BNC releases Memo and Recommendations for OECD countries

You can download the memo here

Israel’s accession to OECD: encouraging impunity, rewarding war crimes

1. OECD’s fundamental values include respect for human rights, commitment to democracy and adherence to the purposes of the United Nation[1].
2. In the “Road Map for the accession of Israel to the OECD Convention” 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[2].
3. Israel is not in compliance with OECD standards and benchmarks.
4. Israel exerts its sovereignty and effective control over four million Palestinians living under an occupation in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Under the Geneva Conventions Israel is fully responsible for the economic wellbeing of Palestinians. Israel is also responsible for at least three million Palestinian refugees living in exile outside Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, whom it has expelled and made stateless in violation of international law. Israel’s denial of durable solutions and reparations keeps millions of Palestinian refugees in a legal limbo (statelessness), undermining their economic wellbeing for decades.
5. Israeli economist Shir Hever said: “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. If they were included in the figures submitted to the OECD, Israel would have to be refused accession because of the enormous disparities in wealth.[3]”
6. Israel is not in compliance with its obligations under international law.
7. Israel has yet to comply with the recommendations of the UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict and investigate and prosecute where needed those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
8. Israel has yet to lift its illegal blockade of the occupied Gaza Strip which has brought to the brink of starvation almost 1.5 million Palestinians.
9. Israel has yet to dismantle its illegal Wall in the occupied Palestinian West Bank in accordance with the 2004 International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion.

10. The High Contracting Parties of the Fourth Geneva Convention have the legal responsibility to ensure Israel’s compliance with the Convention. The UN General Assembly Resolution endorsing the 2004 International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion on the Wall affirms that member states should not render aid and assistance to the unlawful situation created by Israel in the occupied Palestinian territories.

11. In its assessment of the Israeli social and economic situation, the OECD said that Israeli politics are defined by “policy agendas rooted in ethnicity and religion. [4]” Israel has over 30 laws that privilege Jews over non-Jews thus It cannot be considered a “pluralist democracy”, a key requirement for membership. OECD did not condition Israel’s accession on the annulment of these racist laws, therefore legitimizing them. As a result, half of Israel’s Arab citizens are living below the poverty line, a rate three times higher than among Israeli Jews, and that on average Arab citizens earn salaries that are one-third less than Jews.

12. OECD members should be committed to “free market” principles. The economy of the Occupied Palestinian Territories is part and parcel of the Israeli economy. A recent World Bank report states that “restrictions on the movement of goods have crippled [Palestinian] private sector activity[5]”. Israel maintains over 500 checkpoints that restrict freedom of movement of Palestinians. Israel has blocked the implementation of the EFTA-PLO agreement on the promotion of trade. Palestinians in Gaza cannot export their produce due to the Israeli imposed siege. Israel is an obstacle to “free market” and uses its economic hegemony to punish Palestinians.

13. Israel has breached one of the organization’s key requirements on providing accurate and transparent data on its economic activity. Data submitted by Israel to the OECD include illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank. By including the settlements, the OECD will be giving it a seal of approval. By excluding the settlements, the OECD will be ignoring the reality of occupation. Either way, the OECD treats as “non-existent” the millions of Palestinians under Israeli sovereignty.

14. Israel does not abide by the core principles of environmental policy demanded for Israel’s accession. The policy reforms implemented by Israel do not apply to all territories under Israel’s sovereignty, namely the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Israel dumps waste and pollutants into the land and sea of Gaza and the West Bank; contaminating Gaza’s drinking water and reducing the territory to the point where Amnesty International has declared 95% of its drinking water unfit for human consumption; destroying acre after acre of arable farm land to build the illegal separation wall and illegal settlements; and setting ablaze and uprooting olive groves and other orchards.

15. OECD maintains stringent rules for member countries in regards to chemical management and safety. Israel violates the spirit of these rules by maintaining a large stockpile of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. These are not independently supervised or regulated and are recklessly used against Palestinians e.g. depleted uranium, white phosphorous.

16. While Israel approved legislation making bribery of foreign officials illegal, Israel’s Defense Ministry has the power to censor the results of any investigation of bribes paid by Israeli companies to foreign officials on the ground that the publicity could harm Israel’s national interests. The censor can bar publication and is under no obligation to tell the authorities about the investigations. Bribery mainly takes place in Israel’s multi-million dollar defense industry. Israel ranks 32nd on Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index

17. Considering the above, 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.

Recommendations:

1. Add to the agenda of the upcoming council meeting discussion about the suitability and desirability of Israel’s membership to OECD, namely the extent to which it represents key values of the organization (international law, human rights, democracy, rule of law and open markets)
2. Condition Israel’s membership on the fulfillment of its obligations towards Palestinians under international law
3. Reconsider economic data submitted by Israel to reflect the full picture of Israel’s economy, including economic figures for non-citizen Palestinians under Israel’s sovereignty. This will uncover massive discrepancies in income and standards of living that disqualifies Israel from membership
4. Overall recommendation: delay Israel’s accession until it abides by international law and respects human rights, allows for Palestinian self-determination, ends discrimination against its non-Jewish citizens, provides durable solutions and reparations to Palestinian refugees and allows for unhindered economic development of Palestinians

[1] Convention on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (1960)

[2] Road Map for the accession of Israel to the OECD Convention (2007)

[3] Is Europe Planning Seal of Approval for Israeli Settlers? http://www.jkcook.net/Articles3/0457.htm

[4] OECD, 2010a, OECD Economic Surveys: Israel, Volume 2009/21-January 2010, Supplement No. 3, OECD Publishing

[5] World Bank (2010) Checkpoints and Barriers: Searching for Livelihood in the West Bank and Gaza.

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