While the UKTI may be doing good work in missions to many countries -it is not only the timing of this visit, which , as John van Royen says is grotesque, but the principle of this visit that is misguided. Seeing Tel Aviv, a thriving modern city as a business opportunity, when it already has its own high-tech industry, and a profusion of Israeli architects -many educated in the US and UK -is like visiting South Africa at the height of the apartheid days, eager to participate in its wealth, while the black population struggled for its freedom. Israel 's violence against the Palestinians has reached an unprecedented level, with the acceleration of dispossession of Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line, and repeated murderous assaults and urbicide in Gaza, still under an intensified blockade, in what is a high-security prison. Regular assaults and brutal repression and separation, with the ravaging of civil, political and economic rights, and the blatant acquisition of any land or estate that Israel wants by force epitomises the ongoing regime of oppression and occupation that can only be ended by adherence to international law, pressure and sanctions. Going on jaunts for business opportunities, as if we are all good friends together, is like fiddling while Rome burns. It is just not on -and sends the wrong message to Israel, and Israel's architects' association who are participating and giving physical form to the dispossession and subjugation of a whole people. This has all been profusely documented in the media, and condemned, and then turned upside down as if nothing has happened, because Israel is singled out for favoured nation status, especially by the US and UK, no matter what it does. This only add fuel to a Middle East already in utter turmoil. Daniel Rosenfelder's rosy picture of Israel as "the only free democracy in the Middle East", while possessing some trappings of democracy, has at its basis, an entrenched and legislated pattern of discrimination in housing, planning, land ownership and development, and some insidious racist laws governing citizenship and full civil rights. Israel's new "Nation State Bill" about to pass in the Knesset will codify that only Jews will have the right to national self-determination in Israel, which the bill defines as both a Jewish and democratic state and is liable to exacerbate conflicts within Israeli society. The RIBA took what could be a historic decision at Council which was meant to be implemented at the UIA General Assmbly -but deliberately fudged.Now it is in the process of organising delegations and visits like this UKTI one, defeating the whole intention of the 19 March Resolution. The IAUA should be shunned not engaged with - so the message that there is a price to pay, rather than being rewarded for professional misconduct embedded in its practice - is driven home. This visit and any others planned should be cancelled, and if not, architects here should uphold professional ethics and not participate in such an insult to the campaign for freedom and self-determination of the beleaguered Palestinians.
Comment on: RIBA councillor slams delegation to Israel
Brioche is revelling again his hysterical 'whataboutery' -the examples he gives are not relevant to this case, and are full of misrepresentations. This is a clear-cut, very legal issue of professional ethics that was democratically debated and decided on by the RIBA Council on 19 March 2014. It complies with all the UIA Resolutions and Articles, and is the responsibility of any member country to take up on the international stage, and has the back-up of international law. Not to take this up after a professional body has decided on it, is in fact professional misconduct, and a breach of professional ethics and a case of conflict of interest, and pandering to outside interest groups interfering in Council democracy and responsibilities. The RIBA must stop heeding all these threats and intimidation by outside lobbies and get on with the business of honouring its own Resolutions.
Comment on: Row over RIBA's Israel trip escalates
Well done by the Palestinians to demand that the RIBA honour its democratically decided 19 Council Resolution to call for the suspension of the IAUA (Israeli Architects association) for its casual disregard of its members breaches of ethical codes, UIA Resolutions and international law. This is all grave misconduct which the IAUA should have taken action on by its architects as per UIA Article 1.4 which states that "to maintain public confidence in the integrity and the ability of architects by demanding that Member Sections of the Union ask their architects to act with the highest moral and professional standards;" The International Committee, and indeed the RIBA President had publicly opposed their own Council's decision, and have acted with inertia and passivity and done everything to obfuscate and divert from the Resolution, even at the UIA General Assembly when they had a chance to pursue it, and despite Desmond Tutu making an appeal to support the suspension of architects who create the apartheid infrastructure and facts on the ground of Israel's illegal occupation. Decades of attempts at 'dialogue' and peace talks have failed -since Israel has no intention whatsoever from relinquishing its illegal and continually escalating land grabs, despite world condemnation, and the refusal of the big powers to stop the ethnic cleansing, in Israel itself with the displacement and forced removal of Palestinians and Bedouin from the Negev and Galilee and the main cities and the West Bank. Once again we have the same chorus from Dan Leon, recently appointed to the RIBA, and representing the Constructive Dialogue group, talking about "using architecture as a positive force for bringing people together, rather than being divisive through boycotts" when he knows full well that this is the usual distraction employed by Israel lobbyists to neutralise any required action being taken, allowing Israel a free reign to continue its frenzied settlement expansion, using architecture and its applied apartheid legislation to ensure the separation of the Israeli and Palestinian communities, while stealing their land and homes, and confining them into enclaves and in the case of Gaza, a high security prison. This is not the time for the RIBA "to promote dialogue and mutual recognition between parties" when one party is the oppressor intent on keeping the other party in a state of perpetual oppression and under its iron fist.This is not a case of "communities in civil conflict or natural disaster". It is a brutal unending occupation and a series of horrendous man-made disaster that must be ended. In fact those behind the 19 March Resolution are answering the call from the Palestinian civil society for the international community to send a message to the recalcitrant Israelis that there is a price to pay for the decades of impunity and their devastated lives, by proposing that " exclusion and sanction" is the only non-violent means left to change the situation, ultimately achieving justice and peace. Those Israeli architects who do not work on projects in the occupied territories, still work within a very discriminatory set-up for Palestinian citizens of Israel, in housing, planning, home ownership and development, and as a body have never stopped practising or objecting to this scenario. If they were sincere, they would welcome such a move to suspend their ineffective association, and support the Palestinian architects in achieving true equality for their community. Instead of this delegation, which was set up to appease the Israel lobby, and is an arrogant and colonial approach to a very clear cut situation that needs urgent action, the RIBA and its council should move forward to fulfil its real remit, and progress the 19 March Council Resolution, based on very clear cut and expert opinion and overwhelming evidence by Israeli architects like Eyal Weizman, Israeli human rights organisations like B'Tselem and ICAHD, and of course international humanitarian law and the Geneva Conventions. It is Dan Leon, the Constructive Dialogue crowd, and the International Committee who are the amateurs in this case, out of their depth in this serious case of needing upholding the professional ethics of architecture and the RIBA, instead of producing counterproductive measures that waste the resources of the RIBA, and prevent rather than enhance progress.
Lior Broche -as usual perpetuating a discussion by leading off into irrelevance and distortion. There is no precise prescription that the RIBA has to follow. It can indeed look at reform of the planning system as well as its international responsibilities -that is why it is a member of the UIA. It must promote good architecture anywhere, and especially professional and ethical codes, which Israeli architectural practice is fundamentally in breach of, since it based on the privilege and benefit of one section of the population, to the detriment and dispossession of the other half. This extends to 1948, and before, where Israel's cities and towns are built over the ruins of destroyed Palestinian villages and 93% of land owned by Palestinians that now constitute Israel. The discriminatory planning system that prevents Palestinian citizens of Israel from extending their homes, or even building outside 'blue-line' designated areas, or even to bring services to unrecognised villages have never been protested about by those architects not building in occupied (not disputed) territories. Stop projecting them as victims. It is the Palestinians in Israel and the OPTs and blockaded Gaza who are under siege -who are the victims and targets of the 'campaigns of hate' by Israel's extreme ultra right government and its rampaging settlers and the IDF. It is difficult to see where one could reason with you - I suggest you best spend your time reading Eyal Weizman, or check some of the Israeli websites like ICAHD, IR Amim, B'Tselem to get your facts straightened out -instead of projecting Israeli hasbara.
Lior Broche: this is not a delusional campaign at all. It is very clearheaded, and carefully considered, and not directed to 'bash Israel" but because the RIBA has to answer the call of Palestinians to support them in their impossible struggle for justice in taking a stand on the issue that is at the heart of this ongoing crisis, which is the land-grab and settlement-building in which architects and planners are directly involved. The usual "whataboutery" citing all the countries with human rights abuses, is used to divert the issue with accusations of anti-Semitism, absurd when so many of those who support this action are Jewish and many are Israelis. In fact it is Eyal Weizman who has been most eloquent on this, and his statement was published in the AJ. To quote him "The duties of professional organizations such as the International Union of Architects and the Royal Institute of British Architects are not only to promote design excellence but also the political and ethical implications of architecture, in the UK and internationally. Such organizations must thus confront violations of human rights and international law, especially when these violations are undertaken by architects and through architecture. The Israeli regime of military occupation is in violation of international law including the Geneva Convention and human rights laws and regulations. This is accepted by virtually all international bodies including the International Court of Justice, the UN, the EU amongst others. In the context of Israel’s occupation, architecture — employed for the construction of settlements, segregated roadways, industrial zones, and the wall — is the very means by which these violations are perpetrated. Israeli construction in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is undertaken upon land illegally seized from its private or public owners. It squeezes out Palestinian communities, robbing them of their resources and water, and cutting them apart from each other. The architecture of Israel’s occupation is an ongoing form of violence that must be stopped. While not all members of the Israel Association of United Architects are involved in building in Occupied Palestinian Territories and many may be against such actions — as an organization it must take an ethical and legal stand, but it has not. Anyone who has seen the built realities of Israel’s occupation would understand that this stand is also professional. Architects should be pained to see the beautiful and fragile landscape of the West Bank ruined by a form of architecture that is as careless as it is criminal." Israel's architects are uniquely involved with state and military policy -more than any country in the world. It is singled out because it claims to be "the only democracy in the Middle East" and yet behaves as a brutal police state -becoming even more out of control, because the US and UK have re-inforced their complete impunity to international law, while paying lip-service in condemnation of its war crimes and land-grabs -stolen from Palestinians, making their supposed state impossible.The UK too bears a responsibility for creating the Zionist state, starting from the Balfour Declaration. So it seems quite logical now for the RIBA to do something, and for those Israeli architects, who oppose the illegal actions of its government, to actually support this action -which in fact against the AIUA as an institution, and not individual architects. As Eyal Weizman says, echoing Desmond Tutu "Non-intervention in this context is not neutral but the taking of a political position for the violent status quo by default".