When Israel was invited to join the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) earlier this year, dissident voices condemned the move, citing its dubious human rights record.
Israel’s contribution to science and technology sealed its inclusion in this elite group of developed countries nonetheless, though because membership requires higher operating standards in all sectors of society, Israel’s polluters have already been taken to task.
This week, 26 out of 33 OECD members, as well as Estonia, India, and Romania, are participating in a three day tourism conference in Jerusalem focused on elevating the industry to a more environmentally conscionable and sustainable level. While in general Israel’s record is sound, with numerous eco-options available to foreigners, the state of the Dead Sea and its sinking hotels remains the country’s biggest blight.The Jerusalem Post reports on the political dimension of this conference. Countries that have not sent representatives to participate include Belgium, Sweden, Ireland, New Zealand, the UK, Iceland, and Turkey.
“It’s going to be a very productive and useful conference for tourism professionals,” an OECD official told the paper on Tuesday night. “It’s about tourism, and that’s what we’re going to be talking about,” the official said.
Tourism Minister Stas Meseznikov bemoans the media’s role in politicizing an event that is focused on tourism.
“It is my regret that there were attempts by different forces to mix up this professional conference with political considerations that are not related, especially given that such a conference can contribute greatly to anyone promoting tourism both internationally and individually,” the paper quotes a statement made by Meseznikov on Tuesday.
Instead, OECD membership is designed to boost Israel’s image abroad and to encourage foreign investment.
Among other archaeological, historical, and religious draws, the Dead Sea attracts a throng of tourists each year, in spite of the compromising impact the minerals industry has had on its ecological integrity.
“One of the goals of the round-table discussion about making hotels more green is to be able to have leading hoteliers announce, “Being a guest in my hotel is being respectful of the Earth where we are all guests,” according to the paper.
However, authorities are presently considering a plan to knock down and relocate certain hotels astride the Dead Sea in Ein Boker that are at risk of flooding by rising water levels caused by a salt imbalance as a result of undue minerals extraction.
Hotel owners would prefer a less drastic alternative and blame Dead Sea Works for jeopardizing the tourism industry, but until this situation is resolved, Israeli hoteliers will have a hard time announcing how respectful they are of the earth.
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