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

SSRS Report Developer - Urgent Contract - London - £300pd

£300 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: SSRS Report Developer – 3 Mon...

KS1 Teacher

£95 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Key Stage 1 teacher require...

HR Business Partner - Essex - £39,000 plus benefits

£32000 - £39000 per annum + benefits + bonus: Ashdown Group: Generalist HR Man...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel like your sales role...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The Lord Mayor of London Fiona Woolf heads the inquiry  

Why should Fiona Woolf be expected to remember every dinner date?

Mark Steel
Several police officers walk near downtown Ottawa  

Nigel Farage on the Ottawa shooting: It could just as easily happen on the streets of London

Nigel Farage
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?