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Headline

Ex-British Land boss Ritblat urges RIBA to rethink Israel stance

Comment

Once again Jonathan Hoffman, like a broken record, recommends the vile rubbish and libellous poison on his hate- enciting website CifWatch - riddled with his own ignorance and the gross misrepresentation using Israeli propaganda(hasbara). This is all in defiance of the whole panoply of the highest world authorities and eminent world figures, the UN, the EU and human rights organisation from Amnesty to Israel's B'Tselem's documentation and condemnation of Israel's crimes, especially related to land-grabbing and laying facts on the ground, all illegal under international law.These deny any possibility of a Palestinian state, their self determination and their human rights. What the RIBA has done with its historic Motion of 19 March, democratically debated at Council, and supported by eminent architects like Charles Jencks, Ted Cullinan, Peter Ahrends, Will Alsop, Neave Brown, and other hugely respected figures, is to uphold the ethical and moral basis of architecture, which is the very context and the duty of all professional institutions and architects. As the UIA Accords state "Architects have obligations to the public to embrace the spirit and the letter of the laws governing their professional affairs and should thoroughly consider the social and environmental impact of their professional activities" also "Architects shall respect and help conserve the systems of values and the natural and cultural heritage of the community in which they are creating architecture." Further:Article 10. (1) The common objectives of all professional organizations are to establish and promote the highest standards of ethical conduct and excellence in the practice of the professions, to regulate the professional conduct of the members of the professions and to cooperate with their allied professional organizations. (2) In line with the foregoing objectives, it shall be mandatory upon a professional organization to take appropriate action on any formal complaint for unethical conduct filed against any member of its profession by a co-professional, a client, a professional organization or a government regardless of the residence of the complainant." The RIBA Motion is also in line with these UIA Accords on professional ethics and Resolution 13 condemning the practice of architecture that involves the breaches of human rights, international law, the Geneva Conventions and the erasure of Palestinian history and culture. This is the practice of all trade unions, mentioned by Jill Ritblat, if one understands anything about them! The RIBA has a precedent of acting like one, in its cutting of links with the South African Schools of Architecture in 1978, as part of the boycott action against apartheid South Africa. Any literate and aware professional must know in their bones that architecture is one of the most political professions -an especially as practiced, almost uniquely by Israel, from the very first colony established by Zionist settlers in Palestine in 1907. with the 'Wall and Tower" model still applied to this day in all the Israeli settlements and the construction of the illegal Separation Wall condemned by the ICJ in 2004. Understanding the whole issue of the political nature of Israeli architecture, so eloquently exposed by Israel architects and academics Eyal Weizman and Rafi Segal, their publications 'A Civilian Occupation' and 'Hollow Land', would be educational and cultural enlightenment of the highest order, and is heartily recommended to the Ritblats and other decriers of the RIBA's 19 March Motion. Weizman' s remarkable statement published by the AJ says it all. https://www.architectsjournal.co.uk/news/israeli-architect-defends-ribas-motion/8661310.article Whether wilfully not, Israeli architects are building in the occupied Palestinian Territories and illegally annexed East Jerusalem, and also within Israel on new towns and neighbourhoods to carry out the state's policy to Judaise the Negev, the Galilee, and the Arab neighbourhoods of Israel's cities- all this involves participation in human tragedy, the dispossession of Palestinians from their homes, the refusal of planning permission to build or extend, the lack of services to 'unrecgnised villages', the obscene Apartheid Wall, the thousands of house demolitions and the unbridled violence by the Israeli state, the IDF, and the terrorist settlers -all condemned in Amnesty's latest reports, and also the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. One must not forget the discriminatory laws against Palestinian citizens of Israel like the Absentee Property Law in the area of housing, property and development, that limit Palestinians to less that 7% of the land, the other 93% sequestrated by Israel after 1948, and no new Palestinian towns ever built, except for the 7 substandard slum townships for Negev Bedouin -compared with upto 1000 Israeli new towns and settlements. For I and many other architects around the world not to speak out against such extreme behaviour is to be nothing less than complicit in these activities. Eminent Israeli journalist Esther Zandberg, writing on this issue in Haaretz says that the IAUA's "insistence on claiming that it is an exclusively professional organization with no political agenda has led it to this point... that it does not concern itself with political issues, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and that each of its members behaves according to his own world view, sounds hollow in the international arena. The mantra “I personally do not build in the territories” is no longer a solid defense. After all, being apolitical does not mean being neutral; rather, it is tantamount to taking a stance supporting the status quo. Since architecture is a tool through which political policy is implemented, even if not all the members of the IAUA are involved in planning and construction in the territories, the local organization representing them is now being asked to take a moral stance and use the profession as a tool for implementing it – with or without a decision by RIBA or other agencies.The RIBA’s call to expel the IAUA from the international club sparked a lively debate in the professional and public international arenas, but no such discussion took place in Israel. The subject stayed in the corridors of the IAUA, which has adopted the stance of the innocent, apolitical victim against the political, scheming, anti-Israel world. The view is that "the whole world is against us. From that point of departure, the IAUA has been waging a public relations campaign, lobbying and calling upon its members to mobilize “for a mission on Israel’s behalf” instead of looking in the mirror, as they ought to be doing." Instead of such enlightened action, it is sad that the Ritblats have joined the likes of Jonathan Hoffman in promoting this CiF Watch hate site, and in urging inactivity and neutrality in the face of decades of injustice and oppression, and saying this has nothing to do with the RIBA. In fact -this Motion is entirely the remit of the RIBA and especially of the UIA as a professional and moral world body of architects related to the UN, involving the humans practice of architecture for all in the community and not for the domination and preference of the oppressor against the oppressed who are under occupation. Both institutions will ultimately have to face this urgent issue of uncontrolled violence, arrests and killings of Palestinians, since after the failed peace talks Israel will be unrestrained in its brutal colonisation, as expressed by its housing minister Uri Ariel, and its accelerating settlement expansion and annexation of the West Bank. This Motion must be placed prominently on the General Assembly agenda for all the members to decide -rather than succumb to the bullying and intimidation of the Israel lobby. The integrity and the reputation of both these institutions are at stake.

Posted date

7 June, 2014

Posted time

2:57 pm

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