Twenty two human rights, humanitarian and peace organizations have called upon the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to place human rights conditionalities on Israel within the framework of Israel's accession to the OECD.
Israel was officially invited to become a member of the OECD in May 2007. The OECD is a prestigious economic association comprised of 30 member states, primarily from Europe and North America. The OECD's stated aims are to support sustainable economic growth, boost employment, raise living standards, maintain financial stability, assist other countries’ economic development and contribute to a growth in world trade. Countries wanting to join this influential economic alliance must demonstrate their attachment to an open market economy, democratic pluralism, a respect for human rights and adherence to the purposes of the United Nations. However, Israel's closure policy in the West Bank and the sanctions and blockade on Gaza have significantly reduced the standard of living for ordinary Palestinians and have strangled the Palestinian economy.
In an open letter, the twenty two civil society organizations expressed their concern that Israel is currently not in compliance with the human rights conditionalities that are components of the accession process. They called upon the OECD to immediately establish a committee to assess the extent to which Israel has complied with the OECD criteria of respect for human rights, commitment to democracy and adherence to the purposes of the United Nations. They further requested that other countries acceding to the OECD as well as current members are held to the same high standards.
Main concerns raised within Israel include:
· Israel's discriminatory treatment against non-Jewish citizens of Israelon the basis of nationality, ethnicity, race and religion;
· Discriminatory land laws that benefit Jewish citizens of Israel and prevent Israel's non- Jewish Palestinian citizens (20% of the population) from exercising their right to own land on an equal basis;
· Prevention of granting Palestinian spouses of Israeli citizens' full legal status which excludes some 16,000 women from exercising their social rights such as accessing health care;
· Denial of basic services such as water and electricity and ongoing house demolitions perpetrated against Bedouin citizens of the Negev/Naqab.
Concerns raised in the occupied Palestinian territory are:
· The sanctions and blockade on the Gaza Strip which have caused a humanitarian crisis;
· Land confiscation and continued settlement building throughout the OPT;
· Ongoing internal displacement;
· Widespread home demolitions;
· Restrictions on freedom of movement caused by checkpoints and bypass roads;
· The torture and ill treatment of Palestinians held in Israeli jails and detention centres;
· A lack of a fair solution for Palestinian refugees and the widespread denial of children's rights.
The letter also raised concerns that the OECD is considering Israel's accession in the face of ongoing violations of both human rights law and international humanitarian law in the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel's failure to abide by UN Security Council and General Assembly Resolutions including those calling for an end to the occupation and the right of Palestinians to self determination, as well as the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice which called for the dismantling of the wall built inside Palestinian territory.
The organizations that wrote to the OECD are: Adalah - The Legal Center for Minority Rights in Israel; Arab Association for Human Rights (HRA); BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights; Broederlijk Delen; The Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE); Defense for Children International-Palestine Section (DCI/PS); Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN); Habitat International Coalition-Housing and Land Rights Network; Al Haq; International League for Human Rights-German Section of AEDH and FIDH; Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights; Al Mezan Center for Human Rights-Gaza; Palestinian Centre for Human Rights; Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-IL); The Swedish Organization for Individual Relief/ Individuell Människohjälp; Pax Christi - Austria; Alliance of Concerned Jewish Canadians; Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine; Palestine Solidarity Campaign; The Council for Arab-British Understanding; Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Middle East; Action Palestine.
We call on a wide range of civil society to make their concerns known to the member States of the OECD, in particular to their own governments that are members of the OECD. A template letter and resource pack to assist organizations in lobbying the OECD on this issue is available at www.cohre.org/israel. (The resource pack also contains information on lobbying the European Union to address human rights in the context of the EU-Israel Association Agreement).