BISHARAT: Article and Audio

It was fortuitous that visiting UC Law Professor George Bisharat was in Australia when the OECD decision to embrace Israel as a member was announced. His published article in The National TImes below answers all the questions that many have about such an unfortunate inclusion into that club.

Also, while Prof Bisharat was in Melbourne, he presented a lecture at the University of Melbourne entitled Ending the Palestinian Nakba. It was recorded, minus the film that was shown, and you can listen to it with the introduction given by Future Generation Professor Ghassan Hage who too spoke a few words about the Nakba.
We are very pleased that we can make this available to the many people who were not able to be present on the night.

Sonja Karkar
Australians for Palestine
Women for Palestine

Israel does not yet deserve a place in the OECD

by George Bisharat

The National Times
11 May 2010

Australia missed a chance to defend international law and human rights by
voting this week to support Israel’s application for membership to the
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The OECD was
founded in 1960 by states practising democracy and free market principles to
discuss and advance mutual interests; Australia joined in 1970. OECD
ministers meet in Paris today to decide finally on Israel’s long-pending bid
for membership.

Australia should have opposed Israel’s accession to the OECD on both
technical and political grounds. On the technical side, Israel has failed
to curb corruption in its arms industry, and has turned a blind eye to
violations of intellectual property rights by its pharmaceuticals companies.
In the economic data Israel has provided the OECD in its application for
membership, it has also counted its Jewish settlers nearly 500,000 persons
in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, although these persons reside outside
of Israel’s borders. The settlers are heavily subsidised by the Israeli
government, and their inclusion, therefore, imparts a misleading image of

Meanwhile, the 2.3 million Palestinian residents of the West Bank and the
1.6 million residents of the Gaza Strip are not so included. The Gaza
Strip, of course, has been subject to a withering economic blockade since
2006, and freedom of movement of people and goods within the West Bank has
also been severely curtailed. A majority of Palestinians have been reduced
to penury as a result, and children in the Gaza Strip have begun to show
signs of stunting and malnutrition.

A Tel Aviv district court recently forced the Israeli government to divulge
details of its criteria for deciding what goods would be permitted to
trickle into the Gaza Strip. Some of the revealed documents showed that an
Israeli government agency had been charged with calculating the minimum
daily caloric intake for Gaza Strip Palestinians, stratified by age and
gender. This recalls the macabre threat issued in a published interview by
Dov Weisglass, former adviser to Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, that
the Palestinian population would not be starved, but just “put on a diet”.
Calibrating the level of trade in this fashion hardly seems the pinnacle of
free market principles. The Israeli government has since denied that the
calculations were ever followed, but its actions to the contrary speak

Australia should have also questioned Israel’s commitment to secular
democracy. Religious courts in Israel decide all matters of family law, and
religious parties play prominent roles in national politics, including in
the current ruling coalition. Orthodox rabbis are empowered under Israeli
law to make vital decisions about who constitutes a “Jew” or not for
purposes of citizenship, inheritance, and the like. Civil marriage is not
permitted under Israeli law. If a Palestinian citizen of Israel falls in
love with an Israeli Jew, therefore, they must be married outside the state
of Israel. These practices violate the fundamental democratic precept of
the separation of church and state.

Israel also discriminates against its 1.2 million Palestinian citizens, whom
it demeaningly labels “Israeli Arabs”. The Israeli legal system lacks a
firmly-rooted equality principle, and attempts to legislate one in the
Knesset have been firmly rejected. While Palestinian citizens of Israel can
and do vote and run for office in Israel, government policies ensure that
they remain politically marginalised. No Arab political party has ever been
invited to join a ruling coalition, and in Israel’s 62-year-old history only
one Palestinian has ever been a minister of sports and culture. Leaders
of the Palestinian community who have campaigned for equal rights have been
arrested and hounded into exile.

Australia has its own painful history of wrongs committed against its
Aboriginal population. The Rudd government took an admirable first step in
2008 in apologising for the “stolen generations”. Australia would have been
a better ally to Israel to delay or deny it accession to the OECD. Israel
must first cease its abuses of the rights of Palestinians under its rule,
and start down the difficult path of reconciliation based on equal rights
for all. When it has done so its accession to the OECD will be richly

George Bisharat is a professor of law at Hastings College of the Law in San
Francisco, and writes frequently on law and politics in the Middle East.


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