Annexation or not, Israel deserves sanctions – Labour Article
“They are all enemy combatants, and their blood shall be on all their heads…. They should go, as should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there.”
If I asked you to place who said this quote, you would probably guess they came from the ramblings of a far-right supremacist. This characterisation may be accurate, but you wouldn’t have guessed it belongs to the former Minister of Justice of Israel, Ayelet Shaked.
As this makes abundantly clear, the heart of Israeli policy towards its indigenous Palestinian population is one of dispossession and dehumanisation.
Noura Erakat, a Palestinian scholar and cousin to the murdered Ahmad Erekat – who was killed at a checkpoint by Israeli soldiers on his way to his sister’s wedding – put it bluntly: “this is the discourse of the highest people in office in Israel”.
Israel is a country that promotes itself as being ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’ and as a ‘bastion of human rights’. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The proposed date for the formalisation of key areas of the occupied West Bank into Israeli has recently passed. It’s vital to note that should this annexation happen, it will not be a stain on an otherwise flawless record. It would be the opposite, a further realisation of Israel’s foundational logic.
Like many of its Western allies, Israel is not unique in the fact that it is sustained by a legacy of racism and imperialism.
From the ethnic cleansing campaigns committed by the pre-state militias in villages such as Deir Yassin; the shameful occupation of the West Bank since 1967; to the ghettoization of Gaza, Israel has only meant disaster for its Palestinian population. In the present day, it continues this cruelty, including denying refugees their right to return to their homes through the absentee property law, and with the 2018 Nation State law which solidified Israel’s status as a supremacist ethnostate.
This exclusionary nature affects more than just Palestinians, including for instance the Bedouin population. Furthermore, the Jewish state only benefits a narrow section of the wider Jewish community. This is because it has historically had its state institutions dominated by Ashkenazi (East European) Jews – to the detriment of others.
For example, consider the disgraceful treatment of Mizrahi (Middle Eastern) Jewish immigrants, which includes the incident where children were kidnapped to be given to Holocaust survivors. This racism eventually led to Mizrahim forming their own Black Panther movement.
“Let’s just start with whether Hitler was right or not… He was the most correct person there ever was and was correct in every word he said… he was just on the wrong side.” – Said by a teacher at a religious military training academy for future officers in the IDF.
However, the relentless obsession of the right towards fulfilling the historical goal of ‘Greater Israel’ will mean that annexation will doubtless continue to make Palestinian lives even worse. The move towards a de jure rather than a de facto annexation of the West Bank is indeed a legal formalisation of theft.
Since the inception of the Jewish State and the formulation of it is guiding ideology, Israel has always treated every Palestinian as a potential terrorist. This has been supported by both the right and left in Israel. Even its supposedly socialist institutions have been key for the nationalist project. As long as all Palestinians represent a so-called “demographic threat” to the Jewish majority, in the eyes of Israel, all Palestinian children are analogous to an unexploded bomb.
It is therefore not enough for us to be critical of annexation as a formal legal move. The guiding logic of the State of Israel needs to be dismantled. Especially as this escalation risks the possibility of a second Nakba occurring (the word for catastrophe in Arabic, used to refer to the ethnic cleansing of 700,000 Palestinians during the foundation of the state of Israel).
The guiding ideology behind the State of Israel, Zionism, has always been antithetical to the human rights of Palestinians. This movement needs to be understood as one solution to the question of Jewish emancipation in Europe. This was during a time where the continent was deciding how to fully pillage and colonise Africa. Zionism, therefore, started off as a defeatist position. Instead of working towards building a Europe free of antisemitism, Zionists sought to ‘occidentalise’ themselves. They followed the path of many other nationalist movements at the time.
Israel, therefore, preserves the logic of settler colonialism that was so prevalent in the 19th and 20th Centuries. Which is why its most fervent defenders can only resort to the most barbaric colonial-era justifications of supremacy.
The form of Zionism that remains most influential today is the fascistic revisionist tendency which eventually gave birth to Netanyahu’s Likud party. It’s founder, Jabotinsky, himself acknowledged the fact that “the native populations, civilised or uncivilised, have always stubbornly resisted the colonists, irrespective of whether they were civilised or savage”. This pattern has repeated itself from Algeria to South Africa, and is no less true in Palestine.
“We must expel Arabs and take their place.” – David Ben Gurion, First Prime Minister of Israel.
Annexation is clearly illegal under international law and any consistent standard of morality. It won’t be stopped by an international community that remains committed to calling on ‘both sides to come together’ in dialogue. When one side is responsible for the overwhelming majority of violence and belligerence, there is only one side that needs to face serious material consequences for such a move.
Israel will not stop the dehumanisation of Palestinians or the further encroachment into their territory without external, economic pressure. A country that grotesquely calls its 1967 borders ‘Auschwitz borders’ or the withdrawal from Gaza as equivalent to a second Holocaust will not stop making an independent Palestinian state an impossibility from a sudden moment of moral clarity. In the eyes of many Israelis, territorial supremacy in the region goes hand in hand with Jewish safety worldwide.
As such, we must start applying economic sanctions. The scale of which should reflect the fact that Israel is already an apartheid regime; even if annexation has not yet formally occurred. Even within Israel, this has been increasingly recognised, and most prominently from the NGO Yesh Din. Palestinians and their supporters have long recognised and modelled their opposition to it from the South African boycott campaign. For example, Dennis Goldberg, the recently deceased Jewish anti-apartheid campaigner, was vocal on this issue and explicitly drew comparisons between Israel and South Africa (who Israel lent material support to during apartheid).
“We are a generation that settles the land and without the steel helmet and the canon’s maw, we will not be able to plant a tree and build a home” – Eulogy delivered by Moshe Dayan, an Israeli military commander, at the funeral of a Kibbutz (resident of an Israeli agricultural community, a kibbutz) killed near the Gaza Strip in 1956.
Annexation is, therefore, a moment of reckoning for the long-standing defenders of Israel. There can be no other end result of annexation other than formal apartheid. The only way to avert this would be if citizenship is fully granted to Palestinians. It is why Peter Beinart, the prominent American Liberal Zionist, has caused such a shockwave with his article in Jewish Currents, abandoning the two-state solution in favour of one bi-national state. Beinart’s reversal is significant because it could potentially cause more defenders of Israel’s role in the peace process to wake up from the fiction that a Palestinian state was ever desired by Israeli policymakers.
Of course, a one-state solution wouldn’t be just by itself; the State of Israel needs to be radically reformed. It would further entrench dispossession of Palestinians if they are not granted full citizenship. Palestinians would need political equality to be accompanied by a robust scheme of reparations. All this, with the goal of reaching economic equality with Israelis.
It is incumbent on the UK and the international community to endorse the Palestinian struggle against apartheid. This support is needed until Israel recognises the mutual humanity of every sector of its population.
This issue is of particular importance for the UK because of its historical role in promoting the Zionist movement, most famously with the Balfour Declaration. Balfour, an extreme anti-Semite and key supporter of Zionism, issued the declaration as Foreign Secretary while he crafted the UK’s first immigration controls designed to restrict Jewish immigration.
To be allowed more than the most watered-down critique of the excesses of the Netanyahu government, we need to reject the flawed International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism. The definition, which has six out of eleven of its examples of antisemitism about Israel, severely impacts on the ability of Palestinian activists to historicise and contextualise their opposition. Even its author has acknowledged the definition has been misused to silence criticism of Israel.
The philosopher and mystic Simone Weil once said: “Love for our neighbour, being made of creative attention, is analogous to genius.” This love expressed in political form is solidarity. The work of drawing attention to the way in which racism functions trans-nationally and to how struggles intersect fulfils this work. Only through solidarity with Palestinians, which BLM UK has recognised, can we work towards building a new more just anti-racist international order.
We need to recognise that domination and imperialism should have no place in the 21st Century. The fact that our wealth and prosperity was dependent on the Empire has been increasingly recognised in the UK; although much work is still needed to be done. Israel needs to work through the same. We need to face up to the fact that the only feasible solution would be a binational State of Israel and Palestine.
Written by Senior Labour Writer, Jack Walton
Binational State of Israel and Palestine is the only viable option– A Conservative Response
This is an excellent article that is informative whilst presenting a compelling argument on a complex issue. My response to this will focus on two points; firstly addressing sanctions and then an opportunity that Jack has failed to consider that annexation presents.
The overarching call to arms is the implementation of sanctions on Israel; although I agree annexation does need to be addressed, potentially with sanctions, the timing is important. Annexation has been pushed back and it is only once this actually happens that Israel should be punished; a pre-emptive introduction of sanctions is also wrong.
Jack describes the treatment of Palestinians by the Israelis and uses this to justify sanctions immediately. Would sanctions actually change the situation though? Part of ensuring that the Palestinians are treated equally comes from a shift in attitude from the people of Israel. I question whether economics sanctions would have any effect on this.
I think Jack is right when he ends with the suggestion of a binational one State of Israel/Palestine. This is the only viable option, we must, therefore, focus on how we get there. Whilst this presents the short-term possibilities and impact of annexation it fails to consider the potential long-term benefits. Annexation would end the unrealistic two-state solution for good.
This is not to argue that the short-term problems of annexation should be ignored. However, if this does take place, it is up to countries including the UK to then ensure that Palestinians have equal rights. This appeal should also extend to the International Criminal Court in such a scenario, Jack is right annexation is illegal and they should be held accountable at trial.
Written by Chief Conservative Writer, Fletcher Kipps
An incredibly strong article that highlights major problems with Israeli policy – A Liberal Response
Jack has written, again, an incredibly strong article. This time, his analysis of the Israeli-Palestinian situation is incredibly in-depth and fascinating to read.
I found his verdict about Zionism naturally leading to colonial behaviour very interesting. However, I think this thinking, although does play a large part, is not the only reason for Israel’s annexation.
Israeli’s PM Benjamin Netanyahu, along with a number of influential politicians, are ex-army in some sort of capacity. I think their theory behind annexing Palestine is the same with the Golan Heights; military protection.
For a lot of the older generation in Israel, they will remember 1948 and the six-day war. They will constantly, rightly or wrongly, be worried about foreign invasion. Just like Russia post WW2, they want a strategic ‘buffer zone’ between invaders and Israel. Now, this is still completely unjust and wrong. A country shouldn’t be annexed purely because it would be a strategic stronghold.
However, just like Jack has done with Zionism, it is important to explain the thinking behind Israel’s actions. You must first understand why, to then work to debate and overturn their thinking!
Written by Senior Liberal Writer, Max Anderson