Annexation and apartheid in Palestine


The Israeli settlement of Ma’ale Adumim is built illegally on Palestinian land
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The planned annexation of large parts of the West Bank by Israel are part of a longer history of strategic colonisation and settlement building reports Miriam Scharf.

This is an article from the current issue of Middle East Solidarity magazine – help us continue our work by donating £2 for a digital copy online

Annexation, illegal under international law, is the forcible and unilateral acquisition of territory over which the perpetrator has no recognised sovereignty and to make that territory an integral part of the state.

The taking of another people’s land by force should spark international outrage and action. But not when it is Israel taking the land. And not when it is Palestinian land they are taking. After all that’s how Israel was created, by dispossessing Palestinians, how Israel seized the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, annexed East Jerusalem in 1980, and the Golan Heights in 1981. This military occupation has continued in all but pockets of the West Bank designated in the 1993 and 1995 Oslo Accords as Area ‘A’, where the Palestinian Authority (PA) provides a fig-leaf for Israeli control.

Israel’s relentless building of illegal settlements  in Areas ‘B’, nominally joint PA and Israel controlled, and Israeli-controlled Area ‘C’ means 600,000 Jewish settlers now live in the West Bank. Netanyahu’s plans for annexation would extend Israeli sovereignty to more than 230 settlements, 15 Area A and B communities including 44,175 Palestinians, and 48 shepherding communities comprising 8,775 Palestinians in Area C. This would be almost 30 percent of the West Bank. A key difference with previous proposals is that Palestinians will have no access to the border with Jordan.

As Israeli activist Jeff Halper argued more than 20 years ago, this process of settlement construction has always been strategic. Built over the main aquifers to deny water to Palestinian settlements, extending across to within 20kms of Jordan cleaving the West Bank in two, cutting off East Jerusalem the former heart of Palestinian social and economic life from other Palestinians, with road-building and security measures making contiguity between Gaza and the West Bank impossible.

Annexation will unleash a further flood of settler violence backed by the state, intensify human rights violations and land confiscation,

Decades of sucking life out of the Palestinian economy by constructing physical barriers plus legal and bureaucratic measures backed up by brutal violence has forced many Palestinians into being a cheap manual labour force in Israeli-owned industrial parks. This adds to Israeli dominance and control.

So what future would annexation mean for not just the 2 million Palestinians in the West Bank, but for any future Palestinian state? Annexation means abandoning  the two-state solution. The Israeli government envisages entrenching dispossession and poverty, making life unbearable so the steadfastness (sumud in Arabic) is broken, and ending for good any Palestinian national aspirations.

Moreover, granting annexed Palestinians citizenship rights within Israel is not on the agenda, as that could endanger the Jewish majority which gives the democratic face to the Jewish state.

This ‘democracy’ has nearly 60 laws which discriminate heavily against non-Jewish citizens, or ‘Arab Israelis’ as they are legally designated. The 2018 Nationality Law enshrined the rights of Jews over non-Jews. This systematic institutional racism is defined in international law as Apartheid. If two million Palestinians were to be incorporated into the State of Israel, apartheid would be extended and would be permanent.

The US has been Israel’s staunch ally in the dispossession, occupation, violence and war on the Palestinians. Netanyahu and Gantz may be using the opportunity presented while Trump is in the White House but Obama re-armed Israel during its last war on Gaza. Annexation of occupied territory is a serious violation of the UN Charter and the Geneva Convention. But the UN will do nothing to enforce these laws, allowing the US to decide how annexation proceeds.

Understanding the strategic importance of Israel to the US is paramount to understanding Israel’s impunity to international  law, and its resistance to criticism. This key US alliance allows Israel to ignore all UN resolutions.

The EU may make critical noises but their response to annexation is typical. Congratulating Netanyahu on forming a new government, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the EU, “look forward to continuing working together in the spirit of the longstanding friendship that binds us.”

He added, “We strongly urge Israel to refrain from any unilateral decision that would lead to the annexation of any occupied Palestinian territory and would be, as such, contrary to international law.” There is no mention of any consequences and the EU continues to reward  Israeli contravention of international law with billions of euros in trade, aid and weapons.

The Arab states, though Jordan will not be happy, will come up with a formula that pretends they have not abandoned the Palestinians, when they did that long ago, following Anwar Sadat’s 1979 visit to Jerusalem.

Annexation will unleash a further flood of settler violence backed by the state, intensify human rights violations, land confiscation, and excessive use of force and torture. The burning of orchards, demolition of homes, stoning children on their way to school, or olive-pickers are already regular events. It will consolidate the already unjust reality: two peoples living in the same space, ruled by the same state, but with profoundly unequal rights.

Palestinian civil society has made a global call for ‘effective measures’ to be taken to stop this annexation happening.

Palestine Solidarity Campaign amongst others are demanding the UK should adhere to an ethical policy on all the UK’s trade with Israel, in particular by applying international law on settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory and stopping any arms trade with Israel that is used in violation of the human rights of Palestinians.

Peoples around the world recognise annexation as an escalation from decades of discrimination and occupation to complete apartheid. Whenever forces oppose their governments, especially for countries in the region, solidarity with Palestine is high on the agenda.

History has shown it is only when the Palestinians themselves have fought that they have made gains.

The extraordinary democratic struggle of the first intifada, the heroic second intifada, the daily steadfastness, where ‘existence is resistance’, the continued battles against evictions and to rebuild, to keep hope after years of oppression means progressive forces throughout the world identify with their struggle.

A world leader in ‘homeland security’

The sacking of Rebecca Long-Bailey from the Labour shadow cabinet by Keir Starmer for re-tweeting a Maxine Peake interview containing a reference to the connection between the US police and Israel is the Labour leader’s signal to the UK establishment, and to the US, that in his hands the Labour Party will not tolerate anything other than total support for Israel. Safeguarding Western interests is the issue, not antisemitism.

Yet Peake is quite right to make the connection between Israel’s position today as pre-eminent in violent suppression techniques as a result of decades of practice on subjugating Palestinians. Israel has long sold weapons ‘battle-proven in Gaza’. But it is its methods and expertise as an occupying power that has made it a global leader in the homeland security industry.

Israel uses military force on a daily basis to maintain its oppression of Palestinians. It targets civilians with tear gas grenades, rubber-coated bullets and live ammunition, carries out mass arrests, house demolitions, torture and extrajudicial executions, all amounting to breaches of international law and war crimes. The inhumanity and brutalisation of the oppressor in their determination to humiliate and injure the oppressed is deeply ingrained in racism integral to the system. Israel shares with American police delegations briefings and live demonstrations of suppressing an occupied population.

This also facilitates the sales and transfer of crowd-control technologies between the two governments. Developed by the Israeli Police and manufactured by Israeli company Odortec, “Skunk,” is a foul-smelling liquid designed to cause nausea that is sprayed at high pressure onto protesters.

Used by the IDF as a tool of collective punishment, it is sprayed into Palestinian shops, schools and houses of communities whose members participate in demonstrations. Based on its proven effectiveness against Palestinian protests – Israel markets Skunk to police units worldwide, including departments in the United States.

The American company Mistral Security reportedly began selling Skunk to US police departments following the 2014 protests in Ferguson. Mistral Security advertises the product as applicable to “border crossings, correctional facilities, demonstrations, and sit-ins.”

Find out more about the relationship between US police forces and Israel from the Deadly Exchange campaign organised by Jewish Voice for Peace at


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