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Whose evidence? Which citizens? (Final Version with Additions)

Gemma C | 11.05.2010 08:47 | Analysis | Globalisation | Palestine | South Coast | World

Whose evidence? Which citizens?: A view on the votes for Israel’s inclusion in the OECD

(Final version with important additions. Apologies for bombarding the wire!)

As the OECD votes in Israel to join its membership, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has been reported by the Jerusalem Post as saying that “this year we are planning to advance the reforms within the Israel Lands Administration and the construction sector to clear the bureaucratic bottlenecks involved in releasing land [for use], and we are going to implement a national infrastructure plan to connect citizens to all parts of the country”. As Palestinians continue to face severe restrictions on their movement and the IDF issues an order which, as reported by Haaretz, will “enable” mass deportation of Palestinians from the West Bank, a number of questions arise. For example, who counts as a citizen? Which connections are to be made and on whose terms? Which land, and what does its "release" entail? As a member of the OECD, Israel may benefit not only from the links forged with other members, but also by the publications of the organisation, which it states on its website are “a prime vehicle for disseminating the Organisation's intellectual output, both on paper and online”.

Of course, bureaucratic processes can give the impression that democracy is an evidenced reality, but closer inspection reveals wide-ranging discrepancies. In July 2009, the Guardian reported the announcement that “Israel's education ministry has ordered the removal of the word nakba – Arabic for the "catastrophe" of the 1948 war – from a school textbook for young Arab children”. This is just one example of Israel refusing to acknowledge Palestinians and their history. The Israeli plans to build a ‘museum of tolerance’ over Palestinian graves serves as yet another example. In the UK, preparations are being made for a nationwide Nakba Commemoration to be held on 15th May, commemorating the events of the 1948 conflict and the mass displacement of Palestinians. *1 The UNRWA states on its website that 4.7 million Palestine refugees are eligible for its services, the agency’s definition of Palestinian refugees being “people whose normal place of residence was Palestine between June 1946 and May 1948, who lost both their homes and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict”.

Difficulties faced by Palestinians are being glossed over by the media. As an IDF order was announced which could result in mass deportation and the imprisonment of Palestinians for up to seven years for ‘infiltrating’ land without Israeli-recognised documentation, the Guardian covered the story from the angle of reporting human rights protestors ( Taking this angle could be said to have drawn attention away from the implications of the order itself.

As this is written, it remains to be seen how the press will (or will not) cover a protest being organised in London concerning Israel’s inclusion in the OECD, to be held outside a lecture being given by the EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton. Will it draw attention to the issues, or will the act of protest itself be mentioned as a token stub perhaps?

As Israel continues to blockade Gaza (UN Chief Ban Ki-moon just one of the many individuals voicing concerns,, isn’t it time for the OECD's members to consider: for Palestinians, how free is free trade? And how does the OECD define a "fairer world economy"?

*1 Although published in 2008, the following is a useful resource for those interested in campaigning:

Gemma C