Despite the delay in Israel’s planned annexation of as much as 30 per cent of the West Bank, the prospect of the further erosion of their rights and territories often feels to Palestinians like a side-note when compared to the horrors and hardships they face every day.
Late last month, another young Palestinian man, Ahmed Erekat, was shot and killed after losing control of his car and crashing into an Israeli checkpoint inside the Palestinian territory. An ambulance was prevented from reaching Ahmed to administer medical help. Perhaps most disturbingly, when Ahmed’s father arrived at the checkpoint, he was forced to stand a few feet away and watch as his son bleed to death. That’s what the occupation looks like. That’s what Israel has been doing to the Palestinians for decades: stripping them of their humanity; stripping them of their worth; and acting with impunity, in the knowledge they will not be held accountable.
It is worth noting that Ahmed Erekat, the young man who was on his way to pick up his sister from the hairdresser on her wedding day, was the nephew of senior Palestinian official, Saeb Erakat, the Palestinian Authority’s chief negotiator with Israel.
Palestinians insist that Israel’s planed annexation is the logical conclusion to decades of Israeli policies aimed at driving them out, stripping them of land, rights, and homes, and replacing them with a preferred Jewish population that has full rights and privileges under Israeli law.
Jewish settlers have for decades been handed the best agricultural Palestinian land and water resources, while Palestinians have been pushed into Bantustans behind high walls and surveillance towers and told to negotiate in good faith with an occupier while their land shrinks and the death toll rises. So why should the Palestinians see the annexation as anything different from what they have been experiencing for generations?
There are two factors at play, however, that could make a difference. First, the reaction of the international community. World leaders who are often sympathetic to Israel have expressed their deep discomfort with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s annexation plans perhaps because it forces them into a corner. No longer able to hide behind the so-called “peace talks” or promises of a “two-state solution,” the annexation exposes the ugly side of an “apartheid regime” that has been ignored for many years. It forces world leaders to choose between standing with a state that is in clear violation of international law, or joining the chorus of countries that are now calling for sanctions to be imposed on Israel as a response.
Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has called on the Australian government to condemn Israel’s proposed annexation because it “undermines the two-state solution and violate international law.” Michael Lynk, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, has also been unequivocal: “Annexation and territorial conquest are forbidden by the Charter of the United Nations.”
This presents a challenge to Australia’s current Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, who has closely aligned himself with Israel and its interests, and has frequently turned a blind eye to its record of human rights abuses. With Netanyahu bringing these abuses into the full light of day, what will Scott Morrison do?
The second factor at play here is the effect this will have on the Palestinian people and their chosen modes of resistance. Mohammad Shtayyeh, the prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, said that the plans present an “existential threat” for Palestinians. But this is not the whole picture. The plans also present a threat to the standing of the Israeli state. Formalising the annexation will end any chance of a two-state solution, and usher a new era of massive local and global anti-apartheid resistance. More and more Palestinians are warming up to the idea of “one man, one vote” in one democratic state. The anti-apartheid struggle based on equality, justice, peace, and freedom will resonate across the globe.
If Israel continues to act with impunity, the world has a moral obligation to decide how it should respond.
Dr Samah Sabawi is an award-winning author, playwright, poet, and policy advisor for Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network.