Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) votes to suspend Israeli architects’ association from international body


Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine & PACBI | 22 mars 2014 |

In a highly significant move, after a tough and passionate Council debate on 19 March 2014, the pillar of the UK’s architects’ professional institute, the Royal Institute of British Architects , the RIBA, passed the motion supporting action that should be taken by the International Union Of Architects’ to suspend the Israeli Association of United Architects (IAUA) from the world body of architects, the International Union of Architects (UIA). The Motion was passed by 23 votes to 16 with 10 abstentions.

The Resolution that was passed 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, the UIA Accords and Resolution 13.”

The campaign initiated and worked for over seven years by Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine (APJP) was brought to fruition by great teamwork and by the courageous action of the RIBA’s past President Angela Brady and active Council members George Oldham and Owen O’Carroll who tabled the motion signed by many RIBA members and registered architects including leading lights in the profession that included Ted Cullinan, Charles Jencks, Will Alsop, Peter Ahrends , Neave Brown and Richard Murphy.

The RIBA was pipped to the post earlier in the week by the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) the sister organization which passed a similar resolution also requested by Angela Brady, an honorary fellow of RIAS, based on the RIBA Motion, a landmark decision.

The building of illegal settlements against Article 49 of the 4th Geneva Convention which prohibits the transfer of a civilian population into territory occupied by force is considered a serious breach and thus as war crimes in which Israeli architects are closely involved. This settlement expansion has resulted in the forced removal or thousands of Palestinians and expropriation of their homes and land, and the erasure of their culture and history that has been going on since 1967 with impunity, despite repeated worldwide condemnation.

APJP’s persistent prompting of the UIA to take action on these breaches of human rights and the ethical codes of practice in the UIA Accords resulted in ‘Resolution 13’ being confirmed in 2009 to condemn such illegal projects. “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”.

This met with complete detachment and refusal to act on or condemn by the Israeli Association of United Architects (IAUA) who insisted it was only concerned with design and not the political actions of its members. Yet 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.

2013 was record year in new settlement construction, and the 2014 rate is already higher, seeing the construction of 2534 housing projects, with over 550,000 Jewish Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank. Meanwhile Palestinian live in tightly controlled enclaves enclosed by the illegal Separation Wall and segregated roads, denied permission to build and instead having their houses taken over or demolished -all reminiscent of Apartheid South Africa.

Not to have acted would have made the RIBA silent and condoning this grave misconduct of their professional associates. By sending a clear message to the IAUA, and UIA, the RIBA and the RIAS strike a blow for the integrity and ethical practice of our profession, and supports the Palestinian civil society call for sanctions against the impunity of Israel.

Abe Hayeem, RIBA

Chair, Chair Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine

For further information

Non Council members were excluded from being allowed to make a presentation at the debate –even though APJP had worked over the years to get it motivated to Council and the UIA. But this intended speech to the Council was circulated with the papers and maps tabled for the debate:


I’m Abe Hayeem, a long time member of the RIBA and chair of Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine(APJP). Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to speak. Past President Angela Brady and Councillor George Oldham must be commended in bringing this Motion to the RIBA Council.

APJP, backed by many influential architects and academics worldwide, is seeking international support for an ethical and just practice for our professions in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. We ask the RIBA to back the UIA resolution 13, made in 2009 condemning illegal projects built against the Geneva Conventions by Israel. Nearly five years later nothing further has been done at the UIA to take the required positive action to suspend the IAUA. It needs a body like the RIBA to lead with its prestige and its obvious links and responsibility as the country that gave birth to and promoted the establishment of the Zionist State in Palestine.

Over the last five years, despite the above Resolution, the situation in Israel /Palestine is at its most grave and urgent, with illegal Israeli settlements expanding daily under increasing violence in the Occupied Palestinian Territory since 1967, undermining peace talks that seem to go nowhere. Israeli settlements established in the Occupied Palestinian Territory are clear violations of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and The Hague Convention of 1907. On both sets of law and agreement on settlements, illegality is the consensus position of the international community including the European Union, the United Nations, and the United States government. This is why international action is needed, more than mere condemnation by the world powers, who it seems collude with Israel as allies.

We have approached Israeli officials and housing ministers and municipalities including most often the Israeli Association of United Architects in protest over these projects with little or no response.

The IAUA has failed to censure its members’ participation in a huge real-estate enterprise that breaches international law and considered as participating in war crimes. Israeli architects carrying out the state’s and its military agenda is almost unique. Israel’s goal remains –maximum land with minimum Palestinians. 53,000 settler homes have been built since 1993, and 15,000 Palestinian homes destroyed. Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics revealed earlier this week that 2013 was a record year in settlement construction, while 2014 has seen the beginning of construction of 2,534 housing projects – a rise of 123 percent from 2013.

As has been profusely documented by UN, Israeli and international human rights organisations, apartheid principles of separation, domination, systematic discrimination and forced transfer are enshrined in Israeli building, planning and property law, contrary to the humane ideals of architecture for all the community, and to Israel’s declared status as a democracy. These are evident in the general refusal of planning permission to Palestinians, the unrecognised villages denied services, the infrastructure of segregated roads, the Separation Wall, the suffocating matrix of control, and expropriation of Palestinian land to make way for projects exclusively for Jewish Israelis. All this under the guise of ‘security’.

Just some facts and figures:

Palestinian land has become so fragmented that a viable Palestinian State has been rendered impossible. The map of Palestine, for the indigenous Palestinians, has shrunk from being 97% of the land in 1917 to 44% in 1947 to 22% in 1967. Today there is little left that could constitute a recognizable state for the Palestinians, about 5-8% is being offered in fragmented Bantustans of what originally was Palestine.

Since 1947 Israeli ‘kibbutzim’, towns and cities have been built over the ruins of Palestinian villages, houses and heritage that were wiped from the map by a form of architectural erasure. Israeli architects and planners, knowingly or not, have become a part of this situation. Apart from the seven substandard Bedouin townships, there has never been a new city for Palestinians in Israel, while hundreds of Jewish towns, and villages have been built. Palestinians, whose population has grown seven fold, are still confined to the ‘blue-line’ restricted areas they have lived in since 1948.

After Oslo in 1993 , the West Bank was split into 3 Areas A, B and C. Area A under PA control, Area B under joint Israeli control and Area C , 62% of the West Bank, under full Israeli control, and where most of the illegal settlements are located. The West Bank is ruled under Israeli military emergency law for Palestinians whereas Israeli settlers are governed by Israeli law.

According to B’Tselem, the Israeli human rights organization, while Palestinians are generally prevented from building under a plethora of Kafkaesque laws, there are 124 official settlements for Israeli settlers in the West Bank[i] with approximately 350,000 residents in 2013. Official settlements are all authorized by the Israeli government, have approved planning schemes, and receive the same benefits and services as towns within Israel’s pre-1967 borders. Palestinians receive eight times less water than Israelis from their own aquifers. Settlement growth has more than doubled in the last decade!

In addition to official settlements there are approximately 100 “outpost” settlements located throughout the West Bank. Although even the Israeli government recognizes these communities as illegal, it provides most « outposts” with state funded protection and access to water, electricity, and other basic services.

There are an additional 14 official settlements in occupied East Jerusalem. Recent estimates indicate that as many as 300,000 settlers may live in East Jerusalem. In contrast to the restrictive planning policy followed for Palestinian communities, Israeli settlements – all located within Area C – enjoy expansive allocations of land, detailed planning, hookup to advanced infrastructure and a blind eye regarding illegal construction. According to Civil Administration data for 2000-2012, 3.5 times as many demolition orders were issued and demolitions carried out for Palestinian homes in Area C as for the case of settler homes. Since 1967, over 28,000 Palestinian homes have been demolished as illegally constructed, as they are denied planning permission to build.

Jerusalem’s Development Plan, for a ‘greater Jerusalem’ is based on reducing the indigenous Palestinian population while expanding the Jewish population. Jerusalem’s boundary has grown like an amoeba out of control – encompassing over 25 Palestinian villages, whose land is still being expropriated, leading to the protests that meet which such overpowering violence by the IDF. The controversial area E1, which connects Greater Jerusalem with Maale Adumim, Israel’s largest settler city mostly on Palestinian-owned land, is now in the process of ruthless clearance of its Bedouin Palestinians, who had moved there from the Negev in 1948. In illegally annexed East Jerusalem, Jewish settlers are being moved into the heart of Palestinian neighbourhoods like Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah, with Palestinians being evicted, with erasure of their history, to make way for grandiose projects based on 2000 year old biblical ‘history’, used as a basis to claim any home or land for Jewish settlement.

‘Judaisation’ policies in East Jerusalem, the Galilee, and the mixed cities continues, to build more Jewish-only settler neighbourhoods while preventing desperately needed housing for Palestinians. Similarly, the displacement of Bedouin Palestinians in the Negev in Israel, in the occupied West Bank and Jordan Valley continues flagrantly, despite world condemnation.Parallel to this ethnic cleansing is the government’s Prawer Plan for the Negev Bedouin -upto 70,000 will be displaced from their unrecognized villages, deprived of services , schools or clinics, their villages suffering from repeated demolitions .

It is imperative that architects internationally raise their voice not only in condemnation of these practices, as the UIA has done, but to take positive action. In solidarity with the call from Palestinian civil society suffering too long under oppression and occupation, and the denial of civil rights, we urge the RIBA not to hesitate in backing this Motion to call for the IAUA’s suspension from the UIA, due to its failure to practice in line with the UIA Accords and Resolutions and the architect’s duty to all of society. This will send a clear message that there is a price to pay for Israel’s decades long impunity in pursuing these apartheid policies, and that the humane principles of our profession cannot be ignored. One small step by the RIBA Council in supporting this motion – one landmark leap for ethics, justice and integrity for our profession.

Abe Hayeem, RIBA,

Chair APJP