Well, my goodness. It's barely a month since the Independent trumpeted the founding of Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine whose initial meeting was held in the offices of Richard Rogers, who made the introductory speech at the meeting.
According to the Indie
the 60 attendees went on to condemn the illegal annexation of Palestinian land and the construction of the vast fence and concrete separation barrier running through the West Bank and Jerusalem.
The group said that architects, planners and engineers working on Israeli projects in the occupied territories were "complicit in social, political and economic oppression", and "in violation of their professional code of ethics".
It said that: "Planning, architecture and other construction disciplines are being used to promote an apartheid system of environmental control."
The meeting discussed a boycott of Israel - targeting Israeli-made construction materials and Israeli architects and construction companies - as well as possibly calling for the expulsion of Israeli architects from the International Union of Architects.
Yet just a few days ago, Richard Rogers dissociated himself from the group. He now claims he was unaware of what it proposed, because he left the meeting after his introductory speech. He supports the existence of the Israeli separation barrier. He declares he is vehemently against boycotts of Israel.
The strange thing is that it seems to have taken Lord Rogers so long to discover what organization he signed up to and hosted, and to put out statements fervently repudiating it.
What a very strange coincidence that his renunciation came just when it seemed that he was in line to lose a huge $1.7billion contract to redesign New York's Jacob Javits Conference Centre. And possibly a further $1 billion dollars for the reconstruction of the Long Island Silvercup studios.
He seems to have been unaware that New York has legislation which would prevent subsidy funding from being used to pay firms which support boycotts:
Boycotting Israel was made illegal in the US in 1977 in response to an Arab nations’ call for companies not to do business with the country.
Among those denouncing Lord Rogers’s involvement with the group was New York Congressman Anthony Weiner. An aide said that Lord Rogers was entitled to his opinion about Israel but was not entitled to receive New York taxpayers’ money. New York State and New York City are each contributing $350 million towards the project.
Mr Hoenlein called Lord Rogers’s involvement an insult to Jacob Javits, the late New York senator whose name the convention centre bears. “He was a staunch supporter of Israel,” Mr Hoenlein said. “He strongly opposed the boycott.”
However, by Friday, Richard Rogers' projects appeared safe. He met with a range of objectors, including Mr Hoenlein, who declared themselves satisfied with his explanations.
In response to the obvious issue of why he took so long to change his mind-- er, sorry, discover that he didn't know what the group he hosted was all about, Lord Rogers seems to have had a novel variant on the dog-ate-my-homework excuse
Even Malcolm Hoenlein, of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organisations and a critic of Lord Rogers in recent days, seemed appeased. "His associating with this bigoted view [the boycott] would have disqualified him from receiving our tax dollars," he said.
But Mr Hoenlein had been struck to learn that Lord Rogers had been in hospital recently. "We had been wondering why he didn't clarify these things earlier, but now that we have learned he was in hospital for three weeks, that's different ... I think this case will be settled to everybody's satisfaction."
Perhaps Lord Rogers' success in persuading sceptical tough New York Jewish community leaders owes something to the help he hired:
In weathering the storm over the project, Lord Rogers could hardly have hoped for a better defender than Howard Rubenstein, one of New York's best-known publicists, who is acting as his spokesman. Mr Rubenstein is better known for handling multimillion-dollar divorce battles or representing a motley client list including Rupert Murdoch, Donald Trump, Leona Helmsley, Mike Tyson and Naomi Campbell. "I hate to make predictions, but I predict he'll be OK," Mr Rubenstein said. "He's a very decent man, and clearly not anti-Israel."
This week's Jewish Chronicle described Mr Rubenstein as "an expert in crisis management" who hastened to tell them that Lord Rogers had spent the honeymoon of his first marriage in Israel and said he was sure that Lord Rogers would accept any architectural project in Israel he was offered.
It's probably just a coincidence, and nothing to do with Mr Rubenstein's efforts, that an article appeared in the New York Sun not long after the furore broke, parading Richard Rogers' previously unpublicised Jewish ancestry and the New York Jewish background of his wife.
The Jewish Chronicle article had Lord Rogers claiming that he just lent his offices to Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine as a favour to its founder, Abe Hayeem, a long-standing vociferous anti-zionist who regularly writes campaigning letters attacking Israeli architects to the Architectural Review, the Independent and the London Jewish News. Lord Rogers described him to the JC as "an old friend who is married to an Israeli".
Clearly the friendship has come under some strain, as the JC saw it:
Mr Hayeem, viewing the frenzied damage control from London told the JC "We understand the business pressure that he [Lord Rogers] has been under, and we think the reports speak for themselves"
In the mind of Mr Hayeem, and this writer for the Electronic Intifada, the whole thing can be represented as "pressure" and "blackmail" by Jewish business interests. The fact that boycotts of the kind they advocate are illegal under US law is irrelevant as far as they are concerned. But then, when it comes to situations like this, irrelevant parading of Jewish origins or connections, their own and other people's, are always the answer. When it comes to accusations of anti-semitic singling out of Israel by them, they respond by citing their own Jewishness or the presence of Jewish contributors in their ranks as if that proved that it couldn't be true. When all else fails, a Jewish spouse will do. But when it comes to trying to prove that Jews exercise illegitimate power, why, it takes no more than listing the involvement of Jewish individuals, organizations or people with Jewish-sounding names ......