RIBA calls for suspension of Israeli architecture body

23 March 2014

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has decided to pressure the global architecture federation to suspend Israel’s architectural body on the grounds that it is doing nothing to resist Israeli construction on illegally-occupied Palestinian land.

The RIBA Council vote on 19 March passed with 23 in favour, 16 against, and 10 abstentions.

The strongly-worded motion, proposed by RIBA’s Immediate Past President, Angela Brady, said:

"Since the Israeli Association of United Architects (IAUA) has paid no regard to the UIA resolution 13 of 2005 and 2009, the RIBA calls on the UIA, as the international guardian of professional and ethical standards in our profession, to suspend the membership of the Israeli Association of United Architects, until it acts to resist these illegal projects, and observes international law, and the UIA Accords and Resolution 13."

Resolution 13 of the UIA, whose members include professional bodies from 124 countries, states:

"The UIA Council condemns development projects and the construction of buildings on land that has been ethnically purified or illegally appropriated, and projects based on regulations that are ethnically or culturally discriminatory, and similarly it condemns all action contravening the fourth Geneva Convention."

Angela Brady, speaking in London in 2013 (Agnese Sanvito/Farrell Review blog)

Dissenting RIBA council members are reported to have pointed to human rights violations in other parts of the world, such as North Korea, also a member of the UIA.

Speaking for the IAUA, Prof Baruch Baruch said the RIBA’s decision was "astonishing", according to the Guardian newspaper.

"I don’t think architects can be blamed for government policies," he said, adding that the IAUA, which includes Israeli-Arab architects, was not complicit in settlement construction.

"A lot of members are against settlements and building in the West Bank," he said. "They won’t be helped by a boycott."

Praising Angela Brady and RIBA’s decision was the group Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine (APJP).

Its chairman Abe Hayeem, a RIBA member, said 2013 was a record year in new settlement construction in the occupied West Bank, and he accused the IAUA of showing "complete detachment and refusal to act on or condemn" the activity.

In a statement he said that "the whole real-estate enterprise is closely tied in with Israel’s political and military agenda to grab and hold as much land as possible, denying a fully sovereign Palestinian state."

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