Annexation in the shadow of the Nakba

Annexation in the shadow of the Nakba
Comment: Trump and Netanyahu's plans for annexation build on a legacy of impunity for colonial violence, tacitly approved by the international community, writes Ramona Wadi.
6 min read
13 May, 2020
2020 marks the 72nd anniversary of the Nakba [AFP]
US President Donald Trump has been given too much credit for the forthcoming annexation of territory from the occupied West Bank.

Undoubtedly, the Trump administration has overtly supported Israel and implemented steps which facilitate Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's plans for this colonial land grab.

However, Trump and Netanyahu are acting upon a legacy of impunity for colonial violence that was tacitly approved by the international community's manipulation of Palestine. The 1947 Partition Plan was the first collective effort to normalise Palestinian displacement. Zionist groups acted swiftly upon that initial concession granted by the UN, implementing the Plan Dalet and ethnically cleansing Palestinians from their towns and villages, to lay the foundations for the colonial state of Israel.

The UN's response favoured the colonial process. UN General Assembly Resolution 194, which granted the Palestinian people the right of return, recast Palestinians as: "Refugees wishing to return to their homes and live in peace with their neighbours".

Without any political reproach, the colonial invaders had earned the status of neighbours. This was the international community's clear assertion that the Palestinian people were now an appendage to their own history, as opposed to being the protagonists.

In May 1949, the UN committed another crime against the Palestinian people by admitting Israel as a member-state to its ranks, despite the Zionist paramilitaries' violations of international law. Israel's admission was conditional upon implementing UN resolutions on the right of return, adhering to the Partition Plan and observing the status of Jerusalem. By 1949, the paramilitaries had been incorporated into the state's institutions to continue Palestine's colonisation.

The international community refuses to make the connection with the earlier Palestinian displacement which occurred during the Nakba

Following two other major criminal disruptions for Palestinians - the 1967 war and the Oslo Accords - the international community perfected its tactic of isolating Israeli violations from the historical context. The premise for this normalisation was the peacebuilding agenda and the negotiations which were supposed to lead to a two-state implementation.

Israel's colonial settlement expansion provided a perpetual agenda for the UN. The ongoing violation - classified as a war crime by the International Criminal Court in its preliminary investigations of complaints filed by the Palestinian Authority - has been routinely deplored by the international community, but never as part of the Palestinian people's ongoing Nakba.

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Annexation, as planned by Israel and endorsed by the US, is being linked solely to Trump's so-called 'Deal of the Century'. In further normalising Palestinian displacement, the international community will, if it suits their political interests, speak of the Palestinians evicted from their homes only within the context of annexation. This will remove all context of historical Palestinian displacement since the 1948 Nakba.

This also entails the narrative which mainstream media has been promoting - the illusion of Israel and the US standing against the international community. In other words, the UN has designated itself a protector of Palestinian rights and the two-state compromise, despite the fact that the two-state agenda has directly contributed to the US-Israeli annexation plans. Futile negotiations and favourable concessions to Israel have ensured the two-state paradigm, flawed as it was, is no longer viable.

The PA, which has regularly called for international peace conferences as opposed to decolonisation, is seeking the UN Security Council's intervention to prevent Israel from annexing parts of the occupied West Bank. 

The international community perfected its tactic of isolating Israeli violations from the historical context

Like the international community, the PA is lagging behind Israel in terms of decision-making. Its dependence upon international aid to sustain its hierarchy ensures that each overture to the UN is based upon helping the latter to save the two-state diplomacy. Thus, Israeli annexation is also normalised by the Palestinian leadership, despite PA leader Mahmoud Abbas threatening to stop all agreements with Israel.

If the international community had opposed the 1948 Nakba, or sought to hold Israel accountable, the disconnection between the historical and the current violations would not have occurred. Instead, the UN implemented a false narrative that dissociates history from the current political violence, as if the former was not a product of colonial decision-making and therefore, political.

To compound this false narrative, Palestinian displacement from 1948 onwards has been narrated by the international agenda solely as a humanitarian concern. Furthermore, the international community distinguishes between the 1948 refugees and those displaced by Israel in recent years until now, by exploiting settlement expansion.

In doing so, Israel is exempted from its earlier expansion and also for creating a colonial entity in Palestine using the same tactics it does today - displacing Palestinians to create space for settlement expansion. Israel is a settlement-expansion project which divested Palestinians of their political rights. If Israel is not held accountable for all the refugees it has created since its inception, the international community is clearly absconding from upholding the rhetoric of UN resolutions.

Read more: Israeli annexation looms, and Democrats' 'opposition' is more feckless than ever

In July, Netanyahu is expected to start putting forth legislation for annexing the occupied West Bank. If the international community once again refuses to make the connection between the earlier Palestinian displacement which occurred during the Nakba, and the forthcoming as a result of the US-Israeli annexation plans, the Palestinian cause will suffer an additional blow. 

Netanyahu has an ally in Trump as regards altering the status and definition of what constitutes a Palestinian refugee. Despite rhetorical objections, the international community is doing nothing to safeguard refugees, or to prevent another cycle of dispossession from taking place.

This political charade is evidence of the ongoing battle between Palestinian memory of the Nakba and the international community's efforts to maintain oblivion. 

The upcoming anniversary of the Nakba is an opportunity to highlight how annexation and the international community's response to it is normalising Palestinian displacement.

However, the Nakba commemoration must not fall prey to the international community's expectations. If the remembrance this year is tied solely to annexation, the UN would have strengthened its position in silencing Palestinian refugees.

The Nakba is a result of the initial implementation of the Zionist project; what happened and continues to occur now is a continuation. Instead of repeating the UN's parameters to highlight the plight of Palestinian refugees, the Palestinian Nakba should be considered as the source from which accountability throughout the decades must be derived.

Ramona Wadi is an independent researcher, freelance journalist, book reviewer and blogger specialising in the struggle for memory in Chile and Palestine, colonial violence and the manipulation of international law.

Follow her on Twitter: @walzerscent

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.