Oxfam Australia is urging the Federal Government to take a strong stand against Israel’s proposed annexation of parts of the West Bank, with plans to push ahead with the proposal scheduled to begin today.
The call comes amid growing concerns of an escalation of tensions and violence between Israelis and Palestinians in the middle of the coronavirus crisis.
Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Lyn Morgain said the Israeli Government’s plans for unilateral and formal annexation of up to 30% of the West Bank were “deeply concerning” and in violation of international law.
“As a humanitarian and development organisation that works with Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, our hope is that a just resolution to this conflict can be found that is both consistent with international law and guarantees safety for all of the region’s people,” Ms Morgain said.
The areas under consideration include parts of the Jordan Valley and ‘Area C’, which includes more than 130 illegal Israeli settlements.
Ms Morgain said annexation of the fertile grounds in the Jordan Valley in particular, which represent the ‘food basket’ of Palestine, would render a functioning Palestinian State impossible by depriving it of the land and natural resources necessary to sustain itself.
“Australia must strongly oppose any annexation because it would likely extinguish any chance of peace in the foreseeable future, leave Palestinians in an impossibly difficult situation, and likely ignite tensions locally and in the region,” she said.
Ms Morgain said any further growth in Israeli territory would further deepen the inequality and disadvantage already experienced by Palestinians living in the West Bank, and violate their most basic human rights.
“Those Palestinians living in or near any annexed territory will likely suffer the worst impacts, by further limiting access to healthcare facilities in the middle of a global pandemic, and access to jobs as the unemployment rate rises due to the devastating economic impacts of coronavirus,” she said.
Annexation would impact women, men, girls and boys differently.
“Men and boys will likely be subject to greater violence, while girls and women will likely be more isolated and less financially empowered, and less likely to have access to education,” Ms Morgain said.
“Moreover, all communities will likely experience limitations on their rights, freedom of movement, and access to land, services, and livelihoods, threatening to exacerbate the unemployment crisis and severely curtail economic activity.”
Ms Morgain said it was time for the international community to speak with a united voice to clearly and forcefully reject any annexation. She said any failure to do so would undermine a foundational principle of the United Nations Charter, the international rules-based order, and international peace and security.
“Australia has a profound interest and responsibility to protect the basic principles of international law,” Ms Morgain said. “The Government must defend our reputation in the international community by taking a public and unambiguous stand.”