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Desmond Tutu urges UIA to suspend Israeli Architects Association

Archbishop Desmond Tutu has said the International Union of Architects (UIA) must ‘send a clear message of support for justice in Palestine and Israel by suspending the Israeli Architect’s Association’

In a speech read out at the end of the UIA’s conference in Durban today (7 August), Tutu appealed to the Israeli architects present not to support the design or construction of settlements on occupied Palestinian land.

His words back the RIBA’s controversial resolution, tabled by past president Angela Brady, which called for the Israeli Association of United Architects (IAUA) to be suspended from the UIA.

Tutu said: ‘I appeal to Israeli sisters and brothers present at the conference to actively disassociate themselves and their profession from the design and construction of any further infrastructure related to perpetuating injustice, including the separation wall, the security terminals and checkpoints, and the settlements built on occupied Palestinian land.’

The institute’s motion was originally expected to be debated at the UIA’s convention but a spokesperson for the union confirmed it was not on the agenda with the organisation claiming it was outside its ‘political scope’.

But as conflict in the region escalates, pressure is being placed on the UIA to consider the suspension of Israeli architects from the institution.

RIBA-past president Angela Brady, added: ‘It is brilliant that the UIA patron Desmond Tutu made this closing speech Its exactly what our RIBA resolution was asking UIA to do It is now up to UIA Assembly to take it on board tomorrow which I hope they will do.’

The UIA’s three-yearly conference, has this year focused on acknowledge the built environment as a ‘major force that can be harnessed towards a better life for all’.  

The full speech - read out by the UIA’s president of the local organisation committee Hassan Armal

It has been my honour to serve as patron of the 25th World Congress of the International Union of Architects.

As you have gathered in Durban this week, the world news has been dominated by the carnage in Gaza. I have condemned those Palestinians responsible for firing rockets at Israel, for violence is not the solution to human crises. The disproportionality of Israel’s response, however, has been utterly horrendous. Hundreds of Palestinian civilians, including women and children, among the more than 1,800 dead, and much of Gaza’s infrastructure – it’s roads, public facilities and buildings – laid to waste. All in the name of preserving a fundamentally divisive and undignified status quo founded on the illegal occupation of Palestinian land. 

Those who are opposed to violence have, over the years, developed an arsenal of peaceful tools aimed at isolating and negatively impacting on the economies of rogue states. As members of civil society, with the help of our friends abroad, we deployed these tools - boycotts, divestment and sanctions – to great effect against the apartheid state in South Africa. 

The world’s political and diplomatic leaders have floundered for decades in their efforts to develop a workable recipe for the people of Palestine and Israel to live in peace. It is time for civil society to step into the void, to persuade the people and leaders of Israel that it is in humanity’s best interests to enter into dialogue aimed at negotiating a peaceful and sustainable solution for the crisis in the Holy Land – a solution that is acceptable to both Palestinians and Israelis.

I believe it would be appropriate for the UIA to send a clear message of support for justice in Palestine and Israel by suspending the Israeli Architect’s Association from the world body. 

I appeal to Israeli sisters and brothers present at the conference to actively disassociate themselves and their profession from the design and construction of any further infrastructure related to perpetuating injustice, including the separation wall, the security terminals and checkpoints, and the settlements built on occupied Palestinian land. 

I implore you to take this message home: Please turn the tide against violence and hatred by joining the non-violent movement for justice for all people of the region. 

God bless you.

Further comments

Yara Sharif, for the Palestinian delegation to UIA and the Palestinian Engineering Association in Palestine

‘It is refreshing to hear Despond Tutu – a fighter against apartheid — to call for the suspension of the Israeli Architects Association from UIA. Not only this echoes the Palestinians voice and call for justice, but we also hope it will liberate other architects around the world to stand up firm against oppression. The UIA General Assembly is one such platform.

‘Desmond Tutu’s statement represents many of us who stand up for justice and ethics. It is a voice that should be heeded at the General Assembly, and has to be heard above the strong pro-Zionist lobby.

‘We believe that this is a chance for the UIA to show that it upholds its own Resolutions and Articles of professional conduct as the world body of architects, which are quite clear that action has to be taken where a member country is so blatant in its impunity to international law. Israel has over the years been perpetuating such violence and oppression against the Palestinian people in its architecture of occupation and in its ultimate show of unbridled force of massacres and urbicide, targeted at civilians that we have witnessed recently in Gaza, but also continuing over decades in the West Bank as well.

‘The UIA must not let us down this time. It must heed the call of civil society to take non-violent action and send a clear message to Israel that there is a price to pay after decades of occupation and injustice. Silence gives IAUA a green light to wash their hands off their social and ethical responsibility.

‘The IAUA must face suspension now.’

Daniel Leon, Constructive Dialogue

‘It needs to be recognised that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is complex. Instead of isolating either side, the best way to promote a peaceful and meaningful solution is to build positive relationships with both sides through dialogue. Boycotts will not help those striving to build a future based on mutual recognition and development, and it would be counter-productive to punish individual professionals and independent civil organisations due to the policies of their governments.’

Readers' comments (8)

  • The situation is Israel and Gaza is appalling, and both sides should be condemned for their actions. The only solution is a diplomatic one with the support of the UN. BUT, why the Israeli Architect’s Association? WHY the double standards? Where were you my fellow architects when Assad decided (and still doing) to slaughter his own people? Where were you when Putin started his mini war? Why is it easier to go after Israel than Syria, Russia or other countries? In case you need a lead here are some contact details:

    ORDER OF SYRIAN ARCHITECTS AND ENGINEERS
    osea@net.sy

    RUSSIAN ARCHITECTURAL LICENSING CENTRE
    Granatni per. 22
    103001 Moskva
    Telephone: 7-095-291 8879
    Fax: 7-095-202 8101

    You could also criticise Architects who build in countries that support terror and violate human rights like China and Qatar (who support Hamas).

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  • This motion is focused at Israeli architects due to the inherently spatial nature of the conflict. In no other conflict does architecture and planning play such a significant role. Therefore, this is the reasoning why architects must take a stand on this particular issue.

    This motion supports peace. It is in the tradition of the Israeli-Palestinian signed Oslo II agreement which states that “Neither side shall initiate or take any step that will change the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip pending the outcome of the Permanent Status negotiations.”

    These actions 'merely' aim to uphold multiple articles enshrined in international humanitarian law by sanctioning Israeli architects for their widespread involvement in the occupation of Palestine, which ultimately aims to change (and is changing) this status.

    This motion has nothing to do with anti-semitism, left wing intelligentsia bias or personal motives. In fact, it has arguably nothing to do with the boycott movement.

    It's not so difficult to understand. Try.

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  • well done to Desmond Tutu for making this statement and well done to Angela bradly for supporting it! theres no question of "building positive relationships with both sides" this isnt a proportionate conflict it is the complete opposite and it certainly isnt that complex. One side (israeli) is the occupier and the destructor throwing people out of their homes and building on land which is clearly not theirs. The other side (palestinian) is the occupied and is only acting in justifiable self defence. Their land has been occupied their homes taken away their men killed their women raped their children blown up, their diet controlled all their means to live completely destroyed.
    people are brainwashed with Israel's side of the story. Israel is the real terrorist. Obviously when Israel and the US partake in such destruction it is completely justified and allowed but the minute it's a muslim country (who are clearly acting in response to being tortured and oppressed) then "oh no its terrorism" the double standards are disgraceful.

    All Architects and humans should stand for justice and that is done by boycotting Israel. as this will send them a CLEAR message that they will be held to account for what they have done.

    peace.

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  • Excuse me Sara " their women raped"!!!! I can assure you that the Israeli army doesn't rape women. You better get you facts right before unleashing very harmful and dangerous use of words. And I disagree, the situation is very complicated. I don't think we will live to see peace in this region. I just hope the next generation won't make the same mistakes and realise early on that there is only one solution. Diplomacy, making concessions, talking, avoiding revenge and ending the occupation. To achieve this you need strong leaders and courage. None of which the current Israeli Government not the Palestinians have. Peace.

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  • Well done Mick and yara for the balanced arguments, some people need to hear and share. Having been there and seen the apartheid first hand, the division roads and walls, the illegal hilltop settlements and the bulldozing of peoples homes, it is imperative that this must stop. We must support this call for help from our fellow institute in Palestine and do what we can to stop this architecture of oppression and urbicide which will not be stopped by political dialogue or any dialogue it would seem at this stage. This message from UIA patron Desmond Tutu is very clear and one we hope UIA are strong enough to take on board.

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  • If there were any doubt that the building of the illegal settlements is an obstacle to the peace both sides say they wish to bring about remember that it was during the last round of peace talks the the Israeli Gov. announced consent for the building of a further 2,000+ homes & that the talks broke down. Then Kerry was reported as commenting that Israel was on the path to becoming an apartheid state. So that announced consent could be seen as a tipping point.

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  • http://cifwatch.com/2014/04/01/factual-errors-behind-the-anti-israel-vote-by-royal-institute-of-british-architects/

    Good to see that the RIBA motion went nowhere. It was based on ignorant falsehoods and was sprung on the Council without any opportunity for the lies about Israel to be rebutted. Many RIBA members are justifiably livid that this ill-conceived ill-informed grandstanding cost RIBA at least £100,000 in lost bookings.

    The 'apartheid' allegation is an ignorant smear. Just look at the Supreme Court - an Arab Israeli was one of the three Supreme Court Judges who convicted a former President of the State.

    As for Tutu, he's just a sordid bigot when it comes to Jews:

    http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/1742/bishop-tutu-is-no-saint-when-it-comes-to-jews

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  • I think the RIBA should stick to what it is good at. The effete middle-class charlatans have no place discussing the bigger picture in ANY other field. Just as self belief and being opinionated may help convince your fellow architects, here you might as well be guests on Jeremy Kyle for all the authority you bring. The grandeur required to think the result will be anything but divisive is naive in the extreme. Bias bias bias

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