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.’
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.’
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.