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Riba u-turn over Israel boycott: 'We got it wrong'

    Riba president Stephen Hodder (Photo: Jamesfranklingresham)
    Riba president Stephen Hodder (Photo: Jamesfranklingresham)

    British architects have reversed their call for Israeli counterparts to be suspended from an international union.

    The Royal Institute of British Architects (Riba) confirmed the u-turn today when its council adopted a new policy on international affairs.

    The move rescinded a motion which had been passed in March calling for Israelis to be barred from the International Union of Architects (UIA) in response to concerns about Palestinian human rights and Israeli settlement building.

    Riba changed its stance after lawyers warned that such a policy was outside its charitable remit and could lead to Charity Committee censure.

    The boycott is understood to have cost the institute more than £100,000 after Jewish supporters and groups pulled out of bookings to use its prestigious central London headquarters for batmitzvahs and other celebrations.

    Riba president Stephen Hodder admitted: "We got it wrong."

    But he declined to apologise formally for the upset caused to British Jews.

    Mr Hodder said: "For the Institute to have engaged in this issue in a confrontational way - by seeking suspension of the Israeli Association of United Architects from the UIA - was wrong."

    The institute accepted that the reputational damage caused by the affair would take years to recover from, but said it wanted to take positive steps to engage in foreign affairs.

    A Riba delegation travelled to Israel two months ago in an attempt to rebuild bridges with architects in the country. International division chair Peter Oborn said he had been warmly received on the trip.

    The boycott motion had proved hugely controversial, with Jewish and pro-Israel architects around the world criticising the decision.

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