Israeli Architects Fight British Counterparts' BDS Call

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Buildings can be seen on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea in Tel Aviv, Israel, August 8, 2013.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

The Israeli architects' association has mounted a campaign in Britain to reverse the recent call by its British counterpart to suspend it from the International Union of Architects, the Jewish Chronicle reported Thursday.

Itzhak Lipovetzky of the Israeli Association of United Architects called on British Prime Minister David Cameron to use his influence in the matter, noting, “When the British prime minister was here, he promised not to boycott Israel. This was his statement in front of the Knesset.”

On March 19, the Royal Institute of British Architects called for the Israeli group's suspension on the grounds that "active collaboration of architects and planners has been central to the creation of hundreds of illegal settlements in serious breaches of the 4th Geneva Convention, which prohibits a state from moving its civilians into territories it occupies.

"Further, ‘Judaization’ projects within Israel itself, in the Negev desert and Galilee involving the dispossession of thousands of Palestinian citizens - including Bedouin - to create new Jewish settlements, are now being implemented against vociferous public protest," the institute stated. "All of these projects involve architects, planners and construction team to create them. "

The group's appeal to the IUA came a week after the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland took the same move. No response to these petitions has come from the international architects' body.

The British Council, which represents the United Kingdom abroad in educational and cultural affairs, came out against the British organization's appeal, saying it was opposed by many of the country's architects.

“Many architects rightly see this as divisive and unhelpful," said Vicky Richardson, head of the council's architecture, design and fashion division. "It's better to let architects choose who they want to work with and keep international links and communication open. Boycotts close off discussion and debate."

The Israeli Foreign Ministry has joined the effort to head off the suspension of the Israeli architects' organization, as has the Simon Wiesenthal Center. The center's Shimon Samuels wrote to the IUA arguing that the British association had “allowed itself to become the victim of an extremist group of spoilers that use tactics redolent of the Nazis' 1930s boycott campaign.”

The British architects' group denied that it is “in any way anti-Semitic,” adding that it would discuss the issue with its Israeli counterpart organization "in order to better understand its position on this important matter.”

British Prime Minister David Cameron.Credit: Reuters

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