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Academics back RIBA's Israeli stance, as Gove wades in


A group of leading academics, cultural and political figures has backed the RIBA’s motion to censure the Israeli Association of United Architects (IAUA) for ‘complicity in illegal settlement building’

The move came as education secretary Michael Gove reportedly slammed the institute’s stance, telling the Jewish Chronicle that the RIBA had shown ‘selective outrage’ by agreeing to lobby the International Architects Union (UIA) to suspend the membership of the Israeli architects’ representative body.

According to the newspaper, Gove questioned why the institute had not taken a similar stance against Syria and China at the JC Editor’s Choice event last Monday (31 March).

Meanwhile, the RIBA has been defended by a group of 65 Jewish and non-Jewish supporters - including artist Antony Gormley, politician Gerald Kaufman, architect Peter Ahrends and film director Mike Leigh - which branded the attacks on the institute as ‘politically motivated smears’.

A spokesman for the group said: ‘We are aware of the difficulties liable to be faced by any body which voices public criticism of the Israeli government.’                             

The list of signatories, which also includes landscape architect Charles Jencks, architect Kate Mackintosh and Neave Brown fomrerly of Camden Council’s Architects Department, congratulated the RIBA for passing the motion. The petition reads: ‘We understand that you have taken this action because members of IAUA have been closely involved in the design and building of illegal settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and also in the construction of the Apartheid Wall that runs deep into the illegally occupied area.  […]   Many people, Jewish and non-Jewish, architects and non-architects, will be heartened by this example of a respected body taking up its ethical and professional responsibilities in so resolute a manner.’

Since passing the motion last month Portland Place has come in for fierce criticism from a raft of organisations including its own Solo Practitioners Group.

Designer Stephen Games branded the motion ‘biased’, ‘misconceived’ and ‘shameful’ while Itzhak Lipovetzky, the IAUA’s head of foreign relations, has written to the British Prime Minister David Cameron and Israel’s own foreign ministry asking them to take action over the controversial RIBA move.

The RIBA motion, which claimed that the IAUA had paid no regard to the UIA Resolution 13 of 2005 and had failed to condemn Israeli architects who helped sustain Israel’s policy to allow Jewish settlements in Palestinian territory, was carried by 23 votes in favour, with 16 against and 10 abstentions (see AJ 20.03.2014) .

Previous story (AJ 04.04.14)

Israeli architects appeal to Cameron over RIBA motion

The Israeli Association of United Architects (IAUA) has called on Prime Minister David Cameron to block a controversial RIBA motion against Israeli architects

The association’s head of foreign relations, Itzhak Lipovetzky is sending a letter to the British premier and is also petitioning Israel’s own foreign ministry after the RIBA agreed to press the International Architects Union (UIA) to suspend the membership of the Israeli architects’ representative body.

Lipovetzky told the Jerusalem Post: ‘When the British prime minister [David Cameron] was here, he promised not to boycott Israel. This was his statement in front of the Knesset.’

Portland Place has come in for fierce criticism from British architects and organisations working to promote peaceful coexistence in Israel and Palestine for its decision last week.

Designer Stephen Games branded the motion – calling on the International Architects Union (UIA) to suspend the membership of Israeli architects’ representatives – ‘biased’, ‘misconceived’ and ‘shameful’.

In a letter to RIBA president Stephen Hodder, he said: ‘No one could want to belong to a body that can be characterised as anti-semitic, nor is it appropriate that an institutionally anti-semitic body should retain its royal charter.’

However past president Angela Brady rebuffed criticism the motion she tabled was anti-semitic. Brady said she had acted following the IAUA’s continued failure to punish architects flouting the UIA’s 2005 Resolution 13 condemning the building of settlements on occupied land.

She added: ‘I am not anti-Semitic in anyway. Most people that are complaining are avoiding the issue; that motion was a focus on Israel and Palestine, on a situation recently highlighted by David Cameron and by Obama too.

She continued: ‘I am not talking about China or anywhere else and I’m not talking about who is worse than who and this is not a boycott. It is affirmation in terms of the UIA code of ethics and professionalism, that architects should not practice in occupied territories; it breaks international law.’

‘I have been to Palestine and I have seen at first-hand what is happening,’ she said.


Readers' comments (12)

  • The main issue is here: criticising Israel does not make you an anti-semite. I think the RIBA is right in criticising what is happening on Palestine's land; we should all support it, even Israeli people, as this will only fuel more terrorism and violent reactions. I think jewish people still live in the fear of what their went through in the 20th century, hence their agressive defense mechanism. But to say the RIBA is anti-semite is just childish.

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  • It does not seem to penetrate the minds of the ubiquitous and doughty defenders of Israel's crimes, Jonathan Hoffman and Geoffrey Alderman that for all their bluster and twisted interpretations of history and international law, that every country in the world, except for Israel, recognises that Israel is illegally occupying the West Bank and blockading Gaza in a ring of steel,concrete and armed warships -thus effectively still under occupation. There are reams of UN Resolutions and articles in the 4th Geneva Convention, that confirm that the settlers and the settlements are illegal, and that the occupation must end. Innumerable reports by the UN, EU, Amnesty International, Oxfam and all the world human rights organisations have documented Israel's war crimes and extreme violence in displacing and dispossessing Palestinians, including the most sadistic suppression of protests against the stealing of land and building of the illegal and obscene Apartheid Wall -using the teargas, rubber bullets and live fire where many young people are killed (60 during the nine month peace charade) and children being arrested in their homes in the middle of the night. The International Court of Justice in 2004 declared the Wall illegal - nine leading judges for and one US judge against) -including the settlements , and all this has been planned and built by Israeli architects and the construction industry -making them complicit in war crimes. The ruling demanded that the Separation Wall and the illegal settlements be dismantled, and compensation for all the damage paid for by Israel. Instead, Israel has continued building the Wall and the settlements expanded in even greater ferocity.
    B'Tselem, Israel's own human rights organisation said this in their publication -"Land Grab". "Israel has created in the Occupied Territories a regime of separation based on discrimination, applying two separate systems of law in the same area and basing the rights of individuals on their nationality. This regime is the only one of its kind in the world, and is reminiscent of distasteful regimes from the past, such as the apartheid regime in South Africa."
    Like South Africa which was expelled from the UIA during the apartheid regime, Israel is now rightly up for consideration to be suspended from the UIA, under Resolution 13, and UIA Accords of professional ethics, which condemn the projects that breach international law and the Geneva Conventions -until Israel ends these illegal and inhumane practices in the field of architecture and planning. It is time that Israel is called to account -and its policies changed to conform with human rights and international law, and decades of oppression and occupation of the Palestinian people brought to an end.

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