- The Washington Times - Monday, October 18, 2010

The Arab League is urging countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to boycott the group’s tourism conference this week in Jerusalem in protest of Israeli policies.

The call - issued in a letter sent to world leaders on Sunday - comes days after Israel announced the construction of 238 housing units in East Jerusalem, the disputed half of the city that Palestinians claim as the capital of their future state.

Israel also is under international pressure to extend a moratorium on West Bank settlements that expired Sept. 26, prompting Palestinians to suspend their participation in newly launched direct peace talks.

Turkey, South Africa, Spain, Ireland, Sweden and the United Kingdom reportedly are not sending delegates to the conference, which is to be held in the city’s western half.

The U.K. has cited scheduling conflicts for its withdrawal, and Turkey has cited political reasons for its withdrawal. The reasons for the other withdrawals is unclear.

In May, the 31 OECD member states voted unanimously to invite Israel into the organization despite a stealth campaign by senior Palestinian officials to thwart the Jewish state’s entry.