Charity Concerned Over OECD Acceptance of Israel

British charity Christian Aid has expressed concern over the recent admittance of Israel to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), saying that the country's continued territorial occupation and recent legislation against non-governmental organizations reveals a nation not as committed to the democracy that the OECD purports to defend.

"Apart from Israel's continuing occupation and illegal settlement in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, which has little to do with democracy, recent developments in the country point to further repression," said William Bell, Christian Aid advocacy officer for Israel.

Israel was admitted last Monday to the OECD, which is described as an exclusive club of rich nations, amidst rigid opposition from Palestinian groups.

The Palestine Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) called the OECD's acceptance of Israel a "decisive and far-reaching act of complicity in rewarding and perpetuating Israel's occupation, colonization and apartheid against the Palestinian people."

"Furthermore, it will irreparably undermine the rule of law and further entrench the culture of impunity that has enabled Israel to escalate its commission of war crimes and what is described by some leading international law experts as a prelude to genocide against Palestinians in the illegally besieged and occupied Gaza Strip," the group said.

Along with Israel's occupation of disputed territories, Christian Aid expressed their concern over several recent bills tabled in the Israeli legislature that severely restrict the registration and activity of NGO's in the country, particularly those that document human rights abuses.

"Clearly [these bills] would have serious implications for the existence of many Israeli NGOs which report on human rights abuses and breaches of international law, whoever the violator," said Bell.

"The legislation would also undermine human rights defenders working to uphold the rule of law and combat impunity," he continued. "If enacted, it would strike at the very heart of the democratic space in which civil society operates, and which Israel purports to defend and respect."

Bell noted last October's Goldstone report, which detailed Israeli and Palestinian war crimes in the Gaza conflict, as an example of projects that would be restricted by the new laws.

"Maybe it is not a coincidence that it is since the publication of that report that NGOs have felt increased levels of intimidation," Bell said, adding that "where a state is seen to be in contravention of international law or abusing human rights, they should be held accountable regardless of who they are or what power they wield."

Christian Aid claims to be supporters of both Israeli and Palestinian human rights NGOs in their efforts to uphold human rights standards and to hold their representatives to account, whether elected or not.

"We trust that the OECD Council monitors the actions of all its members and uses its influence to ensure that freedom and democracy prevail for all, regardless of race and ethnicity," Bell said.

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