Jewish property professionals hit back this week against the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) after the renowned organisation voted to boycott the national Israeli association from world bodies “until it acts to resist projects on ethnically purified land”.
The RIBA Council passed the motion on 19 March, with 23 votes for, 16 against and 10 abstentions, calling on the International Union of Architects (UIA) to suspend the Israeli Association of United Architects’ membership.
It follows UIA’s Resolution 13, issued in 2005 and 2009, which “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.”
A RIBA statement read: “Since the Israeli Association has paid no regard to Resolution 13, RIBA calls on the UIA, as the international guardian of professional and ethical standards in our profession, to suspend IAUA until it acts to resist these illegal projects, and observes international law, the UIA Accords and Resolution 13.”
The motion, which was backed by proposed by Dublin-born RIBA Trustee Angela Brady and backed by more than 60 members including Will Alsop, Richard Murphy and Jeremy Till.
Brady had earlier told the Council that “refusing this motion would send a clear message to the world at large 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”.
She added: “We must act now. This has gone on too long. We’re at a tipping point. Israel’s illegal actions mean Palestine could be wiped out.”
However, in a blistering retort, industry professionals hit back against double standards, asking: “If a mirror was held up to RIBA, should we not consider it complicit if some of its members are building in China, Saudi Arabia, Russia or Israel?”
Real estate agent Derek Lewis was among the individuals mobilising Jewish professionals, and was indignant about the organisation’s vote.
“It is sad when affluent Western do-gooders think they have an understanding of the politics and history of the region and cannot understand the way those matters impinge on the present situation,” he said.
“What is really shocking is when a group of so called professionals succumb to the propaganda of the Socialist Workers Party and various so-called human rights activists, and convince themselves that they are only being fair.”
In another open letter, signed by dozens of RIBA members, the Council was asked to reconsider.
“As RIBA members, we would like to see our International Union building bridges, not abandoning them,” it read. “It is imperative not to transport the conflict in the Middle East into the Architectural profession but rather use the profession and resources available to encourage dialogue and cooperation, especially during a time of peace talks.”