On the 28th January 2020, US President Donald Trump unveiled his Middle East plan. Trump declared that ‘today, Israel takes a big step towards peace’. Just over five months later Israel, under the leadership of Benjamin Netanyahu, is set to put into motion this ‘step towards peace’.
Israel is set to annex up to 30% of the West Bank, including the Jordan Valley, in this latest move towards widening the settler colony. As recently as 2017 Israel began this encroachment into the Palestinian territory, after a long but ultimately toothless campaign by the International Court of Justice to get Israel to stop building a wall in the West Bank. The move, first proposed by Israel’s cabinet in 2002, began implementation in 2017. The International Court of Justice described the act as ‘de-facto annexation’. These cries of outrage, however, did nothing to stop the building of the wall.
Annexation, defined as the unilateral extension of sovereignty by one state over another, is prohibited by international law.
Though we must remember that what is discussed here is an urgent situation happening in real time, it is important for us to get a little bit of background to understand Israel, the Zionist ideology, and the imperialist countries that helped the Zionists create a settler colony that is of immense geopolitical importance. The history of the Zionist movement, which brought Israel as we now know it into being, proves that peace has never been an option when Israel’s existence and growth relies on the suffering of the millions of Palestinians whose land has been repeatedly occupied and annexed.
It is no surprise that the settler colony of Israel has, since its inception, occupied land with minimal material resistance from such bodies as the United Nations. Settler colonialism is different from colonialism - the occupation of a territory to extract resources primarily for the home country of the coloniser - in that the occupiers become the main beneficiary, with the aim of completely displacing the indigenous population. Britain supported the Zionist project because it materially helped them to divide the Middle East and North Africa against the Ottoman Empire, which ruled Palestine until the middle of the First World War.
With Britain as Israel’s main benefactor, before being superseded by the US, it should be of little surprise that the UN has often angrily condemned Israel’s actions whilst doing next to nothing to stop annexations and ethnic cleansing. This is because Israel has always had the backing of at least one global superpower. If the United States can shrug off international condemnation with minimal material setbacks from the imperialist countries then its progeny can also steal land with almost equal impunity.
Zionist ideology became prominent in the nineteenth century and in Europe, but particularly in Britain, the ideology was in very Christian terms. The British consul based in Jerusalem, James Finn connected ‘the arrival of the Jews with the restoration of Crusader glory’. Moving on from these roots we see that Britain’s prominent role in the creation of the settler state was in tandem with its own geopolitical goals - at the time that of creating a bulwark against the Ottoman Empire - in order to protect Britain’s wealth extraction from the Middle East.
The alliance between British imperialism and Zionism became more apparent to the world when the Balfour Declaration was produced on November 2, 1917. The Balfour Declaration was a letter from the British foreign secretary, promising the Anglo-Jewish community British support in their endeavour to colonise Palestine.
From the Balfour Declaration through to the 1948 Israeli Declaration of Independence through countless atrocities up to the present day plans for further annexation, one theme has been common in the bourgeois press: the view of Palestinians as aggressors. The Palestinian is viewed as a terrorist, a racist trope that tries to tie Arabs to the term terrorism whilst the violence meted out by the Israeli government is portrayed as ‘defence’.
The Palestinians are not, and have never been, aggressors or ‘terrorists’. They cannot be as they inhabited the land long before the first Zionist settler arrived. Like the Native Americans that helped the first European settlers survive the harsh winters only to have three centuries (and counting) of genocidal campaigns waged against them, the Palestinians soon found that they were not expected to share their land but to be removed from it.
This removal uses what historian Patrick Wolfe calls ‘the logic of elimination’. This is where settler populations will create the necessary moral justifications needed to enact physical removal, genocide, ethnic cleansing, or other brutal acts necessary to remove the native population. The Israeli settler project has not yet completed its vision of the total domination of the land of Palestine and it continues to employ these brutal methods to suppress and kill Palestinians.
As the 1st of July has passed without the planned annexation, we must consider the material reasons for this delay. Omar Karmi, writing for Electronic Intifada, posits that Israel has held off in order to present itself as ‘a “responsible” actor’ in order to gain access to new funding, contracts, aids or loans. By understanding when the international opinion is against them, the Israeli government postpones their invasions whilst monetarily benefiting from this charade of benevolence and restraint.
The truth is that the United States had not yet given the go ahead on the move. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said: "The government's dialogue with the U.S. will continue in the coming days. The West Bank annexation scheduled for Wednesday is not imminent”. With this apparent, we can see that the proposed annexation is a win-win situation for Israel. The only people who lose are the Palestinians.
Britain’s direct control and influence over Israel dwindled as the settler colony, mirroring the creation of the American state, began to become stronger and become more autonomous. However, Israel and Britain’s shared interests have never diverged and the capitalist nature of both states means that Britain has long held ties with Israel. The two governments also share a mutual ally in the United States. All this is evident in the way British politicians and media have repeatedly ignored the crisis of the Palestinians and all parties and mainstream media reach unity when it comes to condemning those under occupation.
Prime minister Boris Johnson, fearing for the public image of Zionism and British relations with neighbouring Arab states, has condemned the new annexation plans as “a gift to those who want to perpetuate the old stories about Israel.” He has warned that the UK will not recognise any changes to the borders established in 1967, except “those agreed between both parties.”
Regardless of his criticism, Johnson is still a “passionate Zionist” and foremost defender of Israel’s encroachment on Palestinian territory, having commended what he sees as “feats of outrageous derring-do” by the notoriously brutal Israel Defence Forces (IDF).
The Labour opposition too is woefully inadequate to challenge Israel’s aggression, especially under the leadership of Keir Starmer, who supports the ongoing colonisation of Palestine “without qualification,” and in the party leadership race accepted a £50,000 donation from Zionist lobbyist Trevor Chinn, which he failed to disclose until after he had won.
Starmer has proven his unwavering commitment to Zionism in his hostility to dissenting voices within the Labour Party. Recently he sacked Rebecca Long-Bailey from the shadow cabinet for retweeting an article in which actress Maxine Peake observed that the IDF had trained American police like those who killed George Floyd. The relationship between American police departments and the IDF is well documented, and has included the latter training police chiefs from across the USA; Peake’s error was to suppose American police violence has a source external to its character as an occupying force, which it shares with the IDF.
Labour’s support of the Zionist project is not new. Under Corbyn the party adopted a “working definition” of antisemitism – rejected by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and numerous Palestinian civil society organisations – after a debate lasting several hours in which the party rejected an accompanying statement clarifying that Israel should be accountable to the same standards of international law as any other state. Corbyn’s support for Palestinian liberation has only ever amounted to a “two state solution” which imagines that a state formed and sustained by the theft of Palestinian land can peacefully co-exist with Palestine. It is not only that a two-state solution is politically impossible; to imagine it is to legitimise the existence of the Israeli state, to overlook that it is in itself and in all its possible reconfigurations an inherently colonial and racist project. There is no Palestinian liberation so long as the Israeli state continues to exist.
The UK’s bourgeois political establishment – represented equally by Johnson, Starmer and Corbyn – has facilitated Israel’s expansion politically and economically since its inception, and their limp disavowal of only the most extreme Zionist brutality does not absolve them.
Red Fightback rejects Zionism in all its forms, including Johnson’s attempt to save face by condemning the planned annexation and the “two state solution” favoured by Labour. The ongoing settlement, as well as the annexation, of the West Bank prove such a solution is diplomatically impossible. The only viable solution is a single, secular and multi-ethnic state with full right of return for all displaced Palestinians.
The annexation plan is the latest expression of a project that has been illegitimate from the beginning. Furthermore, the colonisation of Palestine would be impossible without the active involvement of Britain and the US. Trump and Johnson’s disavowal of the latest Israeli aggression is not out of disagreement with the process of colonisation itself, only the inconvenient timing.
The annexation, as part of Donald Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century’ has been presented in two ways in the bourgeois news: either an affirmation of the strength of the US and its ally Israel, or a condemnation of further annexation. Neither line ever approaches a true decolonial position. Those who applaud Israeli strength see Israel as a legitimate state furthering its interests as the victor and those who condemn annexation discuss peace in the form of the ‘two state solution’ and premise peace as Israel keeping land held before it has annexed further. This goes directly against the popular opinion of Palestinians and against any semblance of global justice.
Malcolm X once said: ‘if you stick a knife in my back nine inches and pull it out three inches, that is not progress. Even if you pull it all the way out. That is not progress. Progress is healing the wound’. The two-state solution is akin to this. All the land claimed as Israel is Palestinian land. Peace cannot come from the dispossessed accepting ethnic cleansing and loss of massive swathes of land. There can be no acceptance of this. The only way to true peace in this situation is the Right to Return. Only then can the wound begin to heal.
From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be Free!