The Annexation of Land by Force Under International Law – Western Hypocrisy
Western hypocrisy is ever-present as we see differing responses to the annexation of land by Russia in Ukraine in comparison to Israel’s continued annexation of Palestinian land since 1947. Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on September 30th 2022 that Russia would annexe four regions in Ukraine. These regions are Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia, now referred to as “new regions” of Russia.
The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the annexation as violating international law. Therefore, this is a “dangerous escalation” in the war between Russia and Ukraine, which began on February 24th 2022, when Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine, classified as a “special military operation”. Hence, the annexation of a state’s territory by threat or use of force violates the principles in the United Nations Charter.
The European Commission rejected and unequivocally condemned the illegal annexation. However, western hypocrisy is ever-present. The international community condemns Russia’s violations but celebrates and protects those carried out by Israel. Consequently, Russia is creating a global security risk and undermining the leading principles of international law.
A “Sham Referenda” Executed by Russia in Ukraine
Between September 23rd to 27th, Russia orchestrated a “sham referendum” in regions of Ukraine. Residents voted on whether they wished to become part of Russia. The voting took place in polling centres while Russian authorities accompanied by soldiers went door-to-door with ballot boxes.
The sham referendum occurred during an active armed conflict in Ukraine under Russian control. Therefore, this is outside Ukraine’s legal and constitutional framework and cannot be classified as a genuine expression of the popular will.
“Unilateral actions aimed to provide a veneer of legitimacy to the attempted acquisition by force by one State of another State’s territory, while claiming to represent the will of the people, cannot be regarded as legal under international law.”Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, Rosemary A. DiCarlo.
Annexation is a “formal act whereby a state proclaims its sovereignty over territory hitherto outside its domain”.
Israel Is Allowed to Annex Occupied Land, But Russia Isn’t
Russia’s war in Ukraine triggered immediate, swift condemnation by several countries and economic sanctions by the United States. Furthermore, many states have targeted Russian banks, oil refineries and military exports. There have been marathon emergency talks at the UN Security Council to deal with Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.
The EU and its member states stand united in their unwavering support for Ukraine, revealing western hypocrisy. There is strong criticism of Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified military aggression. However, it seems it is acceptable for Israel to annex occupied land, but in the case of Russia, it is not.
Israel occupied Palestinian East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the Syrian Golan Heights, and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. In 1967, Israel annexed approximately 70,000 dunams of West Bank land to the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem and applied Israeli law in breach of international law.
International Communities Differing Response to Israel v Russia Reveals A Western Hypocrisy of Double Standards
The Israeli occupation and annexation of Palestinian territories received a starkly different response in comparison to Russia’s annexation. The international community’s weak response encouraged the Israeli government to continue to annex occupied East Jerusalem on July 29th 1980, and the occupied Golan Heights in 1981. Israel’s breach of international law only triggered temporary international reactions. Consequently, no meaningful change was implemented, as no sanctions or threats were applied.
The West continues to give the Israeli apartheid state unconditional diplomatic, political, economic and military support. The peaceful Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel has even been criminalised in some states.
The Analogy Between Russia and Israel’s Annexations of Occupied Land
Israel has gone to extreme lengths to clear the occupied land of the Palestinian people. This has been done by demolishing their homes, withdrawing residence permits and murdering innocent civilians. Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip have been held in a land, air, and sea blockade for fifteen years. Israel never declared where its borders lay and continued to expand its territory through illegal annexation alongside unjustified impunity. An estimated 62% of Palestinians living in Gaza require food assistance, and 78% of water flowing into Gaza is unfit for human consumption. Unemployment levels in Gaza are among the world’s highest, currently at 46.6%. Youth unemployment between the ages of 15-29 for the same period stands at 62.5%.
Ironically, Israel condemned Russia’s annexation. Israel sent humanitarian aid to Ukraine and expressed its support. However, Israel did not join international sanctions against Russia and refused to give Kyiv anti-missile systems to help counter Russian attacks. The Israeli government’s fumbled response to Russia’s annexation of Ukraine betrays Jewish history and draws attention to Israel’s similarly odious actions. Israel’s brutal annexation of Palestinian territory has been continuing without consequences for a significantly longer time with little consequences.
Comparatively, Russia has annexed four regions of Ukraine that are partially or almost entirely occupied by Russia. With a complete disregard for international law, on September 30th 2022, Putin signed treaties to begin absorbing parts of Ukraine into Russia. Together with Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014, Russia now claims 20% of Ukrainian territory.
Ukrainian Map vs Palestinian Map of Annexations
The map below illustrates the regions of Ukraine illegally annexed by Russia.
In comparison, the map below depicts the land forcibly annexed by Israel from Palestinians from 1946 onwards. This annexation was accompanied by the expulsion of 750,000 – one million Palestinians to make way for a Jewish state following World War ll.
Concluding Thoughts: The Undeniable Parallel Between Russia and Israel
Russia continues to deny Ukraine their right to independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity. These are the core principles enshrined under the UN Charter. Similarly, Isreal continues to deny the Palestinian people the same rights. However, as discussed in this article, significant differences lie in the international community’s response to both annexations.
The parallel between Putin’s invasion of Ukraine to fulfil his imperial designs, and Israel’s 70-year history of imposing its will on the Palestinians and neighbouring Arab countries, is also evidently clear worldwide.
Russia and Israel conquered and absorbed the territories of Ukraine and Palestine in defiance of international law. Both states are facing investigations over alleged war crimes at the International Criminal Court and are demanding that their enemies bow to them or face destruction. Both Russia and Israel created powerful militaries to accomplish these goals. However, another striking observation is that no amount of ammunition can subjugate a population that refuses to be defeated or erased. There is strength in the Ukrainians and Palestinians, which cannot be destroyed.
We must acknowledge the western hypocrisy concerning the international response to both wars. Both Ukrainians and Palestinians deserve our unwavering and equal support. We must respect and preserve the integrity of international law.