from-uia-president-loui/
On the other hand, an alternative and very detailed plan for the Al-Bustan community has been produced by the urban development team under architect Yousef Jabareen, and five other specialized urban planners and four legal consultants which has the full backing of the Al-Bustan residents, after intensive community consultation. It has been rebuffed by the Jerusalem municipality even though it had previously signaled that it would be considered.
It has been delayed and denied a proper hearing on principle. http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=285150
This plan establishes a proper sustainable infrastructure, following all the proper rules for roads and services, and retains all the existing residents’ homes. It includes very attractive landscaped green spaces and water features that integrate into the community structure including rooftop gardens and public parks where historical artifacts are displayed and protected, as per guidelines laid out by Israel's Jerusalem municipality. The development scheme includes the rehabilitation of green space, historical structures, pedestrian only walkways, commercial areas and residential units, all without displacing a single resident. The plan if approved would include the legalization of all the homes retroactively and it has the outstanding advantage of being a legal proposal for the areas’ inhabitants in East Jerusalem under international law. The plan also includes 70 new apartment buildings that will address the much neglected and urgent housing needs of the local community. While the Rahamimov plan would cost 50 million shekels, the Jabareen plan will cost the Israeli municipality nothing.
Both the City of David Archaeological Park and the proposed King’s Garden project, like all the Israeli settler’s neighbourhoods in annexed East Jerusalem and the West Bank, are illegal under international law and numerous UN Resolutions. Settlements constructed beyond the international border established in 1967 violate Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. In May 2001, the head of the International Red Cross, Rene Kosirnik, in a delegation to Israel and the Occupied Territories said "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".
As recently as 22 March 2010, the UN General Assembly has reaffirmed “the illegality of the Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, including in East Jerusalem, which is applicable de jure to Palestinian and all Arab territories occupied by Israel since 1967, including East Jerusalem”.
On Demolitions and Evictions: Occupying Powers are prohibited from destroying property or employing collective punishment. Article 53 of the Geneva Convention reads: “Any destruction by the Occupying Power of real or personal property belonging individually or collectively to private persons…is prohibited." Under this provision the practice of demolishing Palestinian houses is banned, as is the wholesale destruction of the Palestinian infrastructure.
We thus urge you and your municipality to reject and shelve the Rahamimov plan for the King’s Garden which will cause chaos in Jerusalem. The unacceptable mass displacement of Palestinian residents of the neighborhood would cause an uprising not only amongst Jerusalemites, but in the West Bank and internationally. Such illegal and inhuman demolition orders must be rescinded immediately. Please consider seriously adopting the Jabareen Alternative Plan. This will be in the interests of harmony, peace, justice and security of both peoples.
Abe Hayeem, RIBA,
Chair, Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine
The following signatories, including eminent international architects, planners and academics (including Israelis) also signed a petition in the Times in 2007 against the plans for Silwan that involved the demolition of 89 Houses, and also against the plans for Lifta and E1:
FROM the EU Report (Dec 2008) on East Jerusalem
The EU policy on Jerusalem is based on the principles set out in UN Security Council Resolution 242, notably the inadmissibility of acquisition of territory by force. In consequence, the EU has never recognised the Israeli annexation of East Jerusalem in 1967 nor the subsequent 1980 Basic Law (Basic Law Jerusalem Capital of Israel) which made Jerusalem the “complete and united” capital of Israel. EU Member States have therefore placed their accredited missions in Tel Aviv. The EU opposes measures that would prejudice the outcome of Permanent Status Negotiations, consigned to the third phase of the Road Map, such as actions aimed at changing the status of East Jerusalem.
In conferences held in 1999 and 2001, the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention reaffirmed the applicability of the Convention to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and reiterated the need for full respect for the provisions of the Convention in that territory.
Israel is continuing increased settlement activity in and around East Jerusalem, linked by new roads and a tramway, which accentuate the separation of Jewish and Palestinian citizens, and an implementation of an apartheid policy that is inconsistent with a proclaimed democracy.
In combination, these measures unmistakably indicate an intention to sever all of East Jerusalem and the surrounding settlement blocks from the West Bank.