Israeli architect defends RIBA’s motion
Israeli architect and professor at Goldsmiths University Eyal Weizman has defended the RIBA’s decision to call on the International Architects Union to suspend the Israeli professional body
Weizman is one of 65 academics, cultural and political figures backing the RIBA’s stance on the motion calling for the suspension of Israeli architects from the International Architects Union (UIA).
Comment in full
‘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 rather 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 such 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 pain 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.
‘At a time when political negotiations seem to be shipwrecked, forms of civil non-violent action are the only avenue left to help Israelis and Palestinians escape this pathway of mutual destruction.
‘The accusations of antisemitism against RIBA, predictable as they might be, are offensive to both Jewish and non-Jewish signatories of this initiative, to those of us committed to peace there and those of us working for social and spatial justice in other places. Worse, they willfully invert perpetrator and victim, divert the discussion from the ongoing suffering, theft and violence enacted through the architecture employed in the context of Israel’s occupation, and close an avenue for a better and more hopeful future.
‘Our initiative is undertaken by people closely familiar with and deeply respectful of the place and its people. Non-intervention in this context is not neutral but the taking of a political position for the violent status quo by default.’
The motion which was adopted by RIBA Council on 19 March, 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.