Libeskind and Meier attack UK architects
over Israel boycott

| 26 comments

Libeskind and Meier attack UK architects over Israel boycott

News: US architects including Richard Meier and Daniel Libeskind have attacked British proposals to suspend Israeli architects from architecture's international governing body over the construction of settlements in the West Bank.

Meier and Libeskind have both expressed outrage at the stance of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), which has voted to suspend its Israeli equivalent from the Union of Architects (UIA).

"I find this incredible that the RIBA which I thought as being an extremely honourable institution would vote or agitate for sanctions against Israel," wrote Pritkzer Prize laureate Meier in a private letter to RIBA president Stephen Hodder.

"I and many other architects here in New York condemn this action and sincerely hope that it would be reversed."

New York-based architect Daniel Libeskind told the Architect's Journal: "I am disappointed to learn of this action, especially from such a well-regarded institution as the RIBA."

"This decision seems to be completely counter to the mission of the RIBA; these actions are short-sighted and appear to be an attempt to simplify a very complex issue."

Lance Brown, president of the American Institute of Architects' New York chapter, has also stepped into the escalating row, describing RIBA moves to isolate the Israeli Association of United Architects (IAUI) as "deeply troubling".

In an open letter to the RIBA, Brown wrote: "While many RIBA members (and AIA members for that matter) may not agree with Israeli policy with regards to the West Bank settlements, as they may also disagree with the actions of other countries around the world, it is completely antithetical to the spirit and intent of the UIA to expel a member organisation because of the actions of its local government."

Brown added: "If that policy had prevailed over the past decades the UIA may have no membership at all!"

The row began in March, when the RIBA's council voted to request the suspension of the IAUI from architecture's international governing body, the UIA, on the grounds that IAUI members were complicit in construction of controversial settlements.

The motion was originally proposed by former RIBA president Angela Brady, who claimed that the IAUA had paid "no regard" to a resolution condemning development and construction "on land that has been ethnically purified or illegally appropriated", projects based on "regulations that are ethnically or culturally discriminatory", and "all action contravening the fourth Geneva Convention".

Referring to activity in the disputed territory of the West Bank, which is claimed by both Israelis and Palestinians, the motion stated that the suspension should hold until the organisation "acts to resist projects on illegally-occupied land and observes international law and accords".

It passed with 23 RIBA council members voting in favour, 16 against and 10 abstaining. The motion will be put forward to the UIA at its next international congress in Durban, South Africa, this August. All 130 professional architecture bodies that form the membership of the union will be asked to vote on the proposed suspension.

Itzhak Lipovetzky, head of foreign relations at the IAUA, wrote to British prime minister David Cameron asking him to help prevent the body’s suspension.

"When the British prime minister was here [in March], he promised not to boycott Israel," said Lipovetzky.

IAUA president Baruch Baruch told The Jerusalem Post that the RIBA was being hypocritical in focusing on Israel while many of its own members worked in countries with no rights for women.

"This is a democratic and nonpolitical organization. There are members of the organisation who are working in the West Bank, and of course there are others who are not. There are a lot of opinions for and against," said Baruch.

Photograph of Israeli settlement construction is courtesy of Shutterstock.

  • FdoA

    It’s understandable the idea behind this action, but comes from an ambiguous criterion. If the reason for this suspension would have been clarified before, and applied systematically, this would seem as part of the role of the RIBA, not as a subjective exception.

  • jojo

    Libeskind and Meier!? Seriously? Who cares what they think! it is just a personal point of view and they are not an institution. Everyone has their own opinion, so what.

  • http://www.libertydisciple.com/ The Liberty Disciple

    In the age of the internet, ignorance of the Israeli Government’s aggression towards human beings is shrinking.

    It seems everyday someone new is speaking out against the double standards and racism of these policies.

    • DANIEL MORRIS

      WELL SAID!

  • Nick

    What the RIBA has done is entirely right and honourable. Each of its members should be proud that it won’t ignore immoral actions by certain architects.
    As for Meier and Libeskind, I can’t imagine many UK architects care. I don’t.

    • Richard Montena

      Hear, hear!

  • Stuart Maggs

    It is fantastic to see the RIBA taking a stand on an issue in which architecture plays such a key role. This is precisely what the RIBA should be doing! The RIBA is there to protect the profession of architecture, aligning yourself with an organisation linked to an internationally recognised illegal building of settlements does not seem inline with the values of the RIBA.

  • Derek_V

    I am really surprised that Libeskind would do this.
    Just kidding of course…

  • DF

    Given that architects tend to represent a relatively progressive (if politically impotent) cross-section of society, and Israel is no exception here, it seems absurdly counterproductive to exclude them as a group from any international dialogue. I also love the subtle bigotry inherent in this cherry picking of which UIA member nations are worthy of being held to a higher moral standard. I’m sure Israeli architects are honoured to have made the grade but given the extremely low salaries they suffer, I suspect most would rather be designing significant cultural buildings for the despotic totalitarian rulers of other UIA member nations who are still in RIBA’s good books.

  • Chris A.

    Once the apartheid of Palestine is over, Meier and Libeskind will join all the very important people in wringing their hands of things we should take responsibility for now.

  • TMD

    “Disputed” territories? Seriously, Dezeen? These territories are not “disputed”, they have been illegally occupied since 1967.

  • papou

    An honourable initiative from the RIBA. Let Meier and Libeskind talk…
    International organisations should one day or another take a position on Israeli violations of international laws. This is at least a good start.

  • Dani

    Any publicity, is good publicity.
    Architecture schools here in Israel aren’t full of leftist and “humane” students either, I promise you that.
    Britain is in deep s*** with its own internal conflicts with different radical sections – manage those first.

  • rob

    Yes I think you are right. In Britain I think we should take Israel as an example and use gunships and tanks to segregate groups in our population too. Maybe we could build a huge wall round Wales and then not allow trade in or out. Any protest or complaints we can suppress with brutal force. Then we can slowly start taking the best bits of Wales away from the Welsh and building compounds and settlements there?

    • Dani

      You’ve missed the point, chap.
      Its not about taking the peace bashing approach or the “occupying devil” one.
      Probably both sides failed and continue to fail as humans (at least in the Ivory Tower of divine Architects. See: RIBA).
      The point is minding the problems of your own place first.

      • Pretendgineer

        Insularity has rarely been a principle of architecture.

  • ABC

    How can the RIBA possibly vote for suspending Israeli architects from the UIA on the basis of their government’s policies, when so many other members (of both the RIBA and UIA) work with governments and organisations with at least equally questionable laws and policies? Chinese land repossession policies or Emirati construction labor practices don’t seem to have invited nearly the same level of condemnation. In fact, many RIBA members work on these projects…
    The RIBA should at least demonstrate a consistent and principled approach to such issues. Their failure to do so has left them open to accusations of prejudice and hypocrisy.

  • James

    Pfft. Libeskind and Meier are boring enough as architects. Their egos have made them ‘starchitects’, so now we have to listen to their egotistical opinions on a democratic RIBA process as well.

  • http://exurbanleague.com ExJon

    Thanks to Messrs, Meier and Libeskind for not kowtowing to the preening PC moralists in their latest repackaging of common antisemitism.

    • James

      It seems a very corrosive and counter-productive game crying ‘anti-Semitism’ every time Israeli government policy gets criticised. Being opposed to Settlements (which violate a number of UN resolutions) and engaging in racism against Jews (which is abhorrent) are two very different things. No government’s policy should be beyond question or reproach.

      Well done for slinging so much mud in one sentence though (‘preening’, ‘PC’, ‘moralist’ and the anti-Semitism card)! Do you goad nasty ‘Guardian readers’ often?

  • Noam

    It’s very easy to jump on the bandwagon (along with the majority of twits in this feed), well done to the Starchitects for standing up for what is right!

  • Pretendgineer

    I applaud this RIBA initiative and hope the RIAI support it. So long as architecture is used as a tool of oppression, this is the only step RIBA can really take to highlight their disapproval. Sectors of industry need to show their disapproval in the only ways they can, such as the academic boycott announced last year by the Teacher’s Union of Ireland. More of this please.

  • https://soundcloud.com/inhead-kay/ Kay

    Not surprising at all what Libeskind and Meier are saying – but the tone of the article and the way it is sensationalised is. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and the IAUA is powerful enough to lobby for their own interests. They should however issue an explanation on why their architects have been involved with settlement activities and take a stance (one way or another).

    Using the ‘hey just because some of us are bad doesn’t make us all bad’ is weak – use logic not sentiment to make your arguments. The fact of the matter is that the UN has declared settlement activity illegal under international law. Israeli architects are therefore breaking international law by designing structures that will support settlement growth. And by the IAUA not itself suspending these architects, it is supporting settlements indirectly. A stance from that is only natural, and a move for suspension is understandable. Funny thing when a US veto doesn’t exist – the world becomes more just…

  • Lama

    I think that especially Libeskind shouldn’t mix in political issues as many of his own projects are strongly tied to pro-Jewish matters. By speaking out here against the Palestinian state he’s making a fool out of himself.

    Having said that, perhaps these British should also raise questions about their hero Dame Hadid about her irresponsible and distant stand towards all the death construction workers at the building of Qatari football stadiums.

    But then again, I think it was one of our all time heroes Le Corbusier who praised Hitler and there are rumors he even wrote him a letter applying for Albert Speer’s job before WW2.

  • Gisela

    Well them they should ban all architects and firms which worked in Dubai with slave labour and held passports from Pakistan et al. This is beyond hypocritical.

  • Dave Cockayne

    Sue the crap out of them in an English court. This is blatant discrimination. If a crime has been committed by an individual or organisation, the place to address that is a law court.

    This amounts to extra-judicial collective punishment. We tend to take a dim view of this sort of thing.