News24

SA skips Israel tourism conference

2010-10-15 09:48

Johannesburg - Cosatu saluted the SA tourism ministry on Thursday for not attending a tourism conference to be hosted by Israel.

"By its decision, South Africa now joins Britain, Spain and Turkey who have all refused to attend the conference," Cosatu's deputy international relations secretary Zanele Matebula said.

Matebula was referring to the 86th session of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's (OECD) Tourism Committee conference to be hosted by Israel in Jerusalem.

The conference is set to take place between October 20 and 22.

Cosatu said the Palestine Liberation Organisation had joined a call by radical Sunni Islamist group Fatah, Palestinian trade unions and civil society groups for countries not to attend, citing Israel's "illegal occupation", including that of Jerusalem.

'Logistical reasons'

Cosatu was informed that neither Tourism Minister Marthinus Van Schalkwyk nor his deputy would be attending, Matebula said.

The office of the director general of tourism has indicated, according to Cosatu, that no representative would be attending.

Tourism ministerial spokesperson Trevor Bloem confirmed to Sapa on Thursday night that the ministry would not attend the event for "logistical reasons".

"Since resources and time are limited we have for logistical reasons prioritised and choose to attend some conferences and not others."

The minister and DG had just returned from a conference in South Korea. The department had recently been to another conference in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, also organised by the OECD.

Matebula said: "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 recognised 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."

Matebula said the comment by the Israeli tourism minister angered the OECD. However, by holding the conference in the city, the OECD ignored the fact that Jerusalem was under occupation.

Matebula said taking part in the conference would be a "tacit acceptance" of Israel's "illegal annexation" of the city.