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RIBA councillor slams delegation to Israel

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The RIBA’s delegation to Israel and the West Bank has been branded a ‘disgrace’ by the council member who seconded the resolution to suspend the institute’s Israeli counterpart from the International Union of Architects (UIA)

George Oldham, a national member of RIBA Council, said he would write to the 59 other council members ahead of its December meeting to protest at the visit of fellow councillor Peter Oborn and former councillor Sumita Sinha to the region at the end of last month. The trip was revealed by AJ last week.

The RIBA described it as part of the inquiries of a working group it established in April to ‘consider the implications’ of RIBA Council’s decision to call for the UIA to suspend the Israeli Association of United Architects (IAUA) over illegal settlement building.

This motion, proposed by former president Angela Brady, was passed in March by 23 votes to 16 with 10 abstentions.

Oldham claimed that both Oborn – the RIBA’s international vice president – and Sinha publicly spoke out against the motion at the time and therefore could not represent an objective or balanced delegation.

He said: ‘It is a cynically devised delegation which went using funding which had not been approved [by council]. The motion was passed by a clear majority … but the people who backed the motion were not invited on the delegation and were not advised of it.’

An RIBA spokeswoman said ‘The RIBA’s working group reporting to the International Committee is chaired by RIBA Vice President of International Peter Oborn. The group has been tasked with considering the Institute’s role in engaging with communities facing civil conflict and natural disaster. 

‘The group will consider the implications of the recent RIBA Council resolution calling on the International Union of Architects to suspend the Israeli Association of United Architects, and coordinate RIBA’s engagement and dialogue with all stakeholders on this complex issue.

‘As chair of the working group it was appropriate for Peter Oborn, also RIBA Vice President for International, to visit and hold talks with both the Israeli Association of United Architects and the Association of Architects in Palestine.’

The statement continues: ‘Peter will be heading back to the region next week (at the invitation of the Palestinian IT Association) to address the delegates of ‘Expotech’ in Ramallah on the RIBA’s recent research around Smart Cities.

‘The working group findings will be reported to the RIBA Board and Council by the end of this year.’

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Readers' comments (10)

  • John Kellett

    The RIBA Council has no mandate from members to get involved with foreign politics other than matters of direct architectural concern.

    Matters such as those discussed above may be of interest to architects as individuals but are of no concern of a professional body.

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  • Perhaps Mr Oldham should focus on and take his own delegation to Syria or Iraq to see if there is anything he could oppose to in the region. Stop for a cuppa tea with ISIS on the way.
    Easy to condemn from a sheltered environment George. Go spend some time in the region and perhaps you may learn a thing or two,....or not!

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  • Regardless of where they are going or what their opinions are, they seem to be spending money that has not been approved by RIBA Council. How come?

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  • Thank you George Oldham.
    It is unattractive for the RIBA to be sending two people who opposed the motion to discuss ethics.
    The matter is one of ethics not politics, the taking part by some Israeli architects in projects designed to prevent the emergence of a viable Palestinian state, and to assist ethnic cleansing in Israel.
    The RIBA is an international body who remit is to consider professional behaviour and ethics, and it is quite right to become involved.

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  • With regards to the spokeswoman quote below
    “…considering the Institute’s role in engaging with communities…”
    The key word is ENGAGE -Where does a boycott fit in with engaging?

    I don’t understand what this boycott is supposed to achieve?
    All RIBA is doing is singling out one country out of 195 and potentially opening itself up to discrimination and racist lawsuits charges.
    Who exactly is going to pay the bill?

    Why can’t RIBA stick to its true motives and promote British Architecture?
    They didn’t boycott China over the occupation of Tibet
    They didn’t boycott Turkey for the occupation of Cyprus and the Hatay province
    They didn’t stop British Architects running to build in Libya when Muammar Gaddafi was in power
    They don’t stop British Architects building in Qatar which is a major funder of world terror
    They don’t boycott any British Architects building in the occupied Gibraltar
    They don’t promote the return of stolen architectural items that sitting in the British museums

    Why the double standards?

    Is there any chance RIBA can commit itself to its true motives and help British Architects just a little bit?
    For example - push for reform in our dysfunctional planning system? Just a thought…

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  • Boycott, what boycott? The RIBA is neither boycotting Israel nor Israeli architects. The motion carried by Council simply asks the International Union of Architects to ask the Israeli Institute to respond to Resolution 13 which it passed in 2005, or face suspension, bringing to light an issue of professional ethics. And that's all. The only boycotts are by Jewish organisations against the RIBA in response to the RIBA's refusal to be complicit in what the UN defines as a war crime.
    Let's get real shall we. There is quite properly a limit to the RIBA's influence, which is why it shouldn't venture into the field of "international working groups" attempting to act as a mediator. Quite properly, as part of its core commitment to architecture and architects, it .already presses for improvements to the planning system.
    George Oldham.

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  • You are absolutely right George - this visit is even conspiratorial - hard to seperate out politics in the world we all live in now and there can be no Hallowed Halls even in Portland Place

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  • Answering George Oldham;
    I am sorry, but this how it was portrayed and therefore this is the outcome
    Please let me quote for you some of the recent headlines:

    “Royal Institute of British Architects backs Israel boycott motion”
    “Libeskind and Meier attack UK architects over Israel boycott”
    “Israeli architects applaud RIBA retreat from call for boycott”
    “Israeli architecture association faces ban from international forum”
    “Boycotting the architects of Israel’s occupation”

    I have plenty more if you wish…

    A quick question to you and Angela Brady…
    Did you pass a motion to ban the Architectural Society of China (ASC), over the occupation of Tibet?
    Did you pass a motion to ban Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects (TMMOB) over the occupation of Cyprus and the Hatay province?
    Did you pass a motion to ban on Iran and Saudi Arabia for not letting woman practice architecture?
    Did you pass a motion to ban The Union of Architects Of Russia over the occupation of Ukraine?
    Did you pass a motion to ban RIBA members that build in countries such as Qatar that sponsor world terror?
    Did you pass a motion to ban RIBA members that build in countries that do not have human right laws?
    Did you pass a motion to ban RIBA members that build in occupied Gibraltar?
    RIBA also did nothing about RIBA members that participated in competitions to build in Libya when Muammar Gaddafi was in power.
    Did RIBA ever fight to return all the stolen architectural items stolen by Britain and held in Museums under the titles “given as a gift”?

    You mentioned that Israel does not comply with UN law; however it is not the only country that doesn’t comply with UN laws. I would love to hear why you and Angela Brady chose to single out one country.
    Please don’t give the same old story about how Israel is different from the rest. I would like an honest answer of why RIBA has chosen to ignore everything else that is going wrong in this world and single out the only democratic country in the Middle East.
    I am concerned at the personal reasons that such a motion was brought up in the first place. Why were all of RIBA’s members not asked to vote on this? Why were only a select few at the top involved?
    The motives do not sit comfortably with me at all.

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  • 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.

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  • In response to Lior Broch and his quoting of the word 'boycott', these are not AJ headlines which you quote and not how we are describing RIBA Council's resolution.

    Thanks,

    Will Hurst
    Acting deputy editor
    AJ

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