After having been accepted this past May into the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Israel was chosen to host the Tourism Committee Conference which is being organized by OECD countries and is scheduled to be held in three months, but a left-wing group is trying to move the meeting elsewhere.
The event is expected to take place in the International Convention Center (Binyanei HaUma) in Jerusalem over the course of two days. Representatives from developed countries are expected to attend the event and will be exposed, among other things, to Israel's tourism options. The OECD conference is expected to mainly focus on unique industries with an emphasis on a green tourist economy.
Although the conference has not yet received much publication and has not yet resonated in Israeli public life, there are already elements that are attempting to thwart it. The Alternative Tourism Group, a radical left-wing organization, has sent a long letter to the OECD demanding that they not hold the event in Israel due to its policy toward the Arab population. The letter was published in the English version of the group’s website, the Alternative Information Center. For reasons known only to them they preferred not to publish the letter in the Hebrew version of the site.
Arutz-7 was alerted to the contents of the letter by one of its readers. Among its points, the letter expresses the organization's concerns regarding the possibility that officials from the tourism industry will visit tourist sites that in the eyes of the group are at the heart of the conflict between Israel and the Arabs:
“Has the OECD considered that there are an increasing number of historical sites under dispute, and under false and illegitimate claims by Israel? Such visits, therefore, carry the risk of creating historical distortions in the minds of the visitors. Further, in keeping with Israeli patterns of tourism, delegates are unlikely to have the opportunity to meet and encounter Palestinians, and understand their legitimate claims to a just share in the travel and tourism sector in the Holy Land.”
The organization’s members also complain in the letter about the international decision to hold the conference in what they called “occupied” Jerusalem:
“The OECD should also consider that the conference would shut out the participation of Palestinian professionals in the tourism industry, since the vast majority has been denied entry into Jerusalem since 1993. The Israeli military will not let them past the checkpoint to reach Jerusalem.
What message does OECD want to send to the world by hosting a conference in a city occupied by a government that actively violates international law? These and many other questions will never get to be posed – and hence will be hidden from view – simply because Palestinians will not be present.”
The lengthy letter ends by urging the OECD to choose another venue for the Tourism Committee Conference “in the interests of even-handedness, in the pursuit of what is just and right” and calling on the OECD to consider a new location that is “consistent with OECD’s vision of a "fairer world economy"”.