Israeli annexation plans..  Threat to Multilateralism, Peace and Stability

Open Discussions in association with Gulf Cultural Club

Israeli annexation plans..  Threat to Multilateralism, Peace and Stability

Wednesday, 22nd July 2020


* Professor Munir Nuseibah (Academic Al-Quds University in Jerusalem)

** Professor Kamel Hawwash (British Palestinian academic and writer)

*** Professor Richard Falk (Professor Emiratus of international law)


Wars were often waged to stop those who nurture expansionist ambitions, they were sanctioned and in certain cases, tried by international tribunals. But not the Israelis. Their historic grievances have become a vehicle on an arduous road of land grab even if it meant human displacement, destitution, homelessness and statelessness. The audacious decisions by Israeli policy makers to announce their desire to annex lands that were officially declared “Palestinian” have stunned many. How could the world willingly remain silent as more Palestinian land is expropriated? The Palestinians have never accepted the status quo imposed after 1948 that led to their expulsion from their homeland which was occupied by people from outside the territory. How do the natives of Palestine feel as the dreams of an independent homeland are shattered by satanic policies that aim at the ultimate obliteration of these dreams? Time to speak out, listen and debate how to mobilise public opinion to the advantage of the oppressed, the dispossessed and the occupied.


Richard Anderson Falk: This inquiry into the behaviour of Israel from the perspective of international law is one that is difficult  to compress in a short compass of a few minutes because Israel has so consistently over such a long period of time violated the rules of international law, has shown defiance for the authority of the United Nations and has generally behaved as a rogue state without paying anything for this kind of derelict behaviour.

Let me in the time that is available focus on what I believe to be the fundamental explanations for this pattern of this unlawful and cruel treatment of the Palestinian people and nation.

To begin with, I think the deep root of the problem was the idea of establishing a Jewish homeland and  Jewish state in an essentially non-Jewish society in which the Zionist project not only wanted a homeland, a state of its own, exclusively dominated by the Jewish people but it also wanted to be legitimate internationally which meant that it had to be in some sense a political democracy. And the only way it could be a political democracy given the fact it was even after strenuous efforts at immigration over a long period of time after the issuance of the Balfour Declaration in 1917. It is a pure colonialist initiative without consulting the people of Palestine at all. In a way they could establish a democratic state that would be legitimised by the dominant forces in the international community was by committing crimes against the Palestinian people. That is the root cause of the whole pattern of interaction which through time produced this regime of apartheid by which the Palestinian people are controlled by the Israeli government and its policing and military and paramilitary apparatus.

But the important thing to understand in my view is that the nakba and the dispossession of Palestinian people coupled with the denial of the most fundamental human right, the right to return to your own homeland that was embedded in the Zionist project of not only a state but nominally a democratic state that required a Jewish majority within the territory allocated to Israel by the United Nations after that the British gave up their mandate at the end of WW2.

So this is one branch of this problem of understanding the pervasive unlawfulness of the way in which Israel has dealt with the Palestinian people.  The other aspect, a quasi historical one, is that Israel managed to establish what amounts to a settler colonial state at a time when all over the world colonialism was collapsing. And it could only do this by exerting a very rigorous form of control, hardened over time,  into what is now generally accepted as a form of apartheid rule.

So one had this issue of how do you maintain a colony in the post-colonial era?  The only way you can do that is because those who are colonized are aware that they are in a post-colonial era and that national claims of self determination have been historically vindicated and supported at the UN and embedded in international  law. So the inevitability of resistance is coupled with this colonising anti-historical development which was possible due to only two factors.  First an extremely harsh form of control over the  Palestinian people not only over the territory occupied after 1967 but over all of the Palestinian people some dispossessed and consigned to refugee camps either in occupied Palestine or in the neighbouring countries.

The other way that this kind of resistance was minimised in its impact on the balance of forces within Palestine was the kind of guilt feelings that the European and liberal democratic countries, including the United States,  or maybe especially the United States felt because of its failure to protect Jews more vigorously during the Nazi period.

So the holocaust provided a kind of exemption from accountability for the early stages of Israel’s existence  and that was reinforced over time by the increasing availability of the  USA as a geopolitical partner of  Israel maintaining this rigid form of control that has features of apartheid which is an international crime of great severity.

And you have a series of interlocking experiences which have in effect made this form of resistance to a colonial project much more difficult than any other form of resistance that has been experienced in the last 75 years.

It is against this background I think one can understand why Israel has pursued this project which goes against the flow of history.

And finally let me say that the occupation is about territory and the Zionist project is to recover the so-called promised land. Its sense of entitlement comes from the Bible and from its military power not from international law or international morality. And again that sets it apart from other claimants  of this kind of national right and territorial expansion. So one  has to understand that the occupation was never intended to end unless Israel was forced to do so. And it could not do so as long as the geo political pressures it was able to bear through its own capabilities as unconditionally reinforced by the USA. Let me stop there if that is okay.

Munir Nuseibah: I would like to thank the organisers for inviting me to speak today. My presentation today will be about the upcoming annexation and trying to put it in context  and I will do that by comparing four other annexations Israel has made in the past and showing the on the ground the result of those annexations and to imagine how the new annexation will look and how it will potentially affect the lives of people and how it fits in the context of this apartheid regime we are dealing with.

Let me start by reminding people or telling people who do not know a lot about the context that this situation here in Palestine started when the British mandate  when they decided to create a homeland in Palestine which had a great non-Jewish population. The British mandate came in the early 1920s and they continued allowing and inviting Jewish immigration to Palestine.

However by the end of the British mandate in 1948 the Jewish population was only 38 percent of the population so the UN was asked to intervene to recommend a solution. They recommended the partition of Palestine into two states which you can see on the UN map in 1947. A war erupted and the result of that war was that the Jewish state was founded on 78 percent a much larger area of land in Palestine and the West Bank and Gaza were not  occupied during that period until 1967 when in 1967 another war erupted and Israel occupied the remaining area of Palestine, having all of Palestine under its control.

But in both wars in 1948 and in 1967 Israel displaced a lot of Palestinians. In 1948  Israel displaced 80 percent of the Palestinian population and in 1967 around one third of the population of the West Bank and Gaza. And all of that was in order to advance this idea of creating a Jewish state.

Now in 1967 when Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza it also annexed East Jerusalem. It was not the first annexation that Israel did. In 1948 as you can see from both maps on the right and the left Israel annexed a lot of the areas beyond the lines that were provided or suggested by the UN. But in 1967 Israel  also annexed two other areas, the Golan Heights which were occupied from Syria and East Jerusalem.

What does this annexation mean? It means that since 1967 Israel has been treating this territory as part of its own. It means that Israeli law has been fully applicable in this area. But what it also meant was  that it was separated at least in the legal sense from the West Bank and Gaza. People were treated differently, the legal system was different and in the same way the people in the rest of the occupied territory were ruled by a military government with  military laws while the people in East Jerusalem were ruled by the very same state institutions that Israel uses in other parts which it considers to be part of its sovereign areas.

And in 2003 Israel also introduced a new structure to separate East Jerusalem from the rest of the  of the West Bank by building the wall of separation. This  is the apartheid separation wall which also separated areas of the West Bank from each other creating what are going to become pockets of Palestinians living separate from each other which also gets us closer to the concept of apartheid which I will talk about also at the end of this presentation.

So how does Israel treat the Palestinian population in the area that it annexed in  1967? First they considered this population as residents not citizens. Palestinians who continued to live there were given a permanent residency status which is status given usually to people who immigrate to a certain country not people who are natives of a certain area. And this legal status has different problems. One of them is that it is easily revocable, the second one is that  – and there are several ways in which Israel revokes this residency so it could claim that if your centre of life is outside Jerusalem or outside Israel then you are liable to lose your residency status and more recently they have developed a new law according to which if you breach your allegiance to the state of Israel even though you are not a citizen you will also lose your residency status.

But another problem that is linked to residency status is family unification. If you are from East Jerusalem and you are married to a Palestinian from the West Bank or the Gaza Strip Israel has created a restriction for you to live under the same roof. For spouses from the West Bank you need to apply for family reunification in order to live under the same roof but unfortunately the maximum  you can get is if the Israeli Minister of Interior allows this family reunification to be processed and to be granted the maximum. The maximum you can get is a permit to live in Jerusalem that needs to be renewed on a yearly basis.

So  if a person from the West Bank who lives with their spouse in Jerusalem can never get a permanent residency status that gives them the stability of living in the city and once they are divorced or their spouse dies they would have to leave again.  But if your spouse is from the Gaza Strip then that person will never be able to apply for family reunification because of the Israeli restrictions on family reunification.   And there are four other countries in the world that Israel also included in the  restrictions on family reunification.

The other problem with residency status is child registration. Since 1967 the children of Palestinians from Jerusalem (since the annexation) do not automatically become residents like their parents. And in order to make sure that these children become residents the parents need to go through a certain bureaucratic procedure and certain laws.

Unfortunately many parents fail to meet the criteria for registering their children under the criteria of the population registry which means that these children will never be able to have  residency status. This means they will not be part of any governmental services or they cannot go to  government  schools or medical care. But also it means that when they grow  up and they have not managed to get their residency status they will not be able to get an id card they will not be able to open a bank account or to work.  These are the cases for which our centre provides legal aid and deals with on a daily basis.

So these are the issues that came out of the annexation and there are many many other problems that  I could mention. But in order to appreciate what the new annexation will mean Israel said that it is going to annex new territories. The settlements were where only Jews live in the West Bank but also some areas where there are Palestinian residents in the West Bank such as the Jordan Valley and other areas. We do not know the fate of the Palestinian population that live in these areas. Are they going to get a residency or some other status that  Israel will decide – a permit or something.  Everyone who works in the human rights field or is close to  Palestine knows how many kinds of permits Israel has invented over the years.

But other areas that we think will affect the new annexed areas and the danger of applying Israeli law in these areas will be for example absentee property law. This is a law that Israel invented back in the early stages of its establishment in  order to confiscate and use the land  and property of Palestinian refugees who were displaced out of their homes and were never allowed to return. There will be enhanced freedom of movement restrictions that people from these areas as well as the whole of Palestine will suffer from. The more pockets are created and the more annexed areas there are there will be less space for Palestinians to actually move and they will experience heavy restrictions of movement in recent history.

Civil society organisations will suffer and they will have to abide by Israeli law, they will have to register in the Israeli system. This morning three Palestinians from a cultural organisation in Jerusalem have been arrested. We still do not have a lot of news about what they have been accused of. Just  before this webnair I read that they were accused of things related to taxes and other things. So the space  for Palestinian civil society organisation is shrinking all the time and the Israeli legal system is being used for that. Now its application in the new area will make it even worse. There will be more displacements for sure.  When Israel annexes new areas they will hold a new census, they will consider some of the population legal and some illegal.

But let me say something at the end of my intervention. Regardless of whether Israel will actually go ahead and annex new territories and where the territories are.  The plan which Donald Trump suggested as his peace plan is basically a plan of apartheid that is already there.  Israel has already created this on the  ground. Israel has already created different pockets of Palestinians living in different places being treated according to different legal systems at the same time.

Your Jewish neighbour will have completely different rights to you if you are Palestinian. The annexation is only another stage of making this deeper stronger and more durable from the Israeli point of view but it is not going to change the fact that we are already  living under an apartheid system which unfortunately the American administration and the Israeli government are trying to cement. What this means is that what we should try to do is we should try to  make sure that this regime will end. Thank you very much.


Annexation of WB and Jerusalem-1

Kamel Hawwash: I would like to start by thanking Open Discussions and the Gulf Cultural Club for putting this seminar on and also say what an honour it is to follow the two previous speakers. Two people I know who have great gravitas in terms of expressing what the situation is like.

I thought that in my own talk I would concentrate on what the international community’s reaction has been. As someone who was described as an engineer rather than a law professor I write very much on the subject. I am from Jerusalem. My parents were both born before the state of Israel was created and I always say that my mother lives here with me in Birmingham. When she is able to return to live in Jerusalem peace would have come to the Holy Land. And she has not been able to go back and live there yet so peace is a long way off.

I am also  married to a lady from East Jerusalem. Imagine as a British person if you were told you are only a resident in Britain. The British government might decide to take that away from you and you may have to move from one place to another or you might have to leave. Imagine what it is like waking up in the morning and being told this is no longer your homeland. It is your homeland and this is something that people do not understand. I have to say for my wife who has residency one of the worries that she had when we were getting married was what will happen to my residency. That is what the situation there does to you.

The topic of this discussion is Israeli annexation plans. Threat to Multilateralism, Peace and Stability. Israel is a threat to peace and stability. It is not just about its rule over the Palestinians. It has been attacking Syria and Iraq. It has attacked Lebanon.  And we are told it might attack Iran as well. So it is a threat to regional stability and of course the pretext it uses is its own security.

And before I say much about annexation let us be clear. Israel says it has security and sovereignty over the whole land.  Never mind about maps. It will not allow the Palestinians to have an external entry or exit point with Jordan, contact with Syrian etc. So it has done that already.

This is not the first annexation. So you might say if this is the case why is this different. One of the first questions you might ask is why the heck are we even having to discuss this. What it is doing is illegal. Why does the international community not act now. What it is doing is clearly illegal. And if you want a comparison just think back to  how the international community dealt with Russia a major power over Crimea. It immediately implemented sanctions. Some people say in the Security Council America would raise its veto. Russia may have raised its veto but collectively the other countries stood together. So if you want to compare the situation over Israel the other countries decided outside the Security  Council as sovereign nations to impose sanctions on Russia over Crimea. So there is a precedent as to what can be done. And it has not been done today.

So what  has the reaction been? The Palestinian official leadership rejected the Trump line which included this annexation and when the  Israeli government was formed and annexation was at the heart of its programme the Palestinians said they would withdraw from all agreements with the Americans and with the Israelis. We still do not understand what that really means but we are told there is no longer security co-operation between the two. They refuse to speak to the Americans. The Americans have said that if you want to negotiate with Israel it has to be on the basis of the Trump plan not on the basis of international law and secondly anything you want to talk about has to be within that and you have to effectively sign away all your rights and accept the Trump plan and then see what crumbs you can have.

There were a few demonstrations in Gaza larger than in the West Bank but things have quietened down which is quite disappointing considering  the effect this could have on people. Let us look at the neighbouring areas. The King of Jordan condemned this. He warned that it would trigger a massive conflict. Jordan is in a very sensitive situation because of its borders. It is the only exit point from the West Bank and the make up of the population has a very high number of Palestinian refugees who would like to go home and Jordan would like them to go home as well. But most recently the trigger for the annexation has been that the Jordanian foreign minister yesterday started saying that if a two state solution is not possible a one state solution might happen and Jordan would not object to that if it could be done.

If it could be done as usual words but no action. There are a number of countries like the UAE who have been expanding their relationship with Israel. There are  Emirati planes landing in Tel Aviv supposedly carrying medication for the Palestinians but why did they not go to Jordan as usual and then the medication could be transported in.

Through the formal channels like the Arab League not much was said so the threat is normalisation. A few years ago there would have been a much larger  objection to this from the Arab world but it has not come. The Palestinian leadership  is finding it hard to get condemnation from the Organisation of Islamic Conference and so on. There were words but there was no specific action. From Jordan there was no threat that the ambassador would be withdrawn but there was talk that  the peace treaty with Israel would be annulled.

What happened in other parts of the world? We do not have to say much about the USA because that is part of the plan. Can you imagine another situation where the ambassador to a country which is annexing illegally land is on a committee to decide the terms of that annexation?  That is exactly what happened. David Friedman who the Palestinians call the settlers ambassador rather than the American ambassador formed the committee which is drawing the lines in the sand. Does this bring back memories of Sykes-Picot? Foreigners deciding the fate of another people by drawing lines in the sand. We are not sure if he is pushing the Israelis to expand more or whether he is restraining them. I think the former. So we know where the Americans stand. They want annexation but they want it to be in agreement with them.

Other reactions. France’s foreign minister said that the annexation decision could not be left without consequences. My goodness me. Can you hear the threat there? What is he going to do? When France has been really hiking its attack on  the BDS movement. So rather than saying the Palestinians are entitled to ask for boycotts they penalise the Palestinians.

Even Germany which normally stands with Israel said peace cannot be achieved by unilateral stops. Australia, another country which normally goes with Israel warned against  unilateral annexation or a change in the status of territories in the West Bank. And the Vatican called the Israeli and US ambassadors in to  announce their objection to this. The Vatican has recognised the state of Palestine. That is an interesting dynamic itself. International human rights organisations like Amnesty International condemned this as well.

At the official level the European Union has to get 27 countries to agree to a statement. I think they could probably get 24 countries but they can’t get them all so their statement talked about how important it is to preserve the two-state solution and they still think the settlements are illegal and annexation is an illegal act but no real threats. However there was a letter signed by a thousand parliamentarians across Europe which sort of alluded to consequences. It did not go as far as sanctions but it alluded to  consequences.

This brings me to the UK. The UK opposition party, the Labour Party was completely against the Trump plan and when it came to annexation the Shadow Foreign Secretary  Lisa Nandy. wrote to her opposite number saying that is not acceptable.  I don’t think Dominic Raab has even replied to her letter. However about 150 parliamentarians in the UK issued a letter which for the first time had sanctions in it. I know that not enough and it is not the government doing it but that is actually quite significant.

Again she has recently been quoted as calling for a ban on settlement goods. Again a move in the right direction. At the moment the only thing that is there – it is not even a sanction – is the labelling of settlements products.

What the government there has said is that it took basically the side of sitting on the fence as usual but Boris Johnson wrote an article in Yediot Aharanot  but if you read this you did not hear a sort of condemnation because this is an  illegal act that should be condemned. It was more that he worries for Israel. Please don’t do it for your own sake.  Rather than talking about the impact this would have on the Palestinians and international law he was only talking about his worry that this would not be in Israel’s interest, that it would slow down normalisation with the Arab world, that it would damage its reputation abroad. And he almost finished the letter by saying how proud Britain was and is of the Balfour Declaration.

So it shows you that where he was coming from is not what was needed at this time. But that is what the UK government here has said. The UK government has always said to the Palestinians work with the Trump Plan. You want a two-state solution talk about a two-state solution but as you have seen from the maps displayed it is not a two-state solution. They used to say two states side by side  but  that  shows you that it  is a statelet inside Israel. There are no two states side by side where you have the West Bank and Gaza and East Jerusalem and you have Israel in the rest of the area.

Although there was  condemnation from the world for the act there wasn’t really any action. Interesting is the Jewish communities reaction. The Board of Deputies which claims to speak for the majority of British Jews who are Zionists and therefore will support Israel and there are some people who are not happy about annexation and want us to take that stand and there are others who are with it. So we are going to sit on the fence. If you are calling for a two-state solution and you see it disappearing in front of your eyes you can’t call for a two-state solution. If you say that is the way forward you should not be sitting on the fence you should be saying it is not acceptable.

So it was left to 300 British Jews and a  few of them are very well known, to write a letter to the departing Israeli ambassador  saying for them this is beyond the pale and they do not agree with the annexation. They had a better position than the Board of Deputies. They did not talk about the impact on the Palestinians and the impact on the Palestinians is huge. It is difficult unless you live there or go there regularly to understand what it is like to live with the occupation on a daily basis. Very difficult to imagine it happening every day.

Lockdown has stopped me from travelling from Birmingham to London but I still could travel to London if I wanted to. With the Palestinians it is going to have a huge impact if this annexation takes place. They were against this.

I wanted to finish by saying what is possible. I want to say it is possible for the world to take a stance that is similar to what happened when Russia occupied Crimea. There are lots of instruments they can use. They could look at some diplomatic measures. The Vatican called the ambassadors and the European countries did not. Even that level of protest was not there. They could impose some travel restrictions on the settlers – especially the settler leaders. They could freeze assets as they have done to some key people in Crimea related to that. They could ban settlement goods from coming to the UK. They could freeze the EU-Israel Association Agreement in terms of trade which gives Israel  access to the market which is not given to many other countries and which the second clause speaks about respect for human rights.

There are things they could they chose not to do. They don’t even wave them as threat. They always say that a threat would not help with the peace process. What peace process? We are well beyond that. There is co-operation between the UK, European countries and Israel academically and companies and universities. Why should they benefit from millions of Euros of tax payers money   now going to the European Union. Millions and millions of  euros that go into these agreements with a country that behaves illegally.

And Michel Link the Special Rapporteur in his report of last  year set out the types of sanctions that could be taken. Palestinians see the hypocrisy. What they did to Russia they failed to do to Israel. It is being singled out  for special treatment that stops accountability.

So that is why we look forward to the International Criminal Court finally deciding that it has full jurisdiction in the area. Two hundred Israeli officials are on the list and they are considering what to do if the ICC begins to work.

So accountability is important. Nothing happened on July 1st that is true but annexation is coming that is the de jure annexation. Annexation is there already on the ground and everybody sees it. So it is important that we discuss this and continue to pressure our leadership here in the UK and across the world to make sure that annexation does not happen. What  the Palestinians have said is it is not good condemning it after it has happened. Let us work together to stop it happening now. Thank you.


* Munir Nuseibah is a human rights lawyer and academic based in Al-Quds University in Jerusalem, Palestine. He is an assistant professor at Al-Quds University’s Faculty of Law; the Director (and co-founder) of Al-Quds Human Rights Clinic, the first accredited clinical legal education program in the Arab World; and the Director of the Community Action Center in Jerusalem. He holds an LL.M in International Legal Studies from the Washington College of Law of the American University in Washington DC and a PhD from the University of Westminster in London, UK, where his thesis dealt with Forced Displacement in the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict, International Law, and Transitional Justice.

** Kamel Hawwash Kamel Hawwash is a senior Civil Engineering academic. He is Professor of Civil Engineering in the School of Engineering at the University of Birmingham. He is a commentator on Middle East affairs, a founding member of the British Palestinian Policy Council (BPPC) and Chair of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), in the UK. His columns appear regularly in Middle East Eye and TRT World.

*** Richard Anderson Falk (born November 13, 1930)  is an American professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University. He is the author or co-author of 20 books and the editor or co-editor of another 20 volumes.  In 2008, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) appointed Falk to a six-year term as a United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967. Falk’s engagement with politics began at Ohio State University, where in the 1960s as a member of the faculty of law he was a witness to racism targeted at black students. Richard is Chair in Global Law, Queen Mary University London.


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