Desmond Tutu portrait

Desmond Tutu calls for suspension of Israel from international architecture body

News: social rights activist and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has used his closing message at the International World Union of Architects Congress to call for the suspension of the Israeli architects association.

In a message delivered at the 25th meeting of the International Union of Architects (UIA) today in South Africa, Tutu said he believed a suspension of the Israeli Association of United Architects (IAUA) would be an "appropriate" message of support for justice in both Israel and Palestine.

"As you have gathered in Durban this week, the world news has been dominated by the carnage in Gaza," said Tutu. "I have condemned those Palestinians responsible for firing rockets at Israel, for violence is not the solution to human crises. The disproportionality of Israel's response, however, has been utterly horrendous."

"I believe it would be appropriate for the UIA to send a clear message of support for justice in Palestine and Israel by suspending the Israeli Architect's Association from the world body," said Tutu.

Tutu said that architects, as part of "civil society", had to step into a void created by politicians and diplomats, in order to persuade Israel to find a peaceful solution that is acceptable to both Israelis and Palestinians.

He also called on Israeli architects to "actively disassociate" themselves from the design and construction of "infrastructure related to perpetuating injustice, including the separation wall, the security terminals and checkpoints, and the settlements built on occupied Palestinian land."

Tutu, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his work in Africa during apartheid, was named patron of the 25th triennial meeting of the international architecture body earlier this year.

His comments come in the wake of a row triggered by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) over whether to consider the suspension of its Israeli equivalent from architecture's international governing body.

Libeskind and Meier attack UK architects over Israel boycott
This image: Israeli settlement construction courtesy of Shutterstock. Main image: portrait of Desmond Tutu by Dale Frost

The debate began in March, before the latest round of hostilities in Gaza, when the RIBA's council voted to request the suspension of the IAUI from the UIA, on the grounds that members were complicit in construction of controversial settlements on "illegally-occupied land".

A number of leading architects – including Daniel Libeskind and Richard Meier – expressed outrage over the vote.

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.

British architecture website Bdonline reported that the vote had cost the RIBA over £100,000 in lost income from venue bookings and donations.

According to UIA president Albert Dubler, the RIBA also missed the deadline for formal motion submissions for the UIA congress, meaning the motion was not on the agenda for the meeting.

Other speakers at the congress, which is held every three years in different locations, included Architecture for Humanity founder Cameron Sinclair and the Pritzker Prize-winning Chinese architect Wang Shu.

Read Demond Tutu's full closing message to the XXV International Union of Architects World Congress in Durban:


It has been my honour to serve as patron of the 25th World Congress of the International Union of Architects.

As you have gathered in Durban this week, the world news has been dominated by the carnage in Gaza. I have condemned those Palestinians responsible for firing rockets at Israel, for violence is not the solution to human crises. The disproportionality of Israel's response, however, has been utterly horrendous. Hundreds of Palestinian civilians, including women and children, among the more than 1800 dead, and much of Gaza's infrastructure – it's roads, public facilities and buildings – laid to waste. All in the name of preserving a fundamentally divisive and undignified status quo founded on the illegal occupation of Palestinian land.

Those who are opposed to violence have, over the years, developed an arsenal of peaceful tools aimed at isolating and negatively impacting on the economies of rogue states. As members of civil society, with the help of our friends abroad, we deployed these tools - boycotts, divestment and sanctions – to great effect against the apartheid state in South Africa.

The world's political and diplomatic leaders have floundered for decades in their efforts to develop a workable recipe for the people of Palestine and Israel to live in peace. It is time for civil society to step into the void, to persuade the people and leaders of Israel that it is in humanity's best interests to enter into dialogue aimed at negotiating a peaceful and sustainable solution for the crisis in the Holy Land – a solution that is acceptable to both Palestinians and Israelis.

I believe it would be appropriate for the UIA to send a clear message of support for justice in Palestine and Israel by suspending the Israeli Architect's Association from the world body.

I appeal to Israeli sisters and brothers present at the conference to actively disassociate themselves and their profession from the design and construction of any further infrastructure related to perpetuating injustice, including the separation wall, the security terminals and checkpoints, and the settlements built on occupied Palestinian land.

I implore you to take this message home: Please turn the tide against violence and hatred by joining the non-violent movement for justice for all people of the region.

God bless you.