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Palestinian and Israeli architects divided over UKTI visit


Israeli and Palestinian architects are split over a forthcoming United Kingdom Trade & Investment (UKTI) trade mission for British architects to the region

The trip, revealed in last week’s AJ, will include visits to both the Association of Architects in Palestine (AAP) and the Israeli Association of United Architects (IAUA).

IAUA head of foreign relations Itzhak Lipovetzky welcomed the news, saying: ‘We are informed of the UKTI’s architects trip to Israel and we are taking part in it.’

But the AAP complained that it was not notified of the delegation, and claimed it illegitimately ‘aims at normalising’ relations with its Israeli counterparts.

Speaking on behalf of the AAP and the Engineering Association - Jerusalem Center (EA-JC), architect Nadia Habash, said: ‘This market visit to Israel and the Palestinian Territories is totally rejected and not welcomed by the Palestinian architects and their representative bodies.

‘Although we appreciate having professional relationships with our British [counterparts], this trip does not recognise and support our national and legitimate rights. On the contrary it equalises between the criminal and the victim.’

She added: ‘We welcome a visit that is an eyewitness on the destruction of Gaza and the threat of the religious holy places, but we don’t welcome a visit that aims at normalising [relations] between Palestinian and Israeli architects.’

The trip, from 8 to 11 December, will visit construction projects in Tel Aviv and Ramallah and look at opportunities afforded by city expansions being built in New Jericho and Galilee.

The UKTI said there were ‘a number of large opportunities, including major new cities’ in the area. It refused to comment on the AAP’s reaction.



Readers' comments (9)

  • I would like to congratulate the UKTI for promoting British architecture and helping us to get work abroad.
    I am glad that they are being open minded and have not given in to the recent bully / hate campaign lead by the RIBA’s motion.
    It appears that the UKTI is doing the job that should be RIBA’s purpose and at least they are engaging with both sides to create work that benefits both sides. i.e. does not create further divisions.

    However, it is a shame that the AAP chose to miss another opportunity of progress to build for its own people and chose again the path of hate and revenge which lead to nowhere.

    Regarding the destruction of holy and historic places by Israel; I am slightly shocked by this statement as the Palestinian's Wakf is digging under the temple mount since the 1990’s to destroy any proof of Jewish past ownership of the land. They also destroyed the Tomb of Josef and vandalised badly the Rachel's Tomb. So this is far from being one sided story.

    I wish that RIBA will put the same amount of energy to promote change within our outdated and dysfunction planning system in the UK instead of fighting foreign wars it does not understand and can't possibly win.

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  • Well put Lior

    So many people have so much negative criticism, without an inkling of understanding of the basics, of a complex situation in the region. Most, without ever spending a day in Israel.

    Lets cut to the chase here; There is currently a resurgence wave of anti Semitism throughout UK and Europe, that people are blinded by media rhetoric, propaganda and simple lack of basic knowledge of the situation on the ground and region, that any chance to condemn Israel or Jews, they jump on the band wagon,...synonymous of Hitler whipping up the public frenzy.

    But for RIBA to get so politically embroiled, albeit so one-sided, is a real shame for the profession. Soon we'll have RIBA dishing out brown shirts.....and suggesting where we should march...!

    The comment above is so appropriate, I feel compelled to repeat it: "RIBA should put the same amount of energy to promote change within our outdated and dysfunction planning system in the UK instead of fighting foreign wars it does not understand and can't possibly win".

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  • I feel compelled too Lior and Yaron:

    "RIBA should put the same amount of energy to promote change within our outdated and dysfunction planning system in the UK instead of fighting foreign wars it does not understand and can't possibly win".

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  • All that this 'Constructive Dialogue' lot can do is to repeat the endless diversionary mantra about the RIBA changing the planning system here, instead of 'fighting foreign wars' -all nonsensical gobbledegook to avoid facing the fact that Israel's architects' association has done nothing to stop its members from participating in war crimes, by building illegal settlements on stolen Palestinian land -in total breach of professional ethics and international law.
    This is the serious intent that is entirely the responsibility of any country's institutions to take up on an international level -which is what the UIA is all about. The 19 March Resolution was an historic democratic Council decision that the RIBA has disgracefully averted, due to the pressure and intimidation of the Israel lobby -including libellous accusations of anti-semitism from the Jewish Chronicle.
    The UKTI Trade delegation is a spit in the face to the Palestinians by consorting with the IAUA, in the light of disgraceful disregard of the Palestinian Association of Architects, who have not been consulted, and who have expressed their opposition to this tasteless and damaging trip.
    The RIBA disgracefully has disregarded the Palestinian letters and pleas to end their damaging collusion with the Israelis, who were given exclusive access to the Executive and President, and the curiously biased International Committee.

    One of the suggested new cities the UKTI are luring British architects to visit, is 'New Jericho' which is an enforced removal of Bedouin from their grazing lands on E1, an illegal Israeli settlement expansion that grabs more Palestinian land, to extend illegally annexed areas of 'Greater Jerusalem' to Maale Adumim, the largest illegal settlement built mostly on stolen Palestinian land.
    Asking European countries to help them against the settlement plan,the Bedouin have voiced fear that there would be no local Palestinian village left in the area of E1 if Israel forced them off the land, saying "It is impossible to bring peace with this kind of eviction plan,".

    Last month, Israeli daily Haaretz reported that the European Union sought to persuade Israel not to take a series of moves in the occupied West Bank deemed "red lines" by the union – including settlement building in the E1 area.
    According to the paper, the European Union believes that crossing any of these "red lines" by Israel could undermine the possibility of a future Palestinian state alongside Israel – a risk that could draw further European sanctions against Israel.

    How the UKTI, and the siren voices of Constructive Dialogue can go along with these ridiculous and unsavoury trips in the light of Israel's increasing violence and crimes against the Palestinian people is beyond comprehension.

    This appeasement of Israel must stop, and the RIBA, UIA and UKTI reverse their controversial courting of the IAUA, and listen and implement the clear Resolutions and Articles that back the suspension, rather than engagement with it.

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  • Angela Brady

    I want to clarify that I have the highest regard for UKTI having working with them for many years in many countries. They are a GREAT partner for RIBA, architects and others and can open many doors internationally. It is the timing of this Dec 2014 proposed trip that I was critical of, when it was pointed out to me by AJ, as I was unaware of it.

    We also need to ask the fundamental question about the continued programme of "illegal settlement building on occupied land" which is the crux of the situation there, from an architectural and ethical point of view which is condemned by most.

    I never thought in my lifetime I would go to Palestine. As chair of Women in Architecture in 2008 I was asked to lead a mission organised by the British Council to the NENA regions (Near East North Africa) on a programme of professional exchange and learning called "Women@Work" and we were twinned with Palestine. Our team of 6 London based women architects were happy to learn from other cultures and exchange ideas on professionalism and practice in architecture.
    As part of that exchange most of our Palestinian partners came to London to learn how we work in UK. This intercultural non political exchange followed our "Diversity" exhibition we curated with a world tour - promoting women and ethnic minorities in architecture.

    W@W was a hugely successful mission and our eyes were opened by visiting Palestine in person and witnessing the situation first hand. There were some great projects happening and many intercultural international projects emerging. However, I had never witnessed apartheid up close before.
    It was on that trip that our group could see the plight of our colleagues and with that insight we want to continue to help when there is an international call for help and a call for justice for architectural practice and ethical standards.

    RIBA signed an Memorandum of Agreement in 2010 with their Engineers and Architects association to continue to work together and share good practice and experience. We want to continue those aims and objectives of collaboration.

    It is working with groups like this that we can get a better understanding of the humanitarian situation and learn how to act accordingly in a professional and ethical way.

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  • Angela For me it was a really important trip, irrefutable evidence of woman architects' particular sensitivity to the spirit of a place and the geographical nature of culture. Less happily it was a wake up call; impossible not to see with one own eyes how architecture all too easily acts as a stooge to power politics and how once our profession stoops... the corruption feeds itself. Impossible too not to admire the sheer resilience, oscillating between steadfast optimism and black humour, shown by our architect hosts and their colleagues. I now try to run my practice like Khilda and Nadia's Nablus friend with the five children, who insists on generous credit to all in her team, who she calls her extended family.
    Cany Ash

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  • Industry Professional

    From Anne Markey:
    Nadia Habash was my counterpart on the British Council Women @ Work trip to Palestine in 2008 led by Angela Brady.  I was shocked by the impact of occupation on the daily lives of Nadia and other professional colleagues there. The West Bank was not the discrete parcel of land separated by a wall from Israel that I had ignorantly imagined it to be. Palestinian cities were separated from other Palestinian cities within the West Bank by Israeli checkpoints making the typical regular site visit that we are familiar with here in the UK an arduous and prolonged affair. Personally I think that UK architects should inform themselves fully of the situation on the ground before they chase opportunities in such a sensitive context.

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  • I think representations should be made to UKTI by the above commentators who had direct experience of the plight of architects in the occupied West Bank to cancel its mission

    If UKTI is such a great partner of the RIBA, it should be made aware that it is treading on very shaky ethical and professional grounds in leading a delegation to meet with the IAUA and see projects in Israel with a view to creating business opportunities for British architects. This would be like building in apartheid South Africa at its most extreme. In this case it is even worse, as we have just seen the most horrendous urbicide and slaughter in Gaza, creating a man-made disaster that has been condemned by the UN and EU, and should have had massive teams of people involved with the reconstruction of massive areas of destruction comparable to the second world war. Instead since the end of the onslaught on 31 August, not one house has been rebuilt due Israel's total control, preventing any significant materials to enter, and creating a blockage and even greater restrictions than which led to the resistance by Gaza to the seven year blockade in the first place.

    The new cities in Israel are part of the Judaisation projects in the Galilee and Negev, involving mass displacement of Bedouin and Palestinians, to build new Jewish only cities to deliberately crowd out and make impossible the building of Palestinian housing desperately needed over decades. There has never been a new city or town for Palestinians (compared to 100s for Jewish Israelis) built since 1948, after which they were prevented from living in 93% of the land that was sequestrated to establish the Jewish state. The displacement goes on on both sides of the green line, and the latest plan is to move all Bedouin out of the E1 area outside Jerusalem, to a new township near Jericho, against their will , so more illegal settlements can be built to house Jewish settlers, against international law on land belonging to Palestinians.
    Is this the criminal set-up that UKTI wish to get British architects
    involved with?

    This shameful project should be cancelled, and British architects should refuse to be part or complicit in these illegal land grabs and crimes against humanity, levelled so long against Palestinians within Israel and under occupation, and still pursued with greater violence than ever by Israel, and its complicit architects' association. The RIBA, by not pursuing its own Council Resolution, can be said to be obstructive to carrying out its professional ethical responsibilities according to its Charter.

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  • Right on, Abe.
    That cringe-making Frame letter says it all.

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