Oct 23, 2010

#BDS: 8 countries absent from OECD tourism conference

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) Norway, Canada, Ireland, the UK, Sweden, Iceland, Turkey and South Africa will not be present at the OECD tourism conference to be held in Jerusalem this month despite objections from the Palestinian Authority, Palestinian civil society groups said Thursday.

The controversy comes amid attempts by Israel to use the conference to further its territorial claims on Jerusalem and in response to 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.

Some of the eight countries have explained their withdrawals were political in nature.

Norway and Turkey condemned comments made by Israeli politicians in the run-up to the conference. 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.

In a blow to the credibility of the conference at which officials were to discuss tourism policy, a majority of invited countries did not send tourism ministers but sent low-ranking officials instead.

The Greek delegation to the OECD told campaigners during telephone calls that no officials from Athens would make the trip and that Greece would merely be represented by a staff member from the Greek tourist information center in Tel Aviv. The Czech Republic is the only EU country to send political representation.

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