Gove's reaction to the censure of Israeli architects involved in illegal construction in the West Bank was to be expected

The Education Secretary's sensitivity on Jewish issues is nothing new

Share

The Education Secretary seems to thrive on strife. If it’s not the teachers, it’s parents, critics of academies or free schools, or any critics for that matter.

His adversaries – and even his own civil servants - fear his cutting wit and influence on Number 10, while his supporters hope he may be moving to that address himself before too long.

He took on architects early on in his career. In February 2011, at a Free Schools conference in London, he said: “We won’t be getting Richard Rogers to design your school, we won’t be getting any ‘Award winning architects’ to design it, because no-one in this room is here to make architects richer.”

Fair enough, some may say, although it annoyed Lord Rogers among others, prompting the architect to write in defence of the important role played by well-designed buildings in helping to deliver effective education.

But his latest assault has a political dimension.

The Royal Institute of British Architects has voted to censure Israeli architects because of their continuing involvement in construction of illegal settlement in occupied West Bank.

The measure was instigated by RIBA past president Angela Brady, on the basis that the Israeli architects’ association has long been in breach of the International Architect's Association’s 2005 Resolution condemning the building of settlements on occupied land.

Gove has attacked the RIBA for showing ‘selective outrage’ by agreeing to lobby the International Union of Architects (UIA) to suspend the membership of the Israeli. At an event organised by the Jewish Chronicle he questioned why it had not taken a similar stance against Syria and China.

Brady replied: “This is not about China or anywhere else and I’m not talking about who is worse than who. This is not a boycott. It is affirmation that architects should not practice in occupied territories; it breaks international law and the UIA’s own code.”

Gove’s move may have backfired, as the RIBA has now been defended by a group of 65 Jewish and non-Jewish supporters - including artist Antony Gormley, Maggie’s Centres founder Charles Jenks and film director Mike Leigh – who said the attacks were ‘politically motivated smears’. A spokesman for the group said: “We are aware of the difficulties liable to be faced by any body which voices public criticism of the Israeli government.”  

They have published a petition in support of the RIBA. It says: “We understand that you have taken this action because Israeli architects have been closely involved in the design and building of illegal settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and also in the construction of the Apartheid Wall that runs deep into the illegally occupied area.

“Many people, Jewish and non-Jewish, architects and non-architects, will be heartened by this example of a respected body taking up its ethical and professional responsibilities in so resolute a manner.”

Gove’s sensitivity on Jewish issues is not new. In May 2012 he launched a blistering attack on the AQA examination board after one of its GCSE religious studies papers asked candidates to explain "why some people are prejudiced against Jews".

An AQA spokesman said that “In many exam questions 'explain' is used to mean 'give an account of', not ‘justify’. For example, in the past we have asked students to explain why some people commit crimes. No one has accused us of condoning criminal activity”.

But Gove insisted that “to suggest anti-Semitism could ever be explained was insensitive and, frankly, bizarre."

So much for freedom of expression, or even of thought.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

£40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

£17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Army reservist Corporal James Dunsby  

Whether it’s in the City, the Army or at school, this ritual sadism has to stop

Chris Blackhurst
Caitlyn Jenner, the transgender Olympic champion formerly known as Bruce, unveiled her new name on Monday  

'I'm the happiest I've been for a long time and I finally know where I fit': Here's why role models matter for trans kids

Susie Green
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific