Israeli Annexation of Parts of Palestinian West Bank Would Break International Law – UN Experts

Palestine Update 378

Opinion

Israeli Annexation of Parts of Palestinian West Bank Would Break International Law – UN Experts

Wednesday, 17 June 2020, 7:16 am
Press Release: UN Special Procedures – Human Rights     

Al Mezan Center For Human Rights       westbank hashtag on Twitter

The agreement by the new coalition Government of Israel to annex significant parts of the occupied Palestinian West Bank after 1 July would violate a cornerstone principle of international law and must be meaningfully opposed by the international community, UN experts said today. Forty-seven of the independent Special Procedures mandates appointed by the Human Rights Council issued the following statement:

“The annexation of occupied territory is a serious violation of the Charter of the United Nations and the Geneva Conventions, and contrary to the fundamental rule affirmed many times by the United Nations Security Council and General Assembly that the acquisition of territory by war or force is inadmissible. The international community has prohibited annexation precisely because it incites wars, economic devastation, political instability, systematic human rights abuses and widespread human suffering. Israel’s stated plans for annexation would extend sovereignty over most of the Jordan Valley and all of the more than 235 illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank. This would amount to approximately 30 percent of the West Bank. The annexation of this territory was endorsed by the American Peace to Prosperity Plan, released in late January 2020.

The United Nations has stated on many occasions that the 53-year-old Israeli occupation is the source of profound human rights violations against the Palestinian people. These violations include land confiscation, settler violence, discriminatory planning laws, the confiscation of natural resources, home demolitions, forcible population transfer, excessive use of force and torture, labour exploitation, extensive infringements of privacy rights, restrictions on the media and freedom of expression, the targeting of women activists and journalists, the detention of children, poisoning by exposure to toxic wastes, forced evictions and displacement, economic deprivation and extreme poverty, arbitrary detention, lack of freedom of movement, food insecurity, discriminatory law enforcement and the imposition of a two-tier system of disparate political, legal, social, cultural and economic rights based on ethnicity and nationality. Palestinian and Israeli human rights defenders, who peacefully bring public attention to these violations, are slandered, criminalised or labeled as terrorists. Above all, the Israeli occupation has meant the denial of the right of Palestinian self-determination.

These human rights violations would only intensify after annexation. What would be left of the West Bank would be a Palestinian Bantustan, islands of disconnected land completely surrounded by Israel and with no territorial connection to the outside world. Israel has recently promised that it will maintain permanent security control between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River. Thus, the morning after annexation would be the crystallisation of an already unjust reality: two peoples living in the same space, ruled by the same state, but with profoundly unequal rights. This is a vision of 21st century apartheid.

Twice before, Israel has annexed occupied land – East Jerusalem in 1980 and the Syrian Golan Heights in 1981. On both occasions, the UN Security Council immediately condemned the annexations as unlawful but took no meaningful countermeasures to oppose Israel’s actions. Similarly, the Security Council has repeatedly criticised the Israeli settlements as a flagrant violation under international law. Yet, Israel’s defiance of these resolutions and its ongoing entrenchment of the settlements has gone unanswered by the international community.

This time must be different. The international community has solemn legal and political responsibilities to defend a rules-based international order, to oppose violations of human rights and fundamental principles of international law and to give effect to its many resolutions critical of Israel’s conduct of this protracted occupation. In particular, states have a duty not to recognise, aid or assist another state in any form of illegal activity, such as annexation or the creation of civilian settlements in occupied territory. The lessons from the past are clear: Criticism without consequences will neither forestall annexation nor end the occupation.

Accountability and an end to impunity must become an immediate priority for the international community. Available to it is a broad menu of accountability measures that have been widely and successfully applied by the UN Security Council in other international crises over the past 60 years. The accountability measures that are selected must be taken in full conformity with international law, be proportionate, effective, subject to regular review, consistent with human rights, humanitarian and refugee law, and designed to undo the annexations and bring the occupation and the conflict to a just and durable conclusion. Palestinians and Israelis deserve no less.

We express great regret about the role of the United States of America in supporting and encouraging Israel’s unlawful plans for the further annexation of occupied territory. On many occasions over the past 75 years, the United States has played an important role in the advancement of global human rights. On this occasion, it should be ardently opposing the imminent breach of a fundamental principle of international law, rather than actively abetting its violation.”

A remaining tragedy (Excerpts from ‘Palestinians living ongoing ‘Nakba’)
Palestinian children stand outside their house as laundry hangs on ropes at Shati refugee camp in Gaza city, Palestine, Feb. 19, 2020. (Reuters Photo)
Over seven decades have passed since the beginning of Israel’s ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people in 1948, followed by the 1967 occupation, and still, this assault on the Palestinians continues and systematically escalates. The ongoing Nakba is characterized by Israeli policies and practices designed and implemented to control the maximum amount of land with the minimum number of Palestinians. Still today, more Palestinians are being evicted from their homes and enduring the military and structural violence of Israel’s settler-colonial expansion. Israel segregates fragments and isolates Palestinian communities and lands in order to suppress their social, cultural and national identity. The Nakba continues to destroy Palestinian society at home and in exile. Their refugee communities are among the most vulnerable in the region.

Palestinian refugees in the West Bank who are registered with UNRWA, as of 2018, accounted for up to 17% of the total listed, with another 25% in the Gaza Strip. Among other Arab countries, Jordan amounted for up to 39% of the total Palestinian refugees, while Lebanon and Syria reached about 9% and 11%, respectively. The Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in Syria has been subjugated to terror, siege and repeated displacement. In addition, Gaza’s refugees, who constitute 74% of the total population of the territory, have resided under a crippling siege and repeated assaults by Israel for more than a decade, which have killed thousands. Lebanon’s 180,000 Palestinian refugees suffer from systematic discrimination, isolation and violence.  Palestinians in the West Bank and east Jerusalem are subject to other forms of Nakba. Settler violence, housing demolitions, daily humiliations, economic subjugation and hundreds of walls, checkpoints and roadblocks constitute daily life for 3 million Palestinians.

The new chapter
The situation is further exacerbated by the so-called “Deal of the Century,” a plan proposed by the Trump administration in January 2020. The program, which supports and rewards Israel for serious breaches of international law, is purported to take a “pragmatic” approach to the Palestinian issue that in Trump’s opinion should supersede international law, conventions and U.N. resolutions. His vision reveals how the creation of a so-called self-governing state would manifest in a non-contiguous capitulated Palestinian entity, with Israeli-regulated borders, connected by Israeli-controlled bridges, tunnels and roads.

Trump’s plan legitimizes the Israeli settler-colonial project in Palestine. It considers that those past mediation efforts were destined for failure because they neglected Israeli expansionist realities. These include Israel’s unilateral annexation of east Jerusalem in 1980 and the continuing expansion of settlements in the West Bank. In fact, since 1967, Israel has relocated more than 600,000 of its citizens to Jewish exclusive zones in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. Today, between 600,000 and 750,000 Israelis live in these sizeable settlements, equivalent to roughly 11% of the total Jewish Israeli population, breaching Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits an occupying power from transferring its civilians into the territory it occupies.

The Trump plan, then, cannot be viewed in isolation from the centurylong settler-colonial project in Palestine. This so-called peace plan dismisses the role of international institutions and norms and further claims that international resolutions “have enabled political leaders to avoid addressing the complexities of this conflict rather than enabling a realistic path to peace.” Lastly, Trump’s vision denies Palestinian refugees and internally displaced persons their right to reparations, namely the rights of return to their homes, property restitution and compensation. It does so by the glaring omission of the issue of Palestinian refugees, attempting to restrictively delineate the number eligible for reparations and releasing Israel from its responsibilities to the displaced, while at the same time transferring these responsibilities to third-party states, mainly Arab states.

It is clear, then, that the engineers of the plan meant to situate their efforts outside of existing parameters of international institutions and consensus. Instead, the plan is envisioned to present an alternative, which largely caters to Israeli demands and bypasses Palestinian historical rights. In essence, the plan assumes that Palestinians can be materially bribed into forfeiting the national rights for which they have long fought and died. Trump’s plan, therefore, is another chapter in the Nakba of Palestinians. Thus, the Nakba is clearly not the only chapter in the Palestinian-Zionist conflict; it is an ongoing colonialist destructive system manifesting the essence of Zionism that seeks to eliminate Palestine’s existence physically and symbolically. Israel has not left any stretches of land that could form a contiguous Palestinian political entity in the West Bank and it has severed and blockaded Gaza, working toward a larger project, namely expanding its borders and expelling another large segment of the Palestinian population.

Israel is only concerned with controlling the largest area possible with the fewest number of Palestinians possible. The expansion of this entity in size and influence is Israel’s constant and central obsession. This understanding should inform the policies needed to create a political platform that strives to thwart the Zionist goals that were only temporarily achieved in 1948 and that persist to this day in the form of Israel’s dangerous plan to annex the Jordan Valley. It is a threat that will rule out the two-state solution as a political concept and will have serious implications for any future Palestinian state’s viability.
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