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Architects urged to join campaign to fight Palestinian 'prison' policy

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Peace campaigner Just Peace UK is appealing to architects to help fight Israeli oppression of Palestinians in the occupied territories.

Its new campaign, Architects and Planners Against the Occupation, was launched last Sunday to coincide with the international day of action against the 'wall' - Israel's controversial West Bank barrier.

The United Nations last month adopted a resolution condemning the structure. It demanded that Israel halt further work on the concrete and wire fence and remove existing sections.

Israel claims the 'wall' is necessary as protection against Palestinian attacks.

Architect Abe Hayeem - who led action by architects against South African apartheid during the 1980s - condemned Israel's use of planning policy to squeeze Palestinians out of the occupied territories.

'What is going on is so atrocious, ' Hayeem said. 'The settlement exercise is totally contrary to international law and the wall is a crime against humanity.

'The aim of planning in Palestine is to completely cordon off Palestinians into little enclaves.

It is literally enclosing them in a prison.'

Israeli architects and planners, in thrall to the politicians, were being used as the instruments of oppression, Hayeem said.

Architects and Planners Against the Occupation will now begin formulating a campaign strategy.

Anti-apartheid action during the 1980s included a boycott against South African building products and a halt to academic exchanges. Similar activities could be adopted by the current campaign, including lobbying the RIBA to sever links with Israel, as it eventually did with South Africa.

The launch event on Sunday, at the School of Oriental and African Studies at London University, also featured a presentation by Israeli architect Eyal Weizman on 'the politics and design of the settlements and the wall'.Weizman, who teaches at the Bartlett, was the centre of a censorship row last July after Israel's architecture association blocked him from taking a controversial exhibition to the International Union of Architects's World Congress (AJ 18.7.02). Architects showing their support at the event included Peter Ahrends andNeave Brown.

Demonstrations also took place across London, including the creation of a 'human wall' along the steps of the National Gallery.

For more information about the Architects and Planners Against the Occupation campaign, email abe. hayeem@btinternet. com.

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