Architects' Israel boycott 'short-sighted'


World-renowned architects have added to the condemnation of the British architectural group which has adopted an anti-Israel stance.

The Royal Institute of British Architects voted in favour of a motion last month which called for the suspension of Israeli counterparts from their international union until "illegal projects" in the West Bank cease.

Daniel Libeskind, one of the world's most respected architects, criticised Riba's position. "This decision seems to be completely counter to the mission of Riba; these actions are short-sighted and appear to be an attempt to simplify a very complex issue," said the New York-based expert.

Mr Libeskind, who designed the Jewish museums in Berlin and Copenhagen, as well as the new building at the site of the former World Trade Centre in Manhattan, is a powerful voice in the industry.

Rick Bell, executive director of the New York branch of the American Institute of Architects, which has 5,200 members, said the stance was a mistake and should be withdrawn.

"As a Jew and a non-Zionist this Riba motion is regrettable and I strongly believe this is an issue that Riba should not be pushing."

Paul Finch, editorial director of the Architects' Journal and one of Britain's leading writers on architecture, said Riba had unfairly singled out Israel while ignoring the human rights record of countries including China, Russia and Azerbaijan.

The attack on the Israeli Association of United Architects was "further evidence that Israel tends to be subjected to greater criticism, and judged by much harsher standards, than other countries in the region".

He added: "I see no calls for action against institutes whose members work in countries where people still get their hands chopped off on a weekly basis for relatively minor misdemeanours."

British Jewish architects have held a private meeting with Riba executives to discuss the situation. Members of the Constructive Dialogue group - set up five years ago to combat attempts by architects to boycott Israel - met Riba president Stephen Hodder and international committee chair Peter Oborn.

Stephen Games, founder of the New Premises architecture think-tank, was part of the delegation. He said Mr Hodder had been given until the end of this week to respond "with a satisfactory plan".

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