26 July 2023 – 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 under way 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, criminalised or labelled 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 defence, 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 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 utilise 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.

*The expertsFrancesca Albanese, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967; Reem Alsalem, Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls, its causes and consequences; Pedro Arrojo-Agudo, Special Rapporteur on the rights to water and sanitation; Ravindran Daniel (Chair-Rapporteur), Sorcha MacLeod, Chris Kwaja, Carlos Salazar CoutoWorking Group on the use of mercenaries; Olivier De Schutter, Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rightsSurya DevaSpecial Rapporteur on the right to development; Fernand de Varennes,Special Rapporteur on Minority issues; Isha Dyfan, Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights in Somalia; Dorothy Estrada Tanck (Chair), Ivana Radačić (Vice-Chair), Elizabeth BroderickMeskerem Geset Techane and Melissa UpretiWorking Group on discrimination against women and girlsMichael Fakhri, Special Rapporteur on the right to food; Ian Fry, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of climate change; Ashwini K.PSpecial Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism; Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the Protection and Promotion of Freedom of Opinion and Expression; Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Tlaleng Mofokeng, Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental healthObiora C. Okafor, Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarityBalakrishnan Rajagopal, Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing; Morris Tidball-BinzSpecial Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executionsBarbara G. Reynolds (Chair), Bina D’Costa, Catherine Namakula, and Dominique Day, Working Group of Experts on People of African DescentMargaret Satterthwaite, Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers; Farida Shaheed, Special Rapporteur on the right to educationAttiya Waris, Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt.