Open letter to OECD regarding decision to host tourism conference in Jerusalem
Your Excellency Angel Gurría
Secretary General of OECD
Cc:OECD Member States
The PalestinianBoycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC), a broad coalitionof the largest civil society political parties, mass organizations, networks,and trade unions, strongly condemns the decision by OECD to hold its annualTourism Committee Conference in October in Jerusalem-the first time theconference is held outside Paris. The conference comes at a time when Israel isgradually ethnically cleansing the Naqab (Negev) desert, the Jordan Valley, andoccupied East Jerusalem, as in the neighborhoods of Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan,and continuing its construction of its illegal colonial settlements and wall onoccupied Palestinian land. Holding the conference in Jerusalem, in spite ofthis reality of Israel's grave violation of international law, will be regarded by an overwhelming majority ofPalestinians, and people of conscience around the world as a decisive andfar-reaching act of complicity in rewarding and perpetuating Israel'soccupation, colonization and apartheid against the Palestinian people. It willfurther entrench the culture of impunity that has enabled Israel to escalateits commission of war crimes and what is described by some leadinginternational law experts as a prelude to genocide against Palestinians in theillegally besieged and occupied Gaza Strip. The BNC, therefore, calls upon the OECD Tourism Committee torespect international law and relocate the conference out of Israel.
Condemnedas a state that is practicing occupation, colonization and apartheid by arecent authoritative legal study in South Africa supervised by internationallaw expert and former UN human rights rapporteur, Prof. John Dugard, Israel isnot in compliance with international law and OECD standards and benchmarks.Israel has yet to comply with the recommendations of the UN Fact FindingMission on the Gaza Conflict and investigate and prosecute where needed thoseresponsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity that resulted in thedeath of more than 1,400 Palestinians, most of them civilians, in the winter of2008/9. Israel has yet to lift its illegal blockade of the occupied Gaza Stripwhich has brought to the brink of starvation almost 1.5 million Palestinians,most of whom are refugees Israel had displaced and dispossessed during the 1948Nakba. It has yet to dismantle its illegal Wall in the occupied PalestinianWest Bank in accordance with the 2004 International Court of Justice AdvisoryOpinion. Israel has yet to end its 43-year-old occupation of the West Bank,including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, reverse its colonial enterpriseand release Palestinians detained and imprisoned. It has yet to transform itspolitical and legal system in order to provide reparation for millions ofPalestinian victims, including return for the refugees, and allow full andequal rights for its Palestinian citizens. Only then can Israel be treated as apluralist democracy, like other OECD states.
Israel’songoing blockade of essential food, health, educational and constructionsupplies is not only immoral; it is a severe form of collective punishment, awar crime that is strictly prohibited under Article 33 of the Fourth GenevaConvention. It is inducing mass poverty, water contamination, environmentalcollapse, chronic diseases, economic de-development and hundreds of deaths.
Thisthree-year old illegal siege against 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza has beensquarely condemned by leading legal experts, including UN Special Rapporteur onHuman Rights in the oPt, Prof. Richard Falk, who described it as constituting"slow genocide."
Israelis blatantly working to “Judaize”Jerusalem through policies of ethnic cleaning, including home demolitions, residencypermit revocation, settler takeovers of Palestinian housing, restrictions onfreedom of movement and forced fragmentation through the Apartheid Wall, permitsystems, illegal settlement construction and land confiscation. Rather thancondemning such illegal practices under international law, the OECD conferencewill cement Israel’s hold on occupied Jerusalem, and will be perceived as astamp of approval of Israel’s violations of international law in Jerusalem andelsewhere.
Internationally, tourism isovertly deployed by Israel to ‘rebrand’ the state as an attractive holidaydestination, and to cover up its occupation, colonization and apartheidpolicies. Last June, Israeli authorities handed demolition orders to 22residences in the Silwan neighborhood in East Jerusalem as part of a widerscheme to demolish houses and turn the area into an “archeological park” and“tourism center”.Extremist settler organization ElAd, supported by Israeli AntiquitiesAuthorities, has exploited -- unscientific -- archeology to lay claim to thearea and now promotes tourism for religious Jewish settler fanatics at theexpense of the local Palestinian population who live in fear of constantviolent harassment.UN Special Rapporteur Richard Falk said of the plan that "internationallaw does not allow Israel to bulldoze Palestinian homes to make space for themayor’s project to build a garden, or anything else," adding that the plan"should be seen within the context of Israel’s persistent, systematic approachto driving Palestinians out of East Jerusalem". Not only so, but inFebruary, Israel defied world opinion and international law, declaring twoPalestinian sites in the West Bank as “national heritage” as part of itsunilateral strategy to annex them to Israel. These Israeli cultural crimes must beunderstood in the context of decades of Israeli crimes including the erasure ofover 500 Palestinian villages in 1948, the destruction of the Moroccan Quarterin the old city of Jerusalem in 1967, and the more recent desecration of thehistoric cemetery of Ma'man Allah ("Mamilla") in West Jerusalem forthe purposes of building a so-called “Museum of Tolerance”.
Israeli Tourism MinisterStas Misezhnikov said “Israel’s joiningthe OECD is of great importance in terms of building a positive image for thecountry, the positive image gained will have an effect on the tourist’s choiceto visit Israel, and it will attract foreign investors to the country,including, among others, investors in tourism."The OECD showed that it is willing to turn a blind eye to Israeli war crimes,bend its own rules and ignore international law when it accepted Israel as amember last May.Organizing this tourism conference in Israel sends once again a strong signalthat OECD members are perfectly willing to be complicit with Israel’soppression of Palestinians and actively support Israel’s PR efforts towhitewash its colonial and apartheid policies.
The OECD oughtto respect its own obligations under international law and relocate thisill-conceived conference out of Israel. Failing to do so will further underminethe organization'salready dismal respect for human rights andthe international rule of law.
In deep concern,
The Palestinian Boycott,Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC)
 See, for example, UN Special Rapporteur, Prof. John Dugard, Human Rights Situation in Palestine and other Occupied Arab Territories (A/HRC/7/17, January 2008).
 Why 88 Arab homes received eviction notices http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2009/0226/p04s01-wome.html
 The dig dividing Jerusalem http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/may/26/jerusalem-city-of-david-pale...
 West Bank sites spark heritage row http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2010/02/20102211933459711.html
 OECD selects Jerusalem to host its tourism conference http://www.alternativenews.org/english/index.php/topics/news/2676-oecd-s...
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