The Guardian and the OECD

A guest post by AKUS

The third shot in the Guardian’s attempts to influence the OECD (The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) has been fired in an article headed Can the OECD stand up to Israel? by Sam Bahour and Charles Shamas. The proximate reason for the article is the decision by the OECD to hold a “tourism summit” in Jerusalem.

(The previous attempts were: OECD is ushering Israel in too easily – by the Guardian’s economic expert, Seth Freedman – and Put conditions on Israel’s OECD entry. The latter was co-authored by none other than Avi Shlaim, arch anti-Israeli historian, and Simon Mohun, a supporter of anti-Israeli views as a signatory to a  letter published by Independent Jewish Voices essentially demanding that the British PM support the Goldstone report and one headed What is Israel doing? put out by that impartial organization, “Jews for Justice for Palestinians”).

Sam Bahour is an American Arab born in Ohio in 1964 to a father who left El Bireh for the USA in 1957. One can only wonder Bahour Sr. did not remain among Raja Shehadeh’s “blue velvet hills” on the West Bank under the benign eyes of the Jordanian military rulers. Sam Bahour has moved to the West Bank (rather like the orthodox Jewish settlers, in fact, and for much the same reason). He has been involved in several high-profile business activities on the West Bank and overcame his dislike of Israel enough to earn “an MBA in a joint program between Northwestern University in Illinois and Tel Aviv University in Israel.” This is most likely the prestigious Kellogg – Recanati Executive MBA program funded by the Israeli Recanati family. He runs a blog called ePalestine, where, among other things, despite his hatred of Israel, he refers to TAU as his “Israeli alma mater, Tel Aviv University”. Notably, he has contributed to one of most virulent sources of anti-Israeli polemics and misinformation, “Counterpunch” – “Refugees are the Key”.

Charles Shamas is a different fish altogether. Shamas is a “Senior Partner and founder of the MATTIN Group” where he spends his time invoking international law and the Geneva conventions against Israel – though not, apparently, against Hamas in the case of Gilad Shalit. For example, he has written an article entitled Arab-Israeli Conflict and the Laws of War, in what appears to be a blog called Crimes of War, that lumps in the Gaza War (Operation Cast Lead) together with wars in Congo, Rwanda, Bangladesh and Cambodia. Never mind that those latter conflicts resulted in the deaths of millions of civilians, and that Israel’s response, to years of rocket attacks, resulted in 1400 deaths, mostly combatants.

Their article begins with a mournful comment on the sad state of morality in the world, derived from the idea that there are only two types of problems in the world – Israel, and all the rest – and the utter iniquity of holding a conference about tourism (in this case) in Israel:

“What can be said for the state of international law when international organisations such as the OECD find themselves unable to prevent a member country from bringing its unlawful practice into the life of the organisation itself?”

So where should such a conference be held? Where is that moral high ground to be found where an Israeli foot should not be permitted to tread for fear of contaminating the purity of the “life of the organisation itself”?

The 33 member countries of the OECD are Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Luxembourg, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States. Which of these is sufficiently without sin that it could host such a conference? Turkey? There’s a little issue with the Kurds. NATO countries? – Afghanistan and Roma come to mind. Australia and New Zealand? – the Aborigines and Maoris might have something to say about that. And so it goes.

But even worse than the sheer hypocrisy of this statement is the desire to subvert the economic agenda of this organization to political purposes directed solely at one country – Israel.

This is the banner on the OECD website:

Notice that it is all about economic cooperation and development – the “ECD” in “OECD”. The organization promotes a stronger cleaner and fairer world economy – not boycotts and barriers. It has, in fact, no political agenda, and describes its mission as:

OECD brings together the governments of countries committed to democracy and the market economy from around the world to:

  • Support sustainable economic growth
  • Boost employment
  • Raise living standards
  • Maintain financial stability
  • Assist other countries’ economic development
  • Contribute to growth in world trade

The Organisation provides a setting where governments compare policy experiences, seek answers to common problems, identify good practice and coordinate domestic and international policies.

I defy anyone to give an example where Israel is not an exemplary practitioner of all of these economic objectives. The one thing the OECD does not do is intervene in the internal political policies and problems of its member countries, and for a very good reason. To paraphrase an ancient Jew, they know that there is none among them without sin, and none which has the moral authority to cast the first stone.

None of that matters to the Guardian and the ideologues writing this article.

“The OECD is an international economic organisation of 33 countries, with the latest controversial addition to this club being Israel.”

And Turkey’s membership is not controversial Despite Cyprus, the Kurdish issue, and the encroachment of radical Islam into its political system? The EU won’t allow Turkey anywhere near it, for good reasons.

The article states as fact that Israel is in violation of that nebulous and self-serving construct, “international law”, because it claims, among other things, that Jerusalem is in Israel. But to whom does Jerusalem belong? A non-existent Palestinian state that never existed and if things continue as they are, may never exist? Jordan? The United Nations? What country or entity has a better claim to the ancient Jewish capital than Israel? Israel’s government is in Jerusalem – if the OECD were meeting in Washington, should the Mexicans demand that it meet elsewhere until Texas and California are returned to Mexico? Or in London? Not till Gibraltar is returned to Spain.

So what is this and the two previous articles referring to the OECD really about? They are consistent with efforts, abetted consistently by the Guardian, in the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign to delegitimize Israel in every forum possible. The idea is to isolate Israel with a hedge of no-go restrictions that choke it at every turn. This time, the Guardian has brought in an American Arab, Israeli educated no less, and one who spends his time developing cases against Israel by invoking “international law” (Lawfare), who puts Israel in the same category as the perpetrators of the massacres in places like Rwanda and Cambodia. These articles, and I am sure, other, similar efforts, are designed to create an anti-Israeli political agenda where none has existed, in a forum that is designed to improve the world economy for the benefit of all.

Buried among the usual accusations, errors, and lies below the line that these anti-Israeli articles attract, some commenters pointed out that the massive tourism to Israel benefits the Arabs in Jerusalem and places like Bethlehem, Nazareth and so on as much as, or more, than it benefits Jewish Israelis and provides an excellent reason to hold a conference on the topic in Jerusalem. Here’s “sydk” on the topic:

Israel has been accepted into the OECD, and now a new front, eagerly supported by the Guardian, has been opened to attempt to delegitimize its membership and at the very least hold back the same rights, privileges and conditions that are accorded to the other 32 members. This is nothing more than discrimination against a country that meets every one of the OECD criteria for membership, and does so, I might add, rather more thoroughly than nations such as Slovenia, the Slovak Republic, and Turkey. Fortunately, it appears that although the dogs may continue to bark on the Guardian’s website, the caravan, led by more thoughtful and mature minds, moves on, and Israel with it. Sam Bahour, Charles Shamas, Avi Shlaim, Simon Mohun and Seth Freedman will have to continue to gnash their teeth, but the serious people in the wider world are having nothing to do with their opinions.

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