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OECD tourism meeting in Jerusalem of 20-22 October 2010: - When actions speak louder than words

Thursday, 21 October 2010 11:11
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OECDDATE: 20 OCTOBER 2010
REF.: 279/2010

The decision to hold the 86th Session of the OECD Tourism Committee, and a High-Level Roundtable on tourism, starting

today in Jerusalem is a tacit ‘seal of approval’{footnote}-Netanyahu has described Israel’s accession to the OECD as a ‘seal of approval’ for Israel. See ‘OECD entrance is 'seal of approval,' Netanyahu says’, Haaretz, 10.05.10, available at http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/oecd-entrance-is-seal-of-approval-netanyahu-says-1.289422?localLinksEnabled=false{/footnote}of Israel’s annexationist policies and its violations of international law.

In 1967, Israel unlawfully extended its law and jurisdiction over occupied East Jerusalem. In 1980, it proclaimed the whole of Jerusalem its ‘complete and united capital’.{footnote}Article 1, The Basic Law: Jerusalem, Capital of Israel, 30 July 1980{/footnote} UN resolutions have condemned this illegal annexation of East Jerusalem, and have affirmed the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination in the whole of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.

The international community, as it is obliged to under international law, refuses to recognise Israel’s claims to sovereignty over East Jerusalem. As a result most countries situate their embassies in Tel Aviv and not Jerusalem.

By contrast, the OECD, in deciding to hold its Tourism Committee meeting in Jerusalem, runs the great risk of implicitly recognising the validity of Israel’s territorial claims over the whole of the city of Jerusalem. The website for the tourism meeting, which carries the OECD logo, refers to the location of the meeting as ‘in Israel,’ without making any qualification that the city of Jerusalem, as a whole, is not recognised as Israeli under international law.{footnote}See http://www.86tourismsessionisrael.org/ {/footnote}] It lists the ‘holy places’ of Jerusalem (most of which are in East Jerusalem) as being ‘in Israel’.{footnote}See http://www.86tourismsessionisrael.org/about.asp {/footnote}

Unsurprisingly, the Israeli government has interpreted the decision to hold the OECD meeting in Jerusalem as ‘a declaration of intent and a seal of approval on the fact that we have a state whose recognised capital is Jerusalem’ (comments of the Israeli Tourism Minister to Haaretz).{footnote}Comments of Israel’s Tourism Minister, Stas Misezhnikov, to Haaretz in ‘OECD chief warns: Jerusalem conference could be canceled,’ Haaretz, 9.10.10, available at http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/oecd-chief-warns-jerusalem-conference-could-be-canceled-1.318024 {/footnote}

That tourism is the subject matter of the OECD meeting is especially problematic. Israel unlawfully lays claim to the holy sites in East Jerusalem, such as the Dome of the Rock and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and seeks to prevent a Palestinian tourism industry from developing there. For instance, a bill recently introduced in the Knesset proposes to ban Palestinian residents of Jerusalem from serving as certified tour guides in the city, including in East Jerusalem, on the basis that they do not adequately represent the ‘Israeli national interest’.{footnote}‘MKs seek ban on East Jerusalem Arabs guiding in the city,’ Haaretz, 19.10.10, available at: http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/mks-seek-ban-on-east-jerusalem-arabs-guiding-in-the-city-1.319890 {/footnote} Much of Israel’s tourism industry is also geared towards the development of illegal settlement tourism, such as the establishment of resorts in sections of the Dead Sea, which are in Occupied Palestinian Territory.

The decision to hold high level discussions on the promotion of tourism in Jerusalem, within a mandate aimed at ‘helping Member countries to improve the performance of their tourism policies so as to achieve a competitive and sustainable tourism industry,’{footnote}Description of the OECD Tourism Committee’s aims on the OECD website available at: http://www.oecd.org/about/0,3347,en_2649_34389_1_1_1_1_1,00.html {/footnote}is likely to help Israel implement policies that further strengthen its hold over Palestinian sites, and its exploitation of the tourism generated by them.

At a time when Israel continues to colonise Palestinian land -  and just days after its authorisation of 238 new housing units in illegal settlements in Occupied East Jerusalem -  the attendance by member countries of the OECD meeting in Jerusalem effectively rewards Israel for its on-going and persistent violations of international law.

We commend the member countries principled enough to have cancelled their attendance at the meeting. We encourage those member countries that are attending to explicitly repudiate the comments of the Israeli Tourism Minister that the meeting constitutes an acceptance that an ‘undivided Jerusalem’ is the capital of Israel.