Public Figures Appeal for Delay to Israel’s Membership of OECD

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 9, 2010

Contact: Ziyaad Lunat

+351 938349206

z.lunat[at]gmail.com

Public Figures Appeal for Delay to Israel’s Membership of OECD

Paris – Renowned public figures have launched an urgent appeal to countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) due to vote for Israel’s accession on Monday, May 10. The figures, who include a former vice-President of the European Parliament, a former French ambassador and a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, are calling for a delay in the process until Israel fulfills its obligations towards Palestinians under international law and abides fully with the OECD foundational principles and benchmarks.

“OECD’s mission includes promotion of world trade and economic development,” they said, adding, “Israel allows only 81 items into Gaza, while Palestinians are not allowed to export their produce. Such an inhumane policy defies logic, not to mention basic moral principles, and makes us wonder how an organization like OECD would find it acceptable for a state that has contributed to the ‘de-development’ of a whole people to join it as a member.”

Public opposition to Israel’s acceptance into the OECD has been growing louder in the weeks leading up to the vote. French activists staged a sit-in at the lobby of OECD last Thursday, as member-countries discussed Israel’s accession. A petition was delivered to General-Secretary Angel Gurría, signed by concerned citizens from all thirty OECD member countries. Civil society groups scheduled a press conference for Monday, 6:30pm at the entrance of the OECD HQ in Paris.

The statement echoes a widespread belief that the OECD is faced with two choices, “either reward Israel for its occupation of Palestinian lands and human rights abuses or send a signal that it must first abide by international law before gaining such a privilege.”

In addition, serious legal problems with state obligations under International Humanitarian Law and Geneva IV Conventions have emerged for OECD member states from the way in which they have been planning to accept Israel, including its illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian West Bank. These significant challenges have been raised to the OECD by prominent legal experts from Oxford University.

To schedule interviews or for further background, kindly contact Ziyaad Lunat at +351 938349206 or z.lunat[at]gmail.com.

The full statement may be found below.

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OECD: Delay Israel’s membership in the name of justice and peace

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) will decide in the coming days whether to welcome Israel in its ranks. Such a move, at a time when Israel continues its decades-old occupation, colonization and oppression of the Palestinian people, will impair efforts to achieve justice, freedom, dignified living and, therefore, sustainable peace for all in the region.

The OECD foundational principles include respect for human rights and international law. Israel has shown complete disregard for both. The UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza conflict, headed by Justice Richard Goldstone, issued a comprehensive, well-documented report calling for independent investigation of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity committed during the Gaza conflict. The US and most European countries regrettably voted against the report. This is in line with a long-standing policy to shelter Israel from accountability.

In the mean time, Palestinians continue to be dispossessed and uprooted from their land by an unabated growth of Israel’s colonial settlements; their houses are demolished; their residency rights in Jerusalem are gratuitously revoked; a Wall is snaking its way through their agricultural land; and military checkpoints hinder their access to their schools, jobs, hospitals and fields, depriving them of their dignity. Those who bravely oppose these brutal policies of discrimination, through popular non-violent protests, are often killed or injured in cold blood. Last week, Israeli forces shot Ahmed Dib as he protested the Israeli-imposed buffer zone inside Gaza. He died on his way to the hospital at the age of 19. Like so many of these cases, those responsible will not be brought to justice; they will enjoy total impunity. Israel has made a mockery of international law and human rights in that part of the world. The OECD, as an organization that purportedly privileges these values, should know better.

OECD’s mission includes promotion of world trade and economic development. This week an Israeli court ordered the release of details about Israel’s hold on Gaza. The document describes how Israel has set the minimum calorie intake needed by Gaza’s million and a half inhabitants, according to their age and sex. These gruesome figures show that Israel is literally implementing the policy described by Dov Weisglass, the advisor of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon when he said “the idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger.” Israel allows only 81 items into Gaza, while Palestinians are not allowed to export their produce. Such an inhuman policy defies logic, not to mention basic moral principles, and makes us wonder how an organization like OECD would find it acceptable for a state that has contributed to the “de-development” of a whole people, as characterized by Harvard University Professor Sara Roy, to join it as a member.

In 2005, Palestinian civil society called on international civil society to apply pressure on Israel until it abides by its obligations under international law. Five years on, a dynamic pro-sanctions movement has emerged, composed of activists from diverse backgrounds, artists, academics, politicians, and community and faith leaders such as myself. The movement represents universal values of peace, justice and equality for all. It calls for the end of impunity as a counterweight to the privileges governments have afforded to Israel.

Accountable to the calls of their citizens, the states that form the OECD should not once again turn a blind eye to injustices perpetrated by Israel. OECD members should bear this in mind when making their decision about Israeli accession. The choice is clear: either reward Israel for its occupation and injustice against the Palestinian people or send a signal to Israel that it must first abide by international law and respect human rights before gaining such a privilege.

Welcoming Israel will undermine the rule of law and encourage more violations. We appeal to OECD members to delay Israel’s membership in the name of justice, human dignity and comprehensive peace.

The Undersigned:

Mairead Maguire, Nobel Prize for Peace Laureate 1976, Northern Ireland

John Dugard, Former Special Rapporteur of UN on Palestine, South Africa

Luisa Morgantini, former vice-President of the European Parliament, Italy

Stephane Hessel, Ambassador, France

Ronnie Kasrils, Former Minister, writer and activist, South Africa

John Berger, Writer, UK

Judith Butler, philosopher, USA

Ilan Pappe, Historian, Israel

Ken Loach, Filmmaker, winner of Cannes festival’s Palme d’Or, UK

Michael Mansfield QC, UK

Ghada Karmi, Author and academic, Palestine

Paul Laverty, Screenwriter, UK

Naomi Wallace, Playwright/Screenwriter, USA

George Bisharat, Professor, USA

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