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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 These recommendations supersede the previous council resolution of 19 March 2014 and as a result that policy is now rescinded.’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)

  • Well, Amos; I wonder if "...the general advancement of Civil Architecture, and for promoting and facilitating the acquirement of the knowledge of the various arts and sciences connected therewith..." doesn't exclude from housing as well. We'll be reduced to designing Cathedrals, Churches, Castles, Palaces, Town Halls, Prisons, Schools, Hospitals and Art Galleries again soon. Those were the days.

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  • In response to Brendan M and Abe
    How come when there is a vote against Israel it is ‘democratic vote’ but when the vote is FOR Israel suddenly it becomes anti-democratic?
    RIBA motion was followed by one sided presentation with no one questioned the content of this presentation, how come this is democracy when the voters were not presented by the two sides?

    I agree with you that this is disgrace to RIBA…for letting some individuals to use and abuse RIBA stage and ‘royal’ title for their own personal hatred toward Israel.

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  • The last time I commented on this issue I was accused of anti-semitism and both my and the related comments were deleted, so I'll try not to cause offence this time.
    Looking at the readers' comments above there might just be only one person who's likely subject to the Israeli law of return but who isn't enthusiastically crowing over the RIBA's climb down.
    In British politics there's there's the well established (if somewhat fragile) principle of everyone declaring their interest in a subject of debate, and that's where comment on this issue runs the risk of being fraught with serious accusations of racism.
    My concern is that some people have a very direct interest in the unchallenged progress of a campaign of dispossession, landscape destruction and wholesale urbanisation that's ably assisted by the input of a considerable number of architects.
    Ethnic cleansing might even be a reasonable description as one factor in this colossal mess.
    For anyone to be criticising the right of the RIBA to be concerned about this is, on the face of it, astonishing, but - although I presume that the majority of the commentators are architects, their integrity is open to question - and at least one of them has fallen into the trap, in his practice information, of describing himself as a member of the ARB. Granted that he's far from alone in exaggerating his status in this way (it would be an awfully long board), but to me it symbolises people whose self interest gets in the way of fact - and sometimes morality, as well as integrity
    I've got an old postcard, a photo of the hills of Gilead west of Ajlun - and maybe to an urbanite it just looks like a picturesque but empty landscape.
    In fact it isn't empty at all, and though these hills are in 'unoccupied' Jordan, I think that much of the land being buried under the massive urbanisation in question was once just as fine.
    The destruction is to the eternal shame - and disgrace - of all the architects involved.
    must in a all the caused upset, was

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  • To its shame the RIBA has now decided to turn a blind eye to the 'professional' activities of Israel's architects who actively support and profit from the military occupation and the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestine, the demolition of Palestinian homes, the theft of Palestinian land and the escalating construction of colonial settlements in the occupied West Bank and illegally annexed East Jerusalem. Hide as it will be behind procedure and what may or may not be within the remit of the RIBA it is clear that the institute has capitulated to the Zionist lobby. Business as usual. Shame.

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  • And the RIBA has equally capitulated to the 'Chinese Lobby,' with business as usual continuing there despite the 24 hour protest vigil that has been taking place directly outside the building for the past 13 years. Shame. Right John?

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  • Yes Antony and here we go with the 'what about Syria?' So why not take a motion to censure Chinese architects to the council? I have no doubt there will be lots of support however this motion is about unethical behaviour of Israel's architects and their support for the occupation.

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  • Yesterday was a black day for the RIBA and for a President who has failed to uphold the spirit of the RIBA Code of Conduct.

    Council voted that :-
    • “The resolution of 19th March was beyond its powers” (to make judgment on) “the justifiability of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, and that this has
    • no real connection with ‘the advancement of architecture”.

    This despite the fact that when Professor Hans Haelein, Gail Waldman and I met with the President on 5th November, he agreed that if any architect in the UK behaved as our Israel colleagues do, in aiding and abetting development on stolen land, they would be acting in contravention of the RIBA Code and would be disciplined.

    Principle 3 of the RIBA Code of Professional Conduct, headed Relationships reads:-

    “Members should respect the beliefs and opinions of other peoples, recognize social diversity and treat everyone fairly.

    3.1. They should also have a proper concern and due regard for the effects that their work may have on its users and the local community.”

    Further, in nullifying the March resolution, the RIBA is ignoring and setting aside as of no account, the clearly expressed views of our Palestinian colleagues, as expressed in writing to the President in letters of 27th May and 11th November 2014.

    In the latter of these 2 letters, contrary to what Council were told, they write with regard to the visit by 2 representatives of the International committee, one of whom is no longer a Council member:-

    “We regret the fact that we were not consulted, or informed of the aims, objectives and schedule of this visit of the two RIBA delegates. We feel that the visit was planned as a tool to divert the RIBA motion and strip it of its spirit and goals. The statements made on the website of RIBA, the lack of clarity in the aim and objectives of the visit, as well as the continuous engagement of RIBA with IAUA indicate that there is no intention to implement the 19th of March resolution or to build on it. Instead, it seems like the democratically debated resolution is being sidelined in favor of alternative agendas.”

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  • Here we go with the BDS lobby brushing off all criticism of any human rights abusers that aren't Israel, despite the protest against China being right outside their own front door 24 hours a day for 13 years!

    Why not take a motion to censure China? Ill tell you why not. The same reason the RIBA doesnt boycott, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and yes even North Korea. The point, which the BDS lobby continues to miss, is that the RIBA should not be engaging in the boycott of any country. Its wrong, counter productive and beyond the remit of the RIBA on all levels

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  • Sorry Kate, maybe if you pursue some real human rights abusers youll have a bit more luck!

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  • Yes Kate, I read that letter from the Palestinian association - it later develops into a rant, accusing Israel of everything (they clearly bear no responsibility - the line that the pro Palestinian lobby promotes ' infantilising 'your Palestinian colleagues';), and it ends with nothing short of a threat that if RIBA does not follow their line, they will....well guess what? boycott it! quite ironic really.

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