OECD hires services from extremist Jewish settler organization
- Mateh Binyamin Regional Council, with jurisdiction over 42 West Bank settlements, host OECD country delegates for a tour around Jerusalem
- At least eleven countries fail to attend OECD tourism conference following international campaign. Three countries give political explanation.
- Czech Republic only EU country to send political representation to „High-level roundtable‟
- Palestinian civil society coalition describes mass boycott as „clear condemnation of Israel‟s continued ethnic cleansing of Jerusalem‟
- Boycott follows a statement made by Israeli tourism minister Stas Misezhnikov that the meeting signalled the OECD's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's undivided capital.
Occupied Palestine – Despite assurances from OECD General Secretary and member-states that delegates attending the controversial tourism conference in Jerusalem would not recognize Israel‟s illegal annexation of the city, have emerged that the organization neglected on its own standards by hiring the services of an extremist settler organization to transport delegates around the city1.
Activists protesting OECD‟s decision to organize the conference in Jerusalem were shocked to see OECD country delegates arriving at the Israel Museum on a bus owned by the “Mateh Binyamin Regional Council” (photos attached). The inscription on the bus reads “The Society for the Development of Mate Binyamin”. The council has jurisdiction over 42 illegal settlements, owns two gas stations in the West Bank, planned and built and entire neighborhood in the settlement of Na‟aleh and regularly builds infrastructure in settlements.
OECD‟s reckless actions confirm earlier warnings that it is impossible to deal with Israel without abetting with its occupation of Palestinian territories and violations of international law and human rights law, as member states have attempted. The Israeli government and societal institutions are complicit and benefit from the control regime imposed on Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Following attempts by Israel to use the conference to legitimize its annexation and ethnic cleansing of Jerusalem and in response to the strong concerns raised by Palestinian and international civil society, as well as Palestinian officials, that the conference would serve to whitewash Israel's violations of international law, several of the countries that pulled out of the conference explained their withdrawals were political in nature. Norway and Turkey condemned comments made by Israeli politicians in the run up to the conference.2 The Swedish delegation to the OECD referred campaigners to EU policy on the status of Jerusalem and hinted their stance was an attempt to assert the policy.
OECD members Canada, Finland, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Turkey and the UK told campaigners they would not attend the conference prior to the opening meetings, as did non-member South Africa, who was invited as an OECD affiliate. According to a list of attendees seen by activists, Belgium, Chile, Mexico, Slovenia and Spain were also absent. Greece was only represented by a staff member from the Greek tourism information centre in Tel Aviv.
“It is completely unacceptable that the OECD hired services from extremist Jewish settler organization - it just underlines all of the concerns raised about the OECD and its whitewashing of Israeli violations of international law,” said Hind Awwad, coordinator with the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC), a broad Palestinian civil society coalition.
“Israel has attempted to use its membership of the OECD to whitewash its violations of international law, just as Palestinian civil society warned it would. The refusal of so many countries to attend this conference is a clear condemnation of Israel‟s continued ethnic cleansing of Jerusalem. We congratulate all those countries who have declined to attend the conference, especially those who were principled enough to publicise their concerns about the conference. That countries like Canada and the UK, who are traditionally staunch defenders of Israeli Apartheid, colonialism and occupation have refused to attend the conference is a significant development,” she added.
The withdrawals came following statements made by Israel's Minister of Tourism Stas Misezhnikov that the convening of the meeting in Jerusalem – the first OECD meeting hosted by Israel since it became a member in May and only the second time an OECD tourism conference has been held outside of Paris – amounted to recognition by OECD members of Jerusalem as Israel's undivided capital.3
Notes to editors
1. Original photos of the settler organisation buses are available here: http://bit.ly/dvnbZR
2. Israel was admitted to the OECD in May 2010 despite a global campaign against the move as likely to have the impact of emboldening Israeli impunity. Campaigners argue that Israel does not meet the required economic and human rights standards of OECD membership and that OECD members who allowed Israel to join the OECD did so in violation of their own legal obligations under the Geneva IV Convention.4 Israeli economic data submitted to the OECD includes data from its illegal colonies in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and excludes the occupied Palestinian population. Israel's admission to the OECD under these terms is equivalent to OECD endorsement of Israel's policy of forced population transfer, which is a war crime under international law.5