ARCHITECTS & PLANNERS FOR JUSTICE IN PALESTINE
Husam Bajis of Lifta and Abe Hayeem Chair of APJP, photo by Lifta Society.
9 February 2011
Israeli Association of United ArchitectsYitzhak Lipovetsky, President
Dear Yitzhak Lipovetsky
Please help the campaign to save Lifta
You may be aware that there has been on ongoing campaign to save Lifta, which has become known within Israel and internationally as a quintessential Palestinian village, one of the few of the 500 villages that had not been completely destroyed by Israeli forces in the war of 1948. Lifta is celebrated as part of a beautiful landscape of ruins, loved by walkers and nature enthusiasts, but remembered primarily by its original inhabitants many of whom live nearby but have never been allowed to return.
Numerous organisations, especially BIMKOM, Zochrot and FAST have lobbied for the village to be listed by UNESCO as a heritage site, as a symbol of reconciliation between Palestinians and Israelis, and for alternative plans they have formulated with the Land and Housing Research Centre. Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine in 2005 placed an advertisement in the Times, signed by over 350 architects and planners worldwide, many of them eminent figures including academics, to help save Lifta for its original Palestinian inhabitants. http://apjp.org/saving-lifta-a-case-against-a/ . Esther Zandberg in Haaretz has again written a moving plea for the village to be symbolically returned to those who were forcibly removed from there, instead of building 212 luxury apartments that will bought only be Jewish people, in the proposed decade-long project (plan number 6036) that the Israel Land Administration wishes now to commence. This is all on expropriated Palestinian land.
As with the campaigns against the projects in East Jerusalem for the City of David and the King’s Garden in Silwan, we have written to your Association on various occasions to ask you to refute and help stop these projects since they involve deep injustices to the Palestinians, (either citizens of Israel, or in the occupied territories), are contrary to international law and the Geneva Conventions, but more importantly are against professional ethics that are particularly needed in countries with whole sections of their populations that are being imprisoned and discriminated against by government policy as a people.
Despite international agreements, numerous UN resolutions and EU Commission reports against them, before the founding of the Israeli state in 1948 and since 1967, Israeli architects have continued to help build settlements and towns illegal under international law on expropriated Palestinian land in the Occupied Territories including annexed East Jerusalem. Israel’s discriminatory architectural and planning projects have accelerated daily, with thousands of dwellings and public facilities being built for Jewish citizens only, forcing the dispossession of Palestinians from their homes and land, and the destruction of their civic life, culture and national rights. This has prevented any just solution for establishing a Palestinian state, and an end to the house demolitions, evictions, and land theft that has so enraged the democratic world. Much of the work of Israeli architects can be construed as participation in war crimes, as has been described in ‘Hollow Land’ by Eyal Weizman.
These activities are in clear violation of the code of ethics of the International Union of Architects (UIA), (article 3) which says that “there shall be no attempt to impose solutions of one society on other societies” (article 1:2) and that professionals shall fashion an environment “expressive of the genius of the people and reflective of the substance of their culture”). Principle 2 says: “Architects have obligations to the public to embrace the spirit and letter of the laws governing their professional affairs, and should thoughtfully consider the social and environmental impact of their professional activities.”The UIA in Brazil on 31 July 2009 reaffirmed Resolution 13 at the UIA Assembly of July 2005 in Istanbul,.
“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”
Our attempts at dialogue with the Israeli Association of United Architects (IAUA) have brought no change. The IAUA has shown total detachment from these practices by its members, and maintains it cannot get involved with their work. Surely you must see that this is an untenable and unacceptable state of affairs. Yet the IAUA eagerly sought to reinstate its membership of the UIA last July 2010.
Surely now is the most critical time for the IAUA to have the courage to consider what is morally and ethically unacceptable and help to oppose the ILA’s plans for Lifta, (and all such projects) and to take to task the architects who are carrying such plans forward, as proposed by ARC in 2009 < http://apjp.org/israeli-architects-stop-design/>. It can be shown that even though Lifta is within Israel, building on land owned by Palestinian refugees is intrinsically illegal. The 1947 United Nations partition plan declared Jerusalem a corpus separatum, a separate body, to be run under an international UN administration. That is still its only internationally recognised status.
Further the Palestinian refugees have a right to return to their homes. In the specific case of the Palestinians, this right was affirmed by the United Nations Resolution 194 of 1948, and has been reaffirmed repeatedly by that same body, and has also been recognized by independent organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. The U.S. government supportedResolution 194, and voted repeatedly to affirm it until 1993. Israel refuses to allow the refugees to return to villages, towns and cities inside Israel due to their ethnic, national and religious origin, nor to build for their sevenfold population expansion.
Although Israel has so far refused to recognize this right, all refugees have an internationally recognized right to return to areas from which they have fled or were forced out, to receive compensation for damages, and to either regain their properties or receive compensation and support for voluntary resettlement. This right derives from a number of legal sources, including customary international law, international humanitarian law (governing rights of civilians during war), and human rights law. The United States government has forcefully supported this right in recent years for refugees from Bosnia, Kosovo, East Timor and elsewhere.
This would be a wonderful opportunity for Israel, as an act of reconciliation, to cancel Plan 6036, and to allow the many alternative projects for Lifta to be considered for implementation, ones that involve the Lifta people. The IAUA can gain some credibility and approval by backing such projects, that do not involve the erasure of Palestinian history and humanity.
We look forward to hearing from you what you plan to do to help such an alternative project to come to fruition.http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article4462.shtml
Abe Hayeem, RIBA
Source: APJP, February 9, 2011