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


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

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Graduate Sustainability Professional

Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, SC Clear

£100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire

Day In a Page

Read Next
Former N-Dubz singer Tulisa Contostavlos gives a statement outside Southwark Crown Court after her trial  

It would be wrong to compare brave Tulisa’s ordeal with phone hacking. It’s much worse than that

Matthew Norman
The Big Society Network was assessed as  

What became of Cameron's Big Society Network?

Oliver Wright
Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary