Architects & Planners for Justice in Palestine (APJP)
5 September 2012
To: Nir Barkat
Mayor of Jerusalem
Safra Square 1, Jerusalem, Israel
Dear Mayor Barkat
RE: End all demolitions in Al Bustan, Silwan and all of East Jerusalem!
We have written to you previously (23 September 2011 and April 2010), to call a halt to the requisition and demolition of Palestinian homes in Silwan, the 89 demolition orders for houses in Al-Bustan, and the establishment of the City of David.
We now hear that the Jerusalem municipality has already posted demolition orders in the Al-Bustan neighbourhood with the clear intention to carry out them out. As you well know, these demolitions and any building or construction for Israeli settlers in E. Jerusalem are manifestly illegal and against international law.
Your intentions to build the ‘Kings Garden’ project designed by Arieh Rahamimov has been approved by the Jerusalem Municipality Planning Committee, against proper planning procedures, and with the full opposition of the residents of Al-Bustan, many of whose homes, denied planning permission by the Municipality, are still under threat of demolition, which will make thousands homeless.
These plans constitute breaches of human rights which have been exhaustively documented and condemned by reputable Israeli sources, particularly Ir-Amim, BIMKOM, B’Tselem 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 warned Israel against proceeding with these plans, as with all settlement building in the Occupied West Bank, sadly to no avail.
Your plans for the King David City park, and the King’s Garden plan excludes the Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem and have the goal of expanding tourism in Silwan for the benefit of the Elad settlers and to establish Jewish hegemony over all of Jerusalem, and in the Holy basin. 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.
The plans are 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, as being against UIA Resolutions and Accords.
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, 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.
We urge that this alternative plan, based on principles of legality, equity and sustainability is adopted, as it 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 Palestinian community. While the Rahamimov plan would cost 50 million shekels, the Jabareen plan will cost the Jerusalem municipality practically nothing.
Both the City of David Archaeological Park and the proposed King’s Garden project, like all the Israeli settlers’ 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.
Continuing with these decades-long breaches of human rights and international law with impunity, denying the Palestinians any say or rights over several decades despite peace agreements and attempts at negotiation, it appears that the Quartet and world civil society will have no option but to adopt boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel.
We thus urge you and your municipality to reject and shelve the Rahamimov plan for the King’s Garden and immediately end all demolition orders, evictions and forced displacements of Palestinians in Silwan and throughout East Jerusalem.
We look forward to hearing positively from you.
Abe Hayeem, RIBA
Chair, Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine (APJP)
The following 350 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.
Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu.
President Barack Obama, White House
UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon
William Hague , Foreign Secretary, UK
Alistair Burt, Foreign Minister for the Middle East, UK
Richard Sperry, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process
Baruch Baruch, President, Israeli Association of United Architects
Albert Dubler, President, International Union of Architects
Angela Brady, President, RIBA