OECD letter to New Zealand Prime Minister

To: The Prime Minister, John Key

Cc: The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Murray McCully

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is scheduled to convene in May 2010 in order to take a formal decision on Israel’s application for membership. For the reasons listed below we call upon you to cast New Zealand’s vote against Israel’s application.

Respect and compliance with international humanitarian and human rights law are requirements for membership of the OECD. The 1960 OECD Convention, for example, affirms that “economic strength and prosperity are essential for the attainment of the purposes of the United Nations, the preservation of individual liberty and the increase of general well-being.” In the “Road Map for the accession of Israel to the OECD Convention” adopted by the Council in November 2007, the Council noted that in order for Israel to accede to the OECD it must demonstrate its commitment to “fundamental values” shared by all OECD members and meet related benchmarks.

Condemned by a recent authoritative legal study in South Africa supervised by international law expert and former UN Human Rights Rapporteur, Professor John Dugard, as a state that is practising belligerent military occupation, colonisation and ethnic discrimination, Israel is neither in compliance with international law nor OECD standards.

Israel has yet to comply with the recommendations of the UN Fact Finding Mission on Israel’s ‘operation Cast Lead’ in the Gaza Strip and investigate and prosecute where needed those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity that resulted in the death of more than 1400 Palestinians, most of them civilians, in 2008/2009.

Israel maintains an illegal blockade of the Gaza Strip, which has brought hunger and economic deprivation to almost 1.5 million Palestinians. The majority of victims in the territory are refugees that Israel displaced and dispossessed 1948.

Israel fails to comply with the 2004 International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion that requires Israel to dismantle the annexation Wall it is building in the occupied West Bank.

Israel’s almost 43-year occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem contravenes Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention (1949) that states: “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” This year on a visit to an illegal Israeli settlement in the West Bank, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu proclaimed “we are here to stay”.

Regarding Jerusalem, Israel has compounded its contempt for international law. The special status of Jerusalem has been reconfirmed on many occasions; Security Council Resolution 478, for instance, reaffirms that the acquisition of territory by force is inadmissible and that Israel’s ‘basic law’ on Jerusalem constitutes a violation of international law, and that all measures taken by Israel, the occupying Power, which have altered or purport to alter the character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem, are “null and void and must be rescinded forthwith.”

On economic matters, Israel’s refusal to provide statistics that distinguish between the state of Israel and the Palestinian and Syrian territories it occupies must call into serious question Israel’s suitability for OECD membership. A draft OECD report concedes that information supplied by Israel includes not only the economic activity of its citizens inside its internationally recognised borders but also that of Jewish settlers who live in the occupied territories of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Golan Heights in violation of international law.

Israel’s accession to the OECD on such terms should be extremely embarrassing to many OECD member states and a vote by New Zealand against Israel’s application for membership is all that is necessary to put an end to the application. Many OECD members might welcome such an initiative with relief.

Leslie Bravery

Palestine Human Rights Campaign Aotearoa/New Zealand www.palestine.org.nz

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