International community must act to end Israel’s annexation of occupied West Bank, including east Jerusalem, and defend international law: UN experts

The international community must take steps to prevent Israel’s annexation of the occupied Palestinian territory or risk being seen as accepting the Israeli Government’s systematic violation of international law, UN experts said today.

“Israel’s continuous annexation of portions of the occupied Palestinian territory, now focusing on large swathes of the West Bank after unlawfully annexing east Jerusalem, suggests that a concrete effort may be underway to annex the entire occupied Palestinian territory in violation of international law,” the experts said.

“In 2020, 46 UN experts urged the international community to firmly oppose Israel’s plans for annexation of parts of the occupied West Bank. Our call went unheard then and we cannot stay silent now. The tragedy continues to unfold for both Palestinians and Israelis, unequally trapped in the maze of unlawfulness and injustice. Palestinian and Israeli human rights defenders, who peacefully bring public attention to these violations, keep being slandered, criminalized or labeled as terrorists,” they said.

In February 2023 Israel’s governing coalition transferred most of the governing powers over the West Bank to the additional minister of defense, effectively designating Bezalel Smotrich, a civilian official, as the de facto governor of the occupied West Bank. The experts noted that the move solidified Israel’s annexation of occupied territory.

“Annexation or acquisition of territory by use of force or threat is categorically prohibited under international law. It constitutes an act of aggression, a crime that falls under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, and poses a threat to international peace and security. Israel has persistently pursued annexation in many parts of the occupied Palestinian territory. Over the last five decades, Israel has confiscated or endorsed confiscation of Palestinian lands and resources, resulting in over 270 colonies housing 750,000 Israeli settlers,” they said.

While the Israeli settlers in occupied Palestinian territory enjoy civil and political rights, Palestinians are subject to military rule. “The consolidation of an apartheid regime is an unavoidable consequence of such a system,” the experts added.

“The large majority of Member States of the UN unequivocally condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its annexation of Ukraine’s eastern parts as an act of aggression”, the experts said, “and they imposed sanctions on Russia to encourage a cessation of this violation of international law.” “By contrast, Israel’s annexation of the occupied Palestinian territory is obfuscated by political rhetoric, debates and negotiations, which ultimately rest on double standards,” they said.

“This show of à la carte enforcement of international law undermines the foundations of the UN Charter and the promise of the universality of international human rights, 75 years after the proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” the experts said.

They expressed grave concern regarding the escalating scale and brutal nature of violence perpetrated against Palestinian men, women and children, noting the violation of the right to life, among others, as annexation intensifies, and called on Israel to end these violations immediately. “We fear that the spiral of violence will continue unless the primacy of international law as a foundation of peace and security is restored,” the experts said.

They urged Member States of the UN to utilize the range of available legal means to seek an end to these illegal acts.

“Justice must be served, and international law must be upheld without double standards to end this cycle of violence and secure a just and lasting peace for both Palestinians and Israelis,” the experts said.

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