Institute’s Palestinian counterpart threatens to cease co-operation in protest at its recent delegation to the region
More from: Row over RIBA's Israel trip escalates
Portland Place is one again engulfed in a major row over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict after the association representing Palestinian architects threatened to cease co-operating with the RIBA in protest at its recent delegation to the region.
A letter sent to RIBA president Stephen Hodder on Tuesday (11 November) by the Association of Architects in Palestine (AAP) and sister organisation the Engineers’ Association (EA) complains neither organisation was ‘consulted, or informed of the aims, objectives and schedule of this visit of the two RIBA delegates’ and casts doubt on its propriety.
The pair met both the AAP and the Israeli Association of United Architects (IAUA) during their visit.
The trip was described by the RIBA as part of the inquiries of a working group it established to ‘consider the implications’ of RIBA council’s March decision to recommend the suspension of the IAUA from the UIA over its members’ involvement in illegal settlement building (see AJ 20.06.14).
The AAP letter to Hodder states: ‘We believe that the visit arranged by some RIBA members reflects a clear and deliberate act of diversion from the original RIBA motion adopted on the 19th March 2014.
‘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 the RIBA, the lack of clarity in the aim and objectives of the visit, as well as the continuous engagement of the RIBA with the IAUA indicate that there is no intention to implement the 19th March resolution or to build on it.
‘Instead, it seems like the democratically debated resolution is being sidelined in favour of alternative agendas.’
The letter, signed by EA chairman Ahmed Edaily, concludes: ‘Any future co-operation between us depends on the RIBA’s position regarding this issue. The 19th March resolution still holds and must be pursued and we would like to know what your line of action is in order to bring it to fruition.’
RIBA council’s original resolution, proposed by former president Angela Brady, was passed by 23 votes to 16 with 10 abstentions but provoked a storm of protest from supporters of Israel.
The visit meanwhile has already been condemned by the RIBA councillor who seconded the motion, George Oldham, who has strongly questioned its motives and objectivity and is writing to all other members of council to complain (see AJ 13.11.14) .
Oborn and Sinha were unavailable for comment but RIBA councillor Daniel Leon, who is also a member of Constructive Dialogue, a built environment group which opposed the motion, defended the trip and said the two had tried to meet Edaily himself during their visit.
He added: ‘I hope Peter’s report proposes a positive way forward, using architecture as a positive force for bringing people together, rather than being divisive through boycotts. The RIBA has a powerful opportunity to promote dialogue and mutual recognition between parties.
‘Those behind the motion propose exclusion and sanction which is ultimately counter-productive to peace, and would punish the vast majority of Israeli architects who do not work on projects in the occupied territories.
‘Exclusion and sanction is counter-productive to peace’
‘I hope the RIBA and its council can move forward to fulfil its real remit for the promotion of architecture, and not seek to enter the Middle Eastern political landscape in an amateurish and ill-informed way.’
An RIBA spokesman refused to comment directly on the letter but said Oborn’s roles within RIBA made his visit appropriate.
He added: ‘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…and coordinate RIBA’s engagement and dialogue with all stakeholders on this complex issue.
‘Peter will be heading back to the region [this 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.’