By: Rania Muhareb and Nada Awad
One hundred years ago, on July 1, 1920, the British army established a civil administration in Palestine. Over the course of the next 25 years, the British Mandate for Palestine would set the stage for a process of colonization that has continued until today. As the Israeli government moves to annex large parts of the occupied West Bank as early as July 1, 2020, it is important to remember the century-long history of settler-colonialism that drives the ongoing erasure, displacement, and dispossession of the indigenous Palestinian people.
In 1945, the United Nations (UN) Charter permanently outlawed the use of force and the acquisition of territory by force.2 This is the legal basis for the prohibition on annexation as a peremptory norm of international law, binding on all states. Yet, on November 29, 1947, the UN General Assembly recommended the partition of Palestine.3 The partition violated sacrosanct principles of international law as it stood at the time, having divided a self-determination unit in which Palestinian self-determination had already been recognized as early as 1920 by the League of Nations.*4
By the time of the Nakba or “catastrophe” of 1948, acquisition of territory by force and the serious crime of population transfer were already prohibited under international law. Yet, Zionist militias carried out widespread ethnic cleansing campaigns, expelling 85 percent of the Palestinian people from their homes, lands, and properties, and destroyed 531 Palestinian villages during the war. In the immediate aftermath of the Nakba, Israel sealed the dispossession of the indigenous Palestinian people by denying the right of Palestinian refugees and displaced persons to return to their homes and properties.