After being threatened by New York Zionists with losing a billion dollar architectural contract in New York, Lord Rogers, one of Britain’s leading architects, revoked his support for a boycott of Israel.
The boycott, supported by dozens of countries, companies, municipalities and organizations, calls for an end to the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, and an end to what supporters call ‘apartheid practices’ by Israel.
Lors Rogers revoked his support for the boycott after meeting with several prominent Zionists in New York, including Charles Gargano, the chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, which oversees the redesign on Manhattan’s West Side. The company summoned the architect to New York to explain his involvement in Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine, one of the groups supporting the boycott against Israel.
Charles Gargano, CEO of the Empire State Development Corporation, is also Chairman of the 42nd Street Development Corporation, Moynihan Station Development Corporation, Convention Center Development Corporation, and several other subsidiaries of Empire State Development.
"Hamas must renounce terrorism," Lord Rogers told the New York Post, attempting to shore up support. "Hamas must recognise Israel’s right to exist. Just making a statement is not enough. They have to back it up."
The effort appeared to have little effect. "His position on Hamas is not relevant," said Malcolm Hoenlein, of the Conference of Major Jewish Organisations. "The relevant issue is a group that is convened for the purpose of activities detrimental to a democratic state … There are taxpayer dollars involved, and it carries the name of someone whose legacy is exactly contrary to such views.
Hoenlein is referring to the fact that the new Convention Center Lord Rogers is scheduled to redesign is to be named after Jacob Javitz, a long-term supporter of Israel. "This is not just any project," Anthony Weiner, a local politician and critic of Rogers, said in an interview. "This is a building that’s named after one of the foremost fighters for the state of Israel."
Rogers, seeking to quell the controversy, released a statement Friday through New York public relations guru Howard Rubenstein, saying, "I have never backed a boycott and I have personally never stated that I favor targeted activities."
Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said he had spoken to Rogers on Friday and was reassured by his statements.
"If we didn’t believe that people couldn’t change hearts and minds, we wouldn’t be in business," Foxman said. "As far as we’re concerned, the issue is closed."
Abraham Foxman, head of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), has become a controversial person in the United States and the Jewish community as a result of his central role in persuading President Bill Clinton to pardon fugitive billionaire Marc Rich in early 2001. Rich gave the ADL $250,000 during the pardon effort, which involved Foxman flying first class to Switzerland to meet with Rich. After obtaining the pardon, Rich promptly began helping Saddam Hussein use the UN’s oil for food program to steer money into Hussein’s coffers. Rich is currently under investigation by U.S. government authorities. Foxman has told the Forward, a Jewish weekly, that he would not necessarily turn down future donations from his wealthy friend.