The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), the UK’s leading architectural association, has passed a motion calling on the foremost architectural union in the world, The International Union of Architects (UIA) to suspend Israel’s Association of United Architects (IAUA) over Israel’s continued illegal settlement expansion in the occupied Palestinian territories.
The motion was based on a previous 2005 RIBA resolution condemning “projects and the construction of buildings on land that has been ethnically purified or illegally appropriated”.
Harriet Sherwood reporting for The Guardian states this is an indication the boycott movement is growing and quotes BDS spokesperson Rafeef Ziadah:
…(Riba) has demanded the suspension of … (IAUA) from the international body, saying it is complicit in the construction of illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and other violations of international law.
The former Riba president Angela Brady told a meeting of its council on Wednesday that failure to back the motion “would send a clear message to the world that we as an institution turn a blind eye or by inaction support what’s going on – land grabs, forced removals, killing the state and human rights, and reinforcement of apartheid”.
The motion – backed by 23 votes to 16, with 10 abstentions – was welcomed by the Palestinian BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement. It claims there is mounting international support for a boycott of Israel and points to an increasing number of companies disinvesting over fears of damaging their reputations.
“Architects and planners are central to Israel’s colonisation of Palestinian land and the forced displacement of Palestinian people,” said Rafeef Zaidah [sic], of the Palestinian BDS national committee. “Given the complicity of the [IAUA] in Israel’s construction of illegal Israeli settlements, it is only right that it is excluded from international forums.”
The motion, initiated by RIBA’s former president Angela Brady, already has backing from the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS).
RIBA’s Press Release:
RIBA Council yesterday (19 March 2014) passed a motion for the Institute to call on the International Union of Architects (UIA) to suspend the Israeli Association of United Architects’ membership until it acts to resist projects on illegally-occupied land and observes international law and accords.
The RIBA Council vote was passed with 23 for, 16 against, 10 abstentions.
The full RIBA motion, proposed by RIBA Immediate Past President, Angela Brady, was:
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.
The UK’s Architectural Journal (AJ) claims Brady was “angered” Israel’s association of architects hadn’t backed RIBA’s earlier resolution* nor had they condemned Israeli architects who “help sustain Israel’s policy to allow Jewish settlements in Palestinian territory”. But contrary to media reports Brady claims this is not a boycott. Architectural Journal quotes Brady:
‘It’s a great day for RIBA ethics in architecture. This was a focused motion at a key time -when the world wants this illegal building on occupied land by Israeli in Palestine to stop now – as it contravenes international law and Cameron, Obama and many others including all UN state this.
‘We have added our voice in a strong way. This was a sensitive debate for justice and to add positive value.
‘This is not a boycott this is the affirmation that in terms of the UIA code of ethics and professionalism, architects should not practice in occupied territory.
‘We as architects need to stand up for what is right. This will open the way for other similar issues to come forward.
….This is an instance where architects are culpable, perhaps they will listen to their fellow architects.’
Others see it differently. The Guardian:
Prof Baruch Baruch of the IAUA said the decision was “astonishing”. He added: “I don’t think architects can be blamed for government policies. I don’t think boycotts will help to solve any of the problems in the Middle East.”
His organisation, which includes Israeli-Arab architects, was not complicit in settlement construction. “A lot of members are against settlements and building in the West Bank. They won’t be helped by a boycott.”
Calls to boycott Israeli institutions have bitterly divided academic bodies in the UK, US and elsewhere. European governments are under pressure from trade unions, NGOs, churches and other organisations to take a tougher stand on Israeli settlement produce.
Scarlett Johanssen’s celebrity endorsement of SodaStream, which has a factory in a West Bank settlement, caused an international furore earlier this year.
*UIA’s Resolution 13 passed in 2005 and 2009 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”.