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The Spanish Housing Ministry disqualified Ariel University Center of Samaria from competing in the finals of the international competition between university architecture departments to design and build a self-sufficient house using solar power.
Last Wednesday, September 16th, Sergio Vega, General Director of Solar Decathlon Europe addressed the teams participating to inform them of the exclusion of AUCS: “The decision has been taken by the Government of Spain based upon the fact that the University is located in the [occupied] West Bank. The Government of Spain is obliged to respect the international agreements under the framework of the European Union and the United Nations regarding this geographical area.”
“All the ministry has done is apply the policy of the European Union,” a housing ministry spokesman said. “The EU does not recognise the occupation of the West Bank, which is where this university is.”
EU policy deems settlements built in the Occupied West Bank as a violation of the fourth Geneva convention, which prevents an occupying power extending its jurisdiction to occupied territory. The West Bank was annexed by Israel following the 1967 Six Day war. In line with this policy, the EU has repeatedly called for the freezing of settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana responded to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s plan for the expansion of settlements in the Occupied West Bank which was unveiled last month, stating that “The position of the European Union is well known. All settlement activities must stop.”
It was only after the Israeli project joined the finalists that officials at Spain’s housing ministry became aware that the university was in the West Bank. The Israeli University and the US energy department were advised of the decision a week ago.
The decision follows The International Union of Architects (UIA) policy, confirmed after a motion raised at the UIA Council meeting in Brazil this July, which states that:
“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.”
It is on the basis of this policy that the UK-based Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine (APJP) initiated a campaign backed by UK and international architects and academics against official Spanish recognition of the illegal Israeli university in occupied Palestinian territory.
The college received support from Prof. Pascal Rollet of France’s Ecole Nationale Superieure d’Architecture de Grenoble. She sent a letter to the college: “I do not agree with the Spanish decision because the Ariel University’s activities are directed towards academic excellence for peace. Kindly receive my utmost support in this difficult situation.”