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RIBA overturns controversial Israel motion


The RIBA’s resolution to suspend the Israeli Association of United Architects (IAUA) has been overturned by the insitute’s council today

Passed in March, the controversial resolution demanded the International Union of Architects (UIA) censure the IAUA over illegal settlement building in the occupied territories.The contentious motion was brought by former president Angela Brady and carried by 23 votes to 16 - with 10 abstentions.

However the resolution split the profession and has now, after a council vote, been shelved.

According to the institute, the motion calling for the IAUA’s suspension, was beyond ‘the powers of [RIBA] council’ and ‘was not in furtherance of the chairtable objects of the RIBA and should not have been placed before RIBA Council’.

The news comes just a month after an RIBA taskforce led by Sumita Sinha and Peter Oborn – RIBA’s vice-president of international – travelled to the region and held talks with both the IAUA and the Association of Architects in Palestine.

Delivering his findings from the taskforce’s trip, Oborn said: ‘The RIBA motion was beyond the powers of council. It should not have come before the members of council.’

‘This is not the forum for these issues.’

Earlier today (4 December) council voted in support of the taskforce’s report and its recommendations - one of which included revoking the original motion.

RIBA president Stephen Hodder said: ‘I’m keen that architects engage positively with this issue. RIBA Council has an important role to play in engaging with difficult and controversial issues. However it is a widely held view that the resolution passed in March concerning the IAUA did not make a constructive contribution to the current situation.

‘For the Institute to have engaged in this issue in a confrontational way - by seeking suspension of the Israeli Association of United Architects from the UIA - was wrong. These recommendations supersede the previous council resolution of 19 March 2014 and as a result that policy is now rescinded.’

He added: ‘We got it wrong’

Hodder admitted the fallout had damaged the RIBA’s reputation and ‘had a financial impact’ on the institution, but wouldn’t expand on how much it had cost.

What council voted on:

RIBA council endorses the report of the group and adopts the recommendations of the report including the proposals for further work and becoming a signatory to be UN Global Compact and the International Ethics Coalition. These recommendations include replacing previous policy of 19 March and that policy is rescinded.



Readers' comments (35)

  • Good decision by the RIBA president. Now the RIBA can concentrate on it's objectives:
    "...the general advancement of Civil Architecture, and for promoting and facilitating the acquirement of the knowledge of the various arts and sciences connected therewith..."

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  • .... and Israel's architects can carry on their work of expanding illegal Jewish only settlements, at the expense of the Palestinian people, without international sanction.

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  • This just proves how weak and ineffective the RIBA's influence is, though the vote clearly had backing from within, they were forced to change their opinion due to outside influence (and most likely outside funding threats). The RIBA is meant to stand up for British architecture and its values and to uphold a standard of Ethics, and promoting them worldwide is most definitely a valuable thing to do. They have every right to express their disproval of another country Architecture body if deemed to be acting in an unethical way. Whether that is in Israel or any other country acting unethically. I wouldn’t want the RIBA to recognise any institute that agrees to build on disputed territories.

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  • In response to Janet Green's sour grapes, Israel provides free medical health care to Arab nationals and continues to find ways for peaceful coexistence, whilst the Palestinian authorities are ruled by extremist groupings who are blind to any peaceful advancement let alone architecture.

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  • Robert Erskine - my comment refers to the expansion of illegal Jewish only settlements but yours doesn't (?).

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  • Janet Green - seconded on both comments.

    RIBA shoots itself in both feet - again

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  • Finally, common sense has prevailed over this lengthy / costly and ludicrous campaign.
    Now that this is over, I do hope that RIBA can now focus on its members and fight for further changes in the planning system that is vital for the future of architecture in the UK.

    For those people who are disappointed about this decision, if you do your research I am sure you will find a more appropriate platform for whatever agenda you have.
    Boycotting does not promote dialogue between sides (which is badly needed in this current situation) it only creates further division and this is not good for peace or a stable future.

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  • Lior Brosh - seeing some of your past comments, I find it hard to see how you don't have an agenda of your own.

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  • Frirish,
    My agenda is very clear, to keep RIBA focusing on its members and promote British Architecture.
    You will find hard to believe but this is RIBA’s agenda as well.

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  • This must be the lowest depths that the RIBA has sunk - an obsequious capitulation to the Israel lobby both outside and within the RIBA, and to donor pressure -even after being intimidated, threatened and subjected to boycotts applied to its financial detriment.
    This was precisely a professional and ethical issue that could be undertaken by an institution, even within its charitable status, according to UIA Resolutions and Articles, and by a clear democratic Council decision.

    This has been subverted by the International Committee with its ludicrous visit and report, and then saying it was joining the UN Global Compact and the International Ethics Coalition.This must be the most farcical of ironies, as it has just rescinded precisely the Resolution that would have conformed to ethical practice -not given support to Israeli architects who are practicing the architecture of occupation, violence and dispossession. The concern seems to have been more for the feelings of the oppressors than the Palestinians -whose architects association had opposed the actions of the RIBA in supporting the Israeli standpoint.
    No, this is what the RIBA has got miserably wrong, and has brought the whole Institute into disrepute. They got it right in 1977, when they took the courageous action in breaking its links with the South African schools of architecture as part of the anti-apartheid boycott call.

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  • I am very pleased that the RIBA Council came to this conclusion today.

    The issues associated the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are very important indeed and need to be discuss and debated with a view to forging a true and equitable peace for all parties, based on mutual understanding and mutual respect - but the RIBA is not the correct forum for such a debate. It was confirmed as such, being outside the RIBA's remit, and the RIBA have correctly regularised the matter.

    For our Institute to seek the exclusion of another country's professional body would have been wholly wrong and counter productive to this end. It would have been negative, and silence any opportunity for engagement and exchange.

    It is not necessary to drag up all the arguments again here, but legal opinion confirmed the March motion on Israel as 'discriminatory'. How could that remain on RIBA policy?

    What has not been covered sufficiently in the press so far was the excellent report presented by Peter Oborn and his working group, looking at how the RIBA can contribute in a positive manner to help victims of natural disasters and civil conflict in the UK and around the work. As building professionals we have a huge amount to contribute in a positive way.

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  • Well said Dan

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  • Dan Leon -the whole point is that the exclusion was for a reason -that the Israeli Association of United Architects was not upholding its responsibilities in censuring its members for its breaches of international law, and its participation in what are considered as war crimes under the Geneva Conventions. The UIA specifically demands this censure of member countries whose architects participate in grave misconduct -as this is, since it has been well documented as an architecture of violence, occupation, dispossession and legalised discrimination, based on racist and apartheid principles.

    Again, the UIA Articles require any country taking another country to task for grave misconduct, and has specific Resolutions condemning such projects.

    Oborn's report is manipulated to protect the IAUA, and as we have seen over several decades, 'constructive dialogue' in the case of Israel has led nowhere -except to more settlements, land grabs, creating high security prisons and bantustan enclaves for the Palestinians -which get worse every day.
    Today' s debacle at the RIBA Council does exactly that -it will not change the situation in Israel/Palestine one iota. It will only maintain the unacceptable status quo.

    Your measured tones deceive no-one. We must listen to the voice of Palestinian civil society and the Palestinian Architects' Association who have asked for sanctions to be taken, and in this case, the 19 March RIBA Resolution was the democratic decision by Council that has now been subverted by a strong and influential lobby, harming the RIBA's professional reputation and responsibility.The best contribution to altering the dire situation would have been to carry through that Resolution to the UIA.

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  • The right decision. The motion was based on falsehoods and no-one had a chance to rebut them:


    Just a shame that the misguided March vote cost RIBA £100,000 in lost bookings and donations.....

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  • Dearie me! Thank God I don't belong and have never belonged to such a lilly livered bunch of self promoting......
    Retired architect(RIAS).

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  • Janet Green - no other than the Palestinian Authority declared that in a future state of Palestine, there will be no Jews, it will be 'Jew-free'. we can argue for hours about where is the only place in the region where minorities are not persecuted, the only place where the Christian population is actually growing rather than reducing sharply, the only place where you are free to follow whatever your faith, political conviction or sexual orientation, The point is - RIBA is not the platform.

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  • Abe Hayeem - No, the lowest depth that the RIBA has sunk to was when it succumbed to your group's lobbying and passed that original motion.
    It has now risen back from the depths, and has hopefully turned its back on your anti Israel (and not pro anything) obsession.
    Hopefully you may find comfort in pursuing a new obsession - Architecture.

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  • Firstly, it is a disgrace to the RIBA that a resolution that was passed through a democratic RIBA vote was overturned.

    It seems incredulous to me that the RIBA would not think it appropriate to adopt a strong stance towards Israel given the nation's unashamed and flagrant use of the built environment as a central tool to flout international law and inflict human rights abuses. I have spent time in the region and witnessed first hand the indignities of life under occupation. The built environment is critical to the Israeli State's continued occupation of the West Bank.

    Secondly, given Britain's history in the region and its pivotal role in shaping the present day boundaries and demographics of the Middle East, it would appear pertinent that the RIBA take a strong, reasoned stance, which indeed it seemed to move towards when the motion went to a democratic vote. That additionally UKTI would think it appropriate to encourage British architects to engage in work in Israel beggars belief.

    It is clear that the Israeli lobby has greater sway with the RIBA than its members. Certainly it is very active as one can see simply by browsing the comments that follow any coverage of this issue within AJ - more comments than I have seen posteed on the AJ for some time!

    The overturning of this motion paints a sorry picture for the future of the RIBA as a strong, consolidated representative voice of its members. It seems to herald an RIBA that is a commercial body concerned with maintaining commercial interests regardless of wider-reaching more fundamental issues.

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  • Brendan M - As I was browsing the comments on this issue I noticed your name coming up. Can we safely assume that you are therefore a part of the nefarious 'Israel Lobby' as well.

    The fact that it was RIBA members that worked actively to overturn this decision clearly negates your proposition that it is the 'Israel Lobby' that holds a greater sway than its members. In fact, if members were given more than a days notice that this democratic vote to boycott Israel was going to happen im sure it never wouldve seen the light of day

    British involvement in the Middle East bears no relevance on the remit of a paid for members organisation such as the RIBA. Throughout the ages Britain has invaded 90% of countries worldwide just to highlight how ridiculous that idea is.

    Ive spent time in the region to and while Israel is not perfect by any means, its not the demon you are trying to make it out to be.

    Better luck next time B

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  • And just to be clear, Abe Hayeems definition of the 'Israel lobby' is anyone that disagrees with him on the subject of Israel ever

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