The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) recently announced that Jerusalem will be hosting its annual Tourism Committee Conference in October of this year. This will be the first OECD event held in Israel since it was welcomed into the prestigious economic consortium in May. It will also be the first time ever that the Tourism Committee Conference is held outside of Paris.
“Israel’s joining the OECD is of great importance in terms of building a positive image for the country,” said Israeli Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov. “The positive image gained will have an effect on the tourist’s choice to visit Israel, and it will attract foreign investors to the country, including, among others, investors in tourism.”
Israel should not have been accepted into the OECD, as outlined in a series of analytical pieces published by the AIC and others. Article 1 of the organizations’ convention states that the aims of the OECD shall be to “contribute to the expansion of world trade on a multilateral, non-discriminatory basis in accordance with international obligations”. Article 2 states that in the pursuit of these aims, the Members agree that they will “pursue their efforts to reduce or abolish obstacles to the exchange of goods and services.”
This is obviously not the case regarding Israel, with the country’s ongoing three year siege and blockade of the Gaza Strip, and the obstacles it places upon the West Bank that restrict the free movement of goods, services, and Palestinian people.
A group of Israeli citizens sent a letter to the OECD in May, voicing concerns over the country’s potential acceptance. “As Israeli citizens, we are concerned by the policies of the Israeli governments, policies which violate international law, violate the basic human rights of Palestinians under occupation and serve to instigate instability, violence and suffering in the Middle East,” they wrote. “We are also concerned by the double standards applied by some countries in the international community, especially the developed countries, towards Israel’s violations.”
While the Tourism Committee Conference will certainly provide an immediate boost to the Israeli tourism industry, Israel’s OECD membership will have lasting effects, strengthening not only the country’s economy, but its global image as well.
Minister Misezhnikov called the committee’s decision to gather in Israel “an important vote of confidence,” saying it “carries both prestige and special importance, given the decision by OECD leaders to deviate from tradition and hold the meeting not in Paris, but in Jerusalem.”
“The choice of Israel, and in particular Jerusalem, is a vote of confidence in the Israeli tourism industry and its economy,” said the Israeli Ministry of Tourism.
Fifty tourism ministers and representatives from member states and other countries will participate in the three-day conference. This 86th meeting of the OECD Tourism Committee Conference will focus on developing “green tourism,” the ecological effects on tourism, and identifying green business opportunities. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Governor of the Bank of Israel Prof. Stanley Fischer, President Shimon Peres will also be attending.
In light of Israel’s gross violation of international law, it is surprising that the country was given a seat in the OECD, and moreover, that occupied Jerusalem, Israel’s self-declared, contested and ethnically divided capital will be receiving the tourism spotlight.