COSATU (Congress of South African Trade Unions) salutes the decision by the South African Ministry of Tourism not to attend the 86th Session of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) Tourism Committee conference to be hosted by Israel in Jerusalem.

By its decision, South Africa now joins Britain, Spain and Turkey who have all refused to attend the conference.

Israel is scheduled to host the OECD tourism conference in Jerusalem between the 20th and 22nd of October.

It was announced on Monday that the Palestine Liberation Organization has joined the call by Fatah, Palestinian trade unions and civil society groups for countries not to attend, on the grounds of Israel’s illegal occupation, including that of Jerusalem.

Yesterday COSATU was informed that both the offices of the South African Minister as well as Deputy Minister of Tourism have indicated that neither will be attending.

Furthermore, the office of the Director General of Tourism has also confirmed that no representative from that department will be going to Israel.

The momentum for the boycott dramatically increased last week when Israeli Minister of Tourism, Stas Misezhnikov, said attendance at the conference would be "a seal of approval on the fact that we [Israel] have a state whose recognized capital is Jerusalem".

No member of the United Nations (nor the organisation itself) recognises Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Even the United States, Israel’s unwavering ally, refuses to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. UN Security Council Resolution 478 calls on member states, including South Africa, not to recognise Israel’s occupation and the illegal annexation of Jerusalem. Participation in the OECD conference would thus be a tacit acceptance of Israel’s illegal annexation of Jerusalem.

The Israeli minster’s statement outraged the OECD Secretary-General, Angel Gurria, who threatened to cancel the conference in response, and indicated that the incident could hinder the planning of future conferences in Israel. But, by holding the conference in Jerusalem, the OECD ignores the fact that Jerusalem is under occupation, and — by its actions — accepts the illegal annexation.

COSATU supports the Department of International Relations and Cooperation’s position that Israeli settlement activities, particularly in Jerusalem, "are reminiscent of apartheid forced removals". COSATU reaffirms its support for the call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against the Israeli apartheid state. An international boycott movement similar to the one that assisted us in our liberation is necessary for a just peace in Palestine.

Zanele Matebula

Deputy International Relations Secretary

Congress of South African Trade Unions

October 16, 2010