Palestinian civil society slams OECD over Israel’s accession

Palestinian civil society represented by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC), a wide coalition of the largest Palestinian mass organizations and trade unions, issued a strong condemnation of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) decision today to welcome Israel as a member of the organization at its ministerial meeting to take place on 27-28 May. A BNC spokesperson commented: “By accepting Israel, OECD member countries show a blatant complicity with Israeli war crimes, destroying the very foundations of international law. Rewarding Israel entrenches its impunity and dashes any realistic hope for achieving a just peace in the region.”

The OECD’s decision is the culmination of a process that began in 2007 whereby Israel had to pass a number of technical tests and implement reforms to be eligible for accession. According to the “Road Map for the accession of Israel to the OECD Convention,” it was required to demonstrate commitment to the “fundamental values” of the OECD. The BNC had released a paper showing how Israel has consistently breached these requirements, making it ineligible for accession (see A BNC spokesperson commented: “Officials of OECD member states are perfectly aware that Israel does not comply with any of the objective criteria put forth. Yet, they have decided to single out Israel, elevate it above all these objective criteria, reward it for its defiance of the OECD, not to mention of international law, and make the entire accession process a farce.”

In the run-up to the OECD decision, the BNC coordinated with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), unions and other civil society actors in all 30 OECD member states as part of an intensive campaign to oppose Israel’s membership for its persistent and systematic violations of the rights of the Palestinians, especially after its atrocities in Gaza in 2008-09, described as “war crimes” in the UN report authored by Justice Richard Goldstone and his colleagues.

Most important for OECD member states should be the fact that they themselves are violating their own legal obligations, in the moment they accept Israel into the OECD as currently agreed upon. The PLO, supported by renowned international law experts, presented to the OECD and its member states a legal opinion that highlights this serious legal matter and requested that it be clarified prior to Israel’s accession. Governments are yet to respond.

Having accepted economic data from Israel that include its illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank, the OECD is, in legal terms, considering Israel’s accession into the OECD as a state and an Occupying Power. The Fourth Geneva Convention (GCIV) requires that Israel as an Occupying Power ensures the economic well-being of the occupied Palestinian population. Under the Convention, Israel’s settlements in the occupied West Bank constitute population transfer, which is defined as a war crime. OECD member states are under legal obligation to ensure compliance with the Fourth Geneva Convention under international humanitarian law and the law on state responsibility. Accepting economic data of the illegal settlements makes it absolutely required to ensure that the protected Palestinian population is also included in this data. Under the convention, Israel’s settlements in the occupied West Bank constitute population transfer which is defined as a war crime.

Moreover, accepting Israel into the OECD based on economic data which include the illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank but arbitrarily exclude the four million Palestinians living there constitutes a direct and blatant breach by the OECD and member states of their legal obligations under both bodies Fourth Geneva Convention international law. OECD member states as High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention would thereby endorse and become complicit in Israel’s war crime of population transfer.

“The only legally sound course of action for OECD governments would have been to put Israel’s accession process on hold and give due consideration to the serious legal ramifications put forth by prominent legal experts,” said a BNC spokesperson. “Not doing so means that these states are actively abetting Israeli war crimes against the Palestinian people and cementing Israeli impunity in maintaining its occupation and apartheid system.”