To: The UIA President,
Ms Louise Cox
New South Wales
22 June 2009
From: Abe Hayeem, RIBA
Chair, Architects & Planners for Justice in Palestine
Dear President Louise Cox
RE: Why Israeli Policy on Palestine is an Architectural Issue for all professional institutes.
I am writing on behalf of ‘Architects & Planners for Justice in Palestine’ (APJP) subsequent to last year’s UIA Congress meeting in Turin, when a motion on international law and the Israeli Association of United Architects (IAUA) was raised, but not discussed, due to the untimely death of Giancarlo Ius.
I noted that at your election as President of the UIA, you said would support the principles espoused by Giancarlo, which include to:
“ *sustain the respect for cultural, social and geographic diversities, working for the well being of all the men and women of the world in a new global humanism to be architects and provide quality architecture for the future of our children.
*promote good professional practice according to ethical principles and respecting human rights;”
You are also noted to have said that “Architects should have a social conscience” and we should be working to “support the disadvantaged in the community, and be sympathetic to how people want to live their lives.”
Since 1967 Palestinians In the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and also within Israel have had little or no choice of how to live their lives. It is now made clear, since the election of Benjamin Netanyahu, that no concessions will be made to international law and to the human rights of the imprisoned Palestinian population in the Occupied Territories of the West Bank and Gaza that do not conform to Israel’s expansionist and unilateral aims. The Quartet (US,Russia,EU and UN) has been totally ineffectual in halting Israel’s Occupation, and is participating in a cruel blockade and sanctions of the Palestinians for exercising their democratic choice of government in 2006.
The Israeli onslaught on Gaza in December 2008, was condemned as a war crime of the highest magnitude by UN Human Rights Commission. Thousands of homes and infrastructure were deliberately destroyed and thousands of civilians killed and injured. While US President Obama and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and the EU urge that all settlement construction must be stopped immediately, the extreme right-wing Israeli government has insisted that this will continue regardless. Hence 73,000 illegal new housing units and the associated infrastructure are planned across the occupied West Bank, and in East Jerusalem, radical religious Israeli settlers are displacing Palestinians from their own villages and neighbourhoods. Under the Rome statute of the Geneva Convention, "The transfer ... by the occupying power of parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies" is a war crime – an apt description of the Israeli settlement process. The International Criminal Court Act states that it is an offence to aid and abet war crimes.
The practice of architecture in the occupied Palestinian Territories is fraught with injustices based on enforced dispossession, and fraudulent expropriation of Palestinian land, often backed by Supreme Court decisions and a harsh Civil Administration. The aim is to create ‘facts on the ground’ to obliterate the idea of a viable Palestinian state, and to destroy and sideline Palestinians’ heritage, memory, culture and community. The objective is the transfer, and ‘warehousing’ of them in fragmented enclaves, separated by the Wall, barriers, closures, and checkpoints. Israel’s continual demolition of Palestinian homes in illegally annexed East Jerusalem due to denial of building permits, and zoning of ‘Jewish only’ residential areas, with settler- only roads throughout the OPTs emphasise the discriminatory and apartheid nature of the system governing the lives of Palestinians.
There has been meticulous documentation by Israeli NGOs like BIMKOM, and Israel human rights organisations like B’Tselem and Peace Now’s Settlement Watch who have provided valuable evidence of the contraventions of international law, the Geneva Convention, UN resolutions and human rights. We have sent this evidence in past communications to the UIA. (please see attached Addenda and our website
<http://apjp.org/> and also petitions signed by 350 international architects and planners and academics and NGOs<http://apjp.org/signatories/> )
These activities are in violation of professional ethics and the IUA Charter. While dialogue is welcome, it has brought no change, especially with the total detachment from these practices by the Israeli Association of United Architects. The participation of Israeli architects and planners, and the whole construction industry in these inhuman and illegal acts cannot be underestimated. There has been little questioning of the unethical breaches of professional Codes of Conduct as these professionals plan and build the political intentions of their government and its military.
A key issue is "why architects have to act?"....and even more, "why architectural institutes, or professional bodies must take a stand....now!"
- Is the UIA an ethical organisation? (It is part of the UNESCO body of UN organisations.)
- Does the UIA believe in the rule of international law?
- Does the UIA require its members to abide by International law in their professional practice?
- What action needs to be taken when they clearly do not?
The practice of architecture in contemporary Israel is unique, where it is (mis)used to enforce an aggressive and brutal occupation, as an instrument of domination, subjugation and destruction of an indigenous people, in total contradiction of the ethos and spirit of the UIA and its codes of conduct.
But why is this deplorable situation above all an issue that architectural institutions that claim professional ethical responsibility (UIA, RIBA, RAIA , AIA etc ) must face, together? The reason is that, individually, architects are relatively powerless. But where architecture and planning are being used as a weapon of national destruction, the erasure of the Palestinian state, flouting recognised norms of town planning and environmental policy, and with a racist basis of demographic policy, professional institutions as part of civil society have a moral responsibility to act as a body against these well-documented architectural crimes.
I would much appreciate your views and advice on this issue, since we feel that making an ethical stand will act as salutary message to Israel.
The proposed draft motion is attached.
With sincerest regards
Abe Hayeem, RIBA
( The UIA President's reply)
12th August 2009
To: Mr Abe Hayeem RIBA
Chair, Architects & Planners for Justice in Palestine,
Dear Mr Hayeem
RE: WHY ISRAELI POLICY ON PALESTINE IS AN ARCHITECTURAL ISSUE FOR ALL PROFESSIONAL INSTITUTES
Thank you for your letter to me as President of UIA, of 22nd June 2009. I understand that you also sent it to all members of the UIA Council.
The Council at its meeting in Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil on 31st July 2009 noted your letter and its attachment. It asked me to let you and your organization know of our existing Policy regarding this sort of matter.
UIA has a policy on this issue that was made as Resolution 13 at the UIA Assembly in Istanbul, Turkey from 8th to 10th July 2005. It reads as follows:
“The UIA Council condemns development projects and the construction of buildings on land that has been ethnically purified or illegally appropriated, and projects based on regulations that are ethnically or culturally discriminatory, and similarly it condemns all action contravening the fourth Geneva Convention”
The Council also asked that the UIA Secretariat send a letter to every UIA Member Section reminding them of this policy, which we have done today.
Louise Cox AM