Aug 18, 2010

Green tourism conference in Jerusalem – a JfJfP letter in protest

Dear Mr Giguere

It is with amazement and alarm that we note the decision of the OECD to hold their conference on “Industry and Policy Approaches to Foster Green Growth in Tourism” in Jerusalem in October.

The choice of Jerusalem is contentious for many reasons.

In 1968, a year after the 1967 war, Israel annexed East Jerusalem . The Security council has made it crystal clear that this annexation is illegal.

Jerusalem is the centre of economic and social development of the occupied Palestinian territories. The cities surrounding Jerusalem developed as suburbs connected to Jerusalem as the centre of trade and commerce and by severing Jerusalem from its hinterland, the Israeli state has effectively acted to undermine the economic development of occupied Palestine and of the successful implementation of the two state solution.

Israel has confiscated Palestinian land for exclusive Jewish use and has expropriated even more to build the separation wall. Over the course of the occupation Israel has confiscated roughly 86.5% of the total land area of occupied East Jerusalem , in spite of UN Security Council resolution 2253 ordering Israel to desist from taking any action to alter the status of Jerusalem.

The Geneva convention to which Israel is a signatory prohibits demolition of property other than that necessary for military operations. However, rather than obeying the strictures of the Geneva conventions, Israel prioritises its own planning law, under which building permits are demanded. It is almost impossible for Palestinians to obtain building permits, so if they do build, their homes are subject to demolition. Recently Israel has begun to expropriate Palestinian houses for Jewish only settlement in the interests of Judaising Jerusalem.

In short Israeli control of Jerusalem has these salient features:

1. Discrimination in land expropriation, planning, and building, and demolition of houses;
2. The revocation of residency and social benefits of Palestinians who stay abroad for at least seven years, or who are unable to prove that their centre of life is in Jerusalem;
3. The unfair division of the budget between the two parts of the city, with harmful effects on infrastructure and services in East Jerusalem. Government expenditure on medical and educational services as well as infrastructure (incl. roads, sewage & water connections) is lower in East than West Jerusalem , despite needs in the East being far more pressing
4.The granting of privileges, including residency, in Jerusalem to migrant Jews from abroad, rights denied to the indigenous Palestinian inhabitants of Jerusalem.
The OECD makes its mission clear:
OECD brings together the governments of countries committed to democracy and the market economy from around the world to:

* Support sustainable economic growth
* Boost employment
* Raise living standards
* Maintain financial stability
* Assist other countries’ economic development
* Contribute to growth in world trade

Consideration of the flagrant breaches of international law and the violation of the rights of the indigenous Palestinians within Jerusalem makes the decision of the OECD to hold a tourist conference in this contested city hard to comprehend. It is clear that Israel acts to undermine Palestinian economic growth, denies them employment, lowers their living standards and increases what many people call ‘de-development’.

In effect what the OECD is doing is providing sanction for a serial abuser of international law, one that commits racial discrimination and ethnic cleansing. This unfortunate decision will encourage others to visit the city, to believe in Israel’s mendacious justification for annexation and will encourage inequity.

Israeli politicians regard Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel . To meet anywhere in the city could thus be seen as signifying unqualified approval of Israel ’s annexation of Eastern Jerusalem . The OECD is acting against its mission statement and thus colluding with this illegal takeover. Surely that is not what those who established the organisation had in mind. We would urge the organisation to reflect and even at this late stage find another venue.

Yours sincerely

Diana Neslen
P O Box 46081, London W9 2ZF

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