BNC calls on Trade Unions to urgently intervene with their governments to stop Israel from joining the OECD

Occupied Palestine, 22 April 2010 – In a few days Trade Unions will commemorate the achievements of the labor movement. The origins of the International Worker’s Day date back to the 1886 Chicago protests where police killed several workers marching to demand their rights. Every week, Palestinian human rights defenders march in their villages protesting Israel’s encroachment of their land. The Israeli army also greets them with live ammunition, indiscriminately killing many. Despite these crimes, Israel continues to be rewarded by the international community, this time with the prospects of membership in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) calls on Trade Unions to use the significance of May Day to intervene with their governments to block Israel’s membership to the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) until it complies with international law and OECD standards. It is expected that a final decision be reached at an OECD Council meeting on May 11 and formally ratified at a Ministerial meeting on May 28-29. Decision-making in the OECD is by consensus so it only takes one country’s dissent to block Israel’s accession to the OECD.

Israel was formally invited to join OECD in May 2007 with the condition it meet a set of criteria, including respect for human rights, commitment to peace and democracy, and conformity with principles of the UN. Even though Israel failed all of the requirements above, it’s accession to the OECD proceeded almost unhindered to the final stages. Israel is closer than ever to being accepted into the OECD, granting it a number of benefits, but most importantly, endorsing it’s oppression of the Palestinian people and it’s complete disregard of international law. Rewarding Israel with OECD membership will be seen by people of conscience around the world as a decisive and far-reaching act of complicity in rewarding and perpetuating Israel’s occupation, colonization and apartheid against the Palestinian people. Furthermore, it will irreparably undermine the rule of law and further entrench the culture of impunity that has enabled Israel to escalate its commission of war crimes and what is described by some leading international law experts as a prelude to genocide against Palestinians in the illegally besieged and occupied Gaza Strip.

Trade Unions have been in the forefront of the solidarity struggle with the Palestinian people. They were among the earliest to support the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS). Israel’s membership in the OECD is in direct violation of this call as it will award Israel a ‘normal’ status in world forums, instead of isolating it until it abides by its obligations under international law and respects Palestinian rights.

The OECD demanded that Israel carries out a number of reform measures in its labor market as a condition for membership. A November 2009 OECD report stated, “Israel has enjoyed strong economic growth over the last decade, but the benefits of this are being distributed unevenly. Poverty rates are higher than in any OECD country, which reflects the deep social and economic divides in Israeli society. On one side, there is the general Jewish population with poverty and employment rates similar to those of OECD countries. On the other, there are Arabs and ultra-Orthodox Jews, or Haredim, who have large families, poor educational outcomes and low employment rates. As a result, just over half of Arab and Haredi families live in poverty. Almost half of all children entering primary school in Israel come from one of these two groups, so profound policy changes are needed to prevent future generations of Arabs and Haredim from being scarred by the disadvantages these population groups face today[1].“ The gap in economic integration of Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel is the direct result of Israel’s institutionalized discrimination based on ethnicity, including about 30 laws that specifically privilege Jews over non-Jews.

Israel has refused to implement any meaningful reform demanded by OECD. Palestinians working for Israeli employers in the occupied West Bank have no recognized rights under Israeli law, often working without contracts and under duress. According to the 2009 survey of violations of trade union rights, “Palestinian workers in Israel, even with permits, are hounded by the authorities[2].” A recent report found that Israel stole more than $2.5bn in taxes from Palestinian workers[3]. The tax funds were transferred to the Israeli government to provide social services and benefits to its citizens.

Not only so but according to the OECD, Israel breached a key requirement of membership by including its colonies in the occupied West Bank in its economic report. By accepting Israel, OECD will give the official approval to Israel’s illegal occupation and colonization of Palestinian and Syrian territories. “The OECD is treating Israel as though it has seven million citizens when, in reality, it has 11 million subjects, of whom four million are Palestinians living under occupation,” said Israeli economist Shir Hever.

In the Road Map for the Accession of Israel to the OECD Convention, the OECD asks Israel to demonstrate its commitment to “fundamental values” shared by OECD members[4]. Israel responded by continuing to violate both human rights law and international humanitarian law, failing to abide by UN Security Council and General Assembly Resolutions, as well as by the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice, which calls for the dismantling of the Wall. Furthermore, Israel refuses accountability for its war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the Gaza invasion last year as document in Judge Goldstone’s report and is undeterred in its policy of illegal settlement construction in the West Bank.

We call upon Trade Unions to vigorously lobby their governments to stop Israel’s accession to the OECD in the few days that precede the decision on whether Israel should be granted membership to the organization. This is a crucial effort to reign in on Israel’s impunity and defend Palestinian rights.
[1] OECD Reviews of Labour Market and Social Policies: Israel: http://www.oecd.org/document/25/0,3343,en_2649_33933_44387417_1_1_1_1,00.html

[2] http://survey09.ituc-csi.org/survey.php?IDContinent=5&IDCountry=ISR&Lang=EN

[3] The Economy of the Occupation:

http://www.alternativenews.org/images/stories/downloads/Economy_of_the_occupation_25.pdf

[4] OECD, Road Map for the accession of Israel to the OECD Convention, http://www.oecd.org/LongAbstract/0,3425,en_33873108_39418575_39727716_1_1_1_1,00.html

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