Israeli Apartheid must not be rewarded by the OECD

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Palestinian Grassroots Anti-apartheid Wall Campaign
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Israeli Apartheid must not be rewarded by the OECD  

On 16 May 2007, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) officially invited Israel to become a member. As Palestinians, however, we question this invitation as Israel stands in clear violation of some of the core principles of the OECD.

Part of the pay-off for Israel from the 1994 Oslo Accords was a surge in international bilateral agreements, enhanced integration with the European Union (EU) and NATO in particular, and the start of participation in OECD activities. International institutions have taken advantage of the post Oslo climate to form economic and strategic alliances with Israel that entrench the occupation, alienating Palestinians from their land and rights. The increasingly friendly attitude towards Israel since 1994 is in stark contrast to the escalation of Israel’s colonization of Palestine, under which Palestinians are fragmented into five walled-in Bantustans and subjected to daily human rights abuses and land-confiscations. The OECD professes to be founded on “respect for Human Rights”, upholding the purposes of the UN and “basic values of [...] democratic pluralism”, yet the invitation of Israel into its ranks demonstrates the determination of international institutions to ignore Israel's violations of stated international norms of behaviour in the pursuit of colonial interests. If the member states of the OECD were serious about upholding its stated commitments to democratic pluralism and human rights, it must reverse this trend and refuse Apartheid Israel entry into the organization.  

The path to normalization

"International institutions have taken advantage of the post Oslo climate to form economic and strategic alliances with Israel that entrench the occupation, alienating Palestinians from their land and rights."

Israel’s creation entailed the destruction of 513 Palestinian towns and villages and the forced exodus of more than 750,000 Palestinians from their lands. From its inception, the Occupation faced global criticism. From 1948 much of the global south was unwilling to enter into relations with Israel, either in protest at the injustice visited on the Palestinians by the establishment of a new colonial state on their land, or because they feared the effective Arab League boycott. Israel also experienced difficulties in entering into multilateral agreements. Its admission to the UN was highly disputed and conditional on recognition of the Palestinian refugees’ right of return. Not only are the refugees still denied return to their homes, Israel has added continuously more crimes through its relentless expansionism and the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and the Syrian Golan heights in 1967. The Jewish state’s racist ideological basis faced ongoing international condemnation: In 1975, the UN General assembly passed Resolution 3379 declaring Zionism to be a form of racism. [1]  

The Oslo process saw a collapse in international pressure on Israel in support of Palestine. In the wake of the 1991 Madrid conference the UN revoked resolution 3379, without any officially published explanation. [2] In 1993, the Palestine Liberation Organization agreed to defer issues including "Jerusalem, refugee [and] settlements" to be the subject of ongoing final status negotiations [3] while the establishment of the PNA tied a large part of the Palestinian political leadership inextricably to the Occupation authorities. These moves have offered to many countries a green light to put aside their commitments to upholding Palestinian rights in favour of the profits to be reaped by establishing relationships with Israel.

 

The Oslo surge in bilateral agreements

Oslo had opened the path for the normalization of Israel on the global level, at a time when Israel desperately needed it for the restructuring of their economy. The result of normalization was a six-fold increase in direct foreign investment, a jump from $686 million to about $3.6 billion. [4] In 1994, Israel’s GDP grew by 6.8% and exports by 12.6%. [5] Israel’s reward for the bogus Oslo process can be observed in the sudden acceleration of successful diplomatic activity around the time of the Oslo Accords in 1994.

Figure 1: Israel's bilateral agreements [6]

Data: Israeli government figures, collated from secondary sources. Analysis: Stop the Wall

 

"Israel's strategic contribution to the OECD blinds the eyes of the member countries not only as far as human rights and international law are concerned, but also regarding their own statements on "economic ethics"."

In particular, the Oslo period also saw for the first time serious bilateral cooperation with the EU. In 1995 Israel became a member of the new Euro-Mediterranean Partnership. [7] It signed the Association Agreement with the EU in Brussels on 20 November 1995, with trade aspects coming into force in 1996. [8] This agreement forms the legal basis of EU-Israel relations, and includes provisions for dialogue and co-operation between Israel and the EU. [9] This was followed by an agreement coming into force from January 2004

liberalizing most of the reciprocal agricultural trade between Israel and the EU. [10] Israel is now a key player in the EU 'Neighbourhood Policy', despite widespread civil society campaigns to stop EU agreements with Israel and overwhelming evidence that Israel is in breach of its human rights commitments under these agreements, and that further cooperation is in fact likely to worsen the situation, undermining the stated ‘essential element’ of the EU’s external relations. [11]

The Oslo period also saw the establishment of formal relations with NATO. In December 1994 NATO launched its Mediterranean Dialogue, designed to bring the organization into closer contact with seven "Mediterranean partners", including Israel, and to strengthen their capacity to dominate and control the Arab world under the cover of the "war on terror" to be unleashed a few years later. NATO agreed to "effective intelligence sharing", "maritime cooperation" and "border security" [12] and in April 2001, as Israel engaged in its brutal suppression of the second Intifada, Israel became first Mediterranean Dialogue country to sign an individual co-operation programme with NATO, for the protection of classified information for 'security purposes'. [13] The relationship between Israel and NATO has continued to deepen, with joint military exercises, enhanced information sharing and very public demonstrations of support, including the invitation of Amir Peretz, responsible for Israel's assault on Lebanese people, to NATO in January 2007. [14] NATO clearly values Israel's expertise in occupation and suppression of popular Palestinian resistance movement. [15] Further, as it is a bilateral agreement, Israel benefits from association with the pre-eminent military power without the constraints of multilateralism.

"Ignoring crimes and abuses in order to maintain a strategic and economic alliance is becoming increasingly important for the maintenance of the neo-colonial approach."

Israel also began to participate in OECD activities in 1996. It is now member or observer on more than fifty OECD committees, working groups, networks and task forces. Israel’s strategic contribution to the OECD blinds the eyes of the member countries not only as far as human rights and international law are concerned, but also regarding their own statements on “economic ethics”. While it is doubtful how much the economies of other member countries and applicants are contributing to “general well-being”, few countries mock this precept so openly as Israel, which divides economic benefits strictly along religious, racist lines – for the benefit of Jews only. Palestinians with Israeli citizenship are the poorest sector of society and the worst provided with social services; Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are systematically starved and deprived of basic rights; Palestinian refugees are stripped of everything they possessed. The OECD’s principle that “broader co-operation [should] make a vital contribution to peaceful and harmonious relations among peoples of the world” stands in contradistinction to Apartheid Israel’s war economy. Israel's illegal occupation and the resulting system of closure, siege and ghettoization has made movement of goods impossible and ruined the Palestinian economy: its policies are clearly incompatible with the OECD’s assertion that members’ should “contribute to sound economic expansion in Member as well as non-member states in the process of economic development” and “pursue their efforts to reduce or abolish obstacles to the exchange of goods and services and current payments.”

The surge in international agreements and improvement in relations during or in the immediate aftermath of the Oslo Accords is no coincidence. For governments and international institutions the “peace process” acted as a tool to justify increased engagement with Israel, in spite of the escalation of assaults on Palestinian lives, homes and land as soon as the ink was dry on the Oslo Accords, which demonstrated the regime’s real agenda for Palestine. Not even the outbreak of the second Intifada nor the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice pronounced in 2004 stopped this dynamic. The court declared the Wall and Israel’s settlement policy as illegal, cautioned the international community from supporting the Wall and the illegal regime created by it and called for appropriate measures to stop Israel’s violation of the IV Geneva Convention. Yet, the cynicism of the international institutions persists to this day, epitomized by the OECD’s decision to invite Apartheid Israel to apply for membership. Ignoring crimes and abuses in order to maintain a strategic and economic alliance is becoming increasingly important for the maintenance of the neo-colonial approach.

The Oslo process has now been comprehensively exposed as sham, necessitating new approaches to maintaining the illusion of a ‘peace process’; in particular the Road Map, increased bilateral meetings between Olmert and Abbas; the Arab Peace Initiative and most recently the International Peace Conference called for by George Bush. The outcome has been the retention of Israel in the ranks of the international community, and a fig leaf for increased co-operation with Israel. The PA, the so-called ‘partner for peace’, is a willing participant in this charade while the land confiscations and human rights abuses escalate in Palestine.

Implications for Israel's invitation to the OECD

"Further integration will enhance Israel's clout in global decision making processes and perpetuate the myth that Israel is a legitimate and respectable international economy built on principles of respect for democracy, human rights and international law."

The invitation of Israel to join the OECD has the potential to mark a new chapter in Israeli engagement with international institutions: an important new multilateral arrangement cementing the bilateral agreements already in place with the EU and with individual nations.  

Israel views its accession to the OECD as an important step in integration into the global economy. Further integration will enhance Israel's clout in global decision making processes and perpetuate the myth that Israel is a legitimate and respectable international economy built on principles of respect for democracy, human rights and international law.

Some may argue that the entry of Israel into the OECD might bring about an improvement in their approach to Palestine. This is wishful thinking. Israel has been a member of the UN since 1949, and it has not led to any improvement in their co-operation with UN 69 resolutions or principles, nor any mitigation of their policies of occupation and apartheid towards the Palestinian people. Neither has EU engagement, despite ongoing campaigns by European civil society against the Israel-EU Free Trade Agreement, echoed by the highly critical reports of the Annual Review on Human Rights in EU-Israel Relations. In other cases, Israel argues that the situation in the West Bank and Gaza strip is not relevant to their submissions to international institution, on human rights or on other issues. [16] It is not likely that their approach to the OECD will be any different: nowhere in its document Israel: Ready for the OECD does it mention Palestine. [17]  

"It is not good enough to profess a belief in plural democracy and human rights while extending an invitation to an Israel that tramples over Palestinian lives, stamps on democratic rights and flouts international agreements."

When any other form of engagement has so apparently failed as in the case of Apartheid Israel, global civil society must take up the call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel. While civil society in the West has an opportunity to begin a new era of international pressure for Palestinian rights, those in the global south need to look back only two decades to find again the principles and tools of effective solidarity with Palestine. The OECD must be held accountable. It is not good enough to profess a belief in plural democracy and human rights while extending an invitation to an Israel that tramples over Palestinian lives, stamps on democratic rights and flouts international agreements. Israel's accession to the OECD must be stopped.  

For more information material about OECD membership for Apartheid Israel,
Please see: Stop Apartheid Israel from joining the OECD!.

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[1] UN General Assembly Resolution 3379 November 10, 1975
http://daccessdds.un.org/doc/RESOLUTION/GEN/NR0/000/92/IMG/NR000092.pdf?...

[2] UN General Assembly, 74th plenary meeting, Elimination of racism and racial discrimination, 16 December 1991
http://www.un.org/documents/ga/res/46/a46r086.htm

[3] Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements (13 September 1993)
http://electronicintifada.net/bytopic/historicaldocuments/61.shtml

Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (28 September 1995)
http://electronicintifada.net/bytopic/historicaldocuments/64.shtml

[4] G. Feiler, From boycott to economic cooperation: The Political Economy of the Arab Boycott of Israel (London: Frank Cass, London), p. 287.

[5] Op cit. Feiler, p. 255.

[6] Government of Israel, Israel Bilateral Agreements, available from www.israel-mfa.gov.il/MFA/Treaties/ (accessed 13 August 2008). Note that this data is in aggregate form it does not differentiate between relatively minor bilateral agreements (for example regarding amateur radio transmissions) and significant agreements on military or trade co-operation. It does however give a powerful illustration of the surge in diplomatic activity over the 1993-1999 period.

[7] EU, Commission Staff Working Paper: European Neighbourhood Policy: Country Report - Israel (12 May 2004), http://ec.europa.eu/world/enp/pdf/country/israel_enp_country_report_2004...

[8] EC Delegation to Israel, The EU and Israel: A History of Interdependence and Cooperation, http://www.eu-del.org.il/english/Content/Brochure/8.asp (accessed 13 August 2008)

[9] Op cit. EU, Commission Staff Working Paper

[10] Op cit. EU, Commission Staff Working Paper

[11] The Third Annual Review on Human Rights in EU-Israel relations finds that: “The Review considers whether the EU will find it necessary to apply such conditionality more carefully and consistently in the expanded relationship with Israel that can be built under the ENP.

“The result of an overly accommodating approach to the application of conditionality is negative socialisation.

“The Review argues that when the international obligations in question are considered essential to protecting and implementing fundamental human rights, such negative socialisation can reasonably be expected to contribute to increasing the likelihood, frequency and severity of human rights violations. This would represent a failure of the EU itself to comply with the 'essential element' of its external relations, which must be 'based on respect for human rights', and must also promote their respect in third countries.”

EU, Third Annual Review on Human Rights in EU-Israel Relations: Accommodating to the ‘special’ case of Israel 2005-2006 http://www.diakonia.se/documents/public/IHL/Publications/EMHRN_EU_Israel...

Support for this view has come from some surprising quarters, including the UK’s International Development Select Committee, an influential Parliamentary body which in February 2007 recommended that the British government call for the suspension of the EU Trade Association Agreement with Israel until it comes into compliance with its obligations under the treaty. The Committee states that: “There is an incongruity in allowing Israel to continue to benefit from a type of agreement from which Israel prevents Palestinians benefiting. Continued dialogue with Israel is certainly necessary but the Association Agreement appears to give tacit assent to the restrictions on movement and access which Israel imposes on the Palestinians. The UK should urge the EU to use the Association Agreement with Israel as a lever for change and to consider suspending the Agreement until there are further improvements in access arrangements.” House of Commons International Development Committee, Development Assistance and the Occupied Palestinian Territories: Government Response to the Committee's Fourth Report of Session 2006–07 (27 March 2007), http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200607/cmselect/cmintdev/430/...

[12] NATO, “NATO celebrates 10th anniversary of Mediterranean Dialogue” (12 December 2004) http://www.nato.int/docu/update/2004/12-december/e1208c.htm

[13] NATO, “Israel signs security agreement with NATO” (24 April 2001), http://www.nato.int/docu/update/2001/0423/e0424b.htm

[14] BBC, “Nato-Israel partnership boosted” (24 February 2005), http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/4295139.stm
NATO, “NATO ships visit Elat, Israel” (21 March 2005), http://www.nato.int/shape/news/2005/03/i050321a.htm

Jerusalem Post, "IDF Troops Train with NATO for First Time" (July 22, 2005)

NATO, “Visit to NATO by the Defence Minister of Israel” (31 January 2007), http://www.nato.int/multi/photos/2007/m070131b.html

[15] According to NATO, the Israeli contribution "...covers many areas of common interest, such as the fight against terrorism and joint military exercises, where Israel’s expertise is very much valued." NATO, NATO Public Diplomacy Conference in Israel (23 October 2006)

[16] In their 2007 submissions to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination they refused to make any reference to these territories, despite being asked to do so United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, 19th February to 9th March 2007, CERD/C/ISR/CO/13

[17] Israel's submission to the OECD, Israel: Ready for the OECD www.oecd.gov.il/Oecd_docs/book1_all.pdf

 

 

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