PA calls for boycott of International Tourism Conference Jerusalem 2011 February 23, 2011

The Alternative Information Centre -  21 February 2011

Palestinian Tourism Minister Khulud Daibes is calling on the international community to boycott the International Tourism Conference Jerusalem 2011, taking place from March 29-31, in the Israeli-occupied city.

“The dispatch of official representatives constitutes recognition of occupied Jerusalem as Israel’s capital,” the letter stated.

“It is particularly problematic for international officials to participate in such a conference at this critical time,” Daibes said in a statement.

“Especially when intense international efforts are underway to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including the final status of Jerusalem,” she said.

Not only will the conference further Israel’s claim on the city, it will certainly add to the white washing of crimes Israel is committing against the Palestinian residents. East Jerusalem, which has been occupied by Israel since 1967, does not receive the same municipal services as the rest of the city, though residents pay taxes: almost no garbage pick up, lack of roads, not enough schools.

The Jerusalem Municipality has also been at working approving settlement construction projects, illegal under international law, in East Jerusalem.

“The Jerusalem issue is a political one, East Jerusalem is occupied territory and sending foreign government envoys constitutes recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital,” a senior Palestinian official told Israel’s Ynet News. He also said that the Palestinian Authority would not have asked for a boycott had the conference taken place in Tel Aviv or any other city inside the Green Line.

Last October, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) selected Jerusalem to host its annual Tourism Committee Conference. It was the first OECD event held in Israel since it was welcomed into the prestigious economic consortium in May 2010. It was also the first time ever that the Tourism Committee Conference was held outside of Paris.

The OECD explicitly ignored the PLO’s request to cancel the conference in Jerusalem.

According to a statement from the PLO at the time, convening the summit in West Jerusalem “under current conditions is a reward to Israel and grants legitimacy to the Israeli occupation of the city [East Jerusalem] and all its racist and oppressive measures against Palestinians in Jerusalem.”

Israel used the conference to further its territorial claims on Jerusalem and number of countries declined to attend. Norway and Turkey condemned comments made by Israeli politicians in the run up to the conference. The Swedish delegation to the OECD referred campaigners to EU policy on the status of Jerusalem and hinted their stance was an attempt to assert the policy, according to the Boycott National Committee.

Israeli Tourism Minister Misezhnikov, is actively encouraging participation in the March conferece. “Tourism is a bridge for peace, dialogue and understanding among nations and financially helps the PA as much as it does Israel,” he claims.

“The conference can be a confidence building measure and I hope and at the end of the day rational considerations will guide the Palestinians.”

How the conference will help the Palestinian Authority, separated from Jerusalem by a large separation barrier, remains to be explained.

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