Israel Juan Cole Russia-Ukraine

Israel’s Got Some Nerve Decrying Russia’s Annexations

It is pretty rich for the Israeli foreign ministry to say that Russia shouldn’t be annexing land from its neighbors.
Israel illegally annexed Palestinian East Jerusalem, among other lands. [Daniel Tam / CC BY-ND 2.0]

By Juan Cole | Informed Comment

In a further sign that all irony is dead, the Israeli Foreign Ministry rejected the annexation of four Ukrainian districts by Russia on Tuesday, saying that Israel “recognizes the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine, and will not recognize the results of the referendums in its eastern districts.”

On Tuesday, the Russian Federation carried out phony “referenda” in the four Russian-occupied regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia. At the same time, heavy fighting raged in Donetsk and Kherson in particular between Ukrainian troops, who had made progress in recovering some of this territory for Ukraine, and Russian forces attempting to push Ukraine back out.

Amazingly enough, in all four referenda over 90 percent of votes supported the option of annexation to Russia. I am, of course, being sardonic. The vote was corrupt, as most referenda conducted by authoritarian states are. Since there is no alternative offered on the ballot, it is impossible for a referendum to lose. Compared to what?

It is illegal in international law, including the charter of the United Nations, for one country to detach territory from another by aggressive warfare. The diplomats who negotiated this rule in 1945 were attempting to ensure that no further global conflagrations such as World War II could break out. Vladimir Putin in Ukraine has mounted the most serious challenge to this international norm in post-war Europe. It is even worse than George W. Bush’s Iraq War, since there was never any question of the United States dragooning Basra into being the 51st state of the union. The Iraq War was an illegal, aggressive war, but it was not annexationist, which is even worse.

Israel has steadfastly refused to join the US-led boycott of the Russian economy, maintaining fair relations with both Moscow and Kyiv — though Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky has chewed out the Israelis in private phone calls for refusing to supply Ukraine with anti-aircraft batteries. So to offset the help Tel Aviv is giving to Putin’s war effort by dealing with Russia economically, the Israeli government has occasionally criticized the Russian invasion of Ukraine. But that is all, it is just a matter of some mild rebukes at international fora. The rejection of Russian annexation of the four districts is another of those attempts to appease Washington while not actually doing anything practical for President Joe Biden’s effort to get Russia back out of Ukraine.

I say irony is dead because Israel is among the worst actors in defying the norms of international law when it comes to gobbling up other people’s land.

In 1980, Israel annexed parts of the Palestinian West Bank to its district of Jerusalem, including Palestinian East Jerusalem. I can’t tell you how illegal this was. Even the US was so angered that it declined to exercise its veto when the issue was considered by the United Nations Security Council. The UNSC issued a caustic rebuke of Israel in the form of Resolution 478:

Resolution 478 (1980) of 20 August 1980
The Security Council,
Recalling its resolution 476 (1980),
Reaffirming again that the acquisition of territory by force is inadmissible,
Deeply concerned over the enactment of a “basic law” in the Israeli Knesset proclaiming a change in the character
and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem, with its implications for peace and security,
Noting that Israel has not complied with resolution 476 (1980),
Reaffirming its determination to examine practical ways and means, in accordance with the relevant provisions of
the Charter of the United Nations, to secure the full implementation of its resolution 476 (1980), in the event
of non-compliance by Israel,

  1. Censures in the strongest terms the enactment by Israel of the “basic law” on Jerusalem and the refusal to
    comply with relevant Security Council resolutions;
  2. Affirms that the enactment of the “basic law” by Israel constitutes a violation of international law and does
    not affect the continued application of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in
    Time of War, of 12 August 1949, in the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since June 1967, including
    Jerusalem;
  3. Determines that all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel, the occupying Power,
    which have altered or purport to alter the character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem, and in particular
    the recent “basic law” on Jerusalem, are null and void and must be rescinded forthwith;
  4. Affirms also that this action constitutes a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting
    peace in the Middle East;
  5. Decides not to recognize the “basic law” and such other actions by Israel that, as a result of this law, seek
    to alter the character and status of Jerusalem and calls upon:
    (a) All Member States to accept this decision;
    (b) Those States that have established diplomatic missions at Jerusalem to withdraw such missions from the Holy
    City;
  6. Requests the Secretary-General to report to the Security Council on the implementation of the present
    resolution before 15 November 1980;
    7 Decides to remain seized of this serious situation.

Adopted at the 2245th meeting by 14 votes to none, with 1 abstention (United States of America).

I guess the Israelis thought they were on a roll, so in 1981 they formally annexed the Golan Heights from Syria. The Israeli press tells a sob story about how they were shelled from the Golan in the 1960s, but interviews given with former Israeli military men and politicians make it clear that they wanted the Golan right from the beginning and that they initiated the shelling contest with Syria in the mid-1960s to establish a pretext for grabbing it, which they did in the 1967 war. Again, acquiring the territory of your neighbor by warfare is not allowed in international law.

Lo and behold, the UNSC was again livid:

Resolution 497 (1981) of 17 December 1981
The Security Council,
Having considered the letter of 14 December 1981 from the Permanent Representative of the Syrian Arab Republic
contained in document S/14791,
Reaffirming that the acquisition of territory by force is inadmissible, in accordance with the Charter of the
United Nations, the principles of international law and relevant Security Council resolutions,

  1. Decides that the Israeli decision to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration in the occupied Syrian
    Golan Heights is null and void and without international legal effect;
  2. Demands that Israel, the occupying Power, should rescind forthwith its decision;
  3. Determines that all the provisions of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in
    Time of War, of 12 August 1949,” continue to apply to the Syrian territory occupied by Israel since June 1967;
  4. Requests the Secretary-General to report to the Security Council on the implementation of the present
    resolution within two weeks and decides that, in the event of non-compliance by Israel, the Council would meet
    urgently, and not later than 5 January 1982, to consider taking appropriate measures in accordance with the
    Charter of the United Nations.

Adopted unanimously at the 2319th meeting.

Topics
Israel, Middle East, Syria
Year
1981
Title
Israel-Syrian Arab Republic
Quoted in resolutions
605
Security Council Composition
CHN FRA SUN GBR USA DDR ESP IRL JPN MEX NER PAN PHL TUN UGA

Israel also annexed the Shebaa Farms from Syria, most of the land in which was owned by Lebanese Shiites. This annexation sparked the disastrous 2006 war launched by Israel on little Lebanon when Hezbollah, the Shiite party-militia, engaged in military actions aimed at reclaiming the Shebaa Farms.

Former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu pushed for annexation of “Area C,” a wide swath of Palestinian territory in the West Bank, in 2017.

So it is pretty rich for the Israeli foreign ministry to now say that Russia shouldn’t be annexing land from its neighbors. That is about the least credible rebuke of Russia’s actions you could imagine on the world stage.

Juan Cole
Juan Cole

Juan Cole is a public intellectual, prominent blogger and essayist, and the Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan.

23 comments

  1. “Comparaison n’est pas raison ” say the French.
    While the Russia naked aggression against Ukraine is a clear case of not respecting international law and existing borders (especially as Russia has repeatedly committed itself to Ukraine independence and territorial integrity), the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem cases are different.
    Golan Heights : There are no recognized borders between Israel and Syria .There are cease-fire lines agreed upon the end of the 1948 war when Arab states attacked Israel. The final borders were to be established after peace negotiations, which never happened as Syria never recognized the right of Israel to exist .After 1967 Israel held open the option of returning the Golan Heights as part of a comprehensive peace treaty ( as it returned to Egypt the whole Sinai Peninsula after the signing of such a treaty). After the 1973 war (initiated by Egypt and Syria) and the increased awareness of the strategic importance of the Golan especially in view of the evolution of the Syrian regime, and taking into account also the dynamics of the internal Israel politics which moved away from a consensus on the possibility of peace with Syria, the decision to annex the Golan was relatively straight forward and perceived as a must from a strategic point of view.
    East Jerusalem: Its status was supposed to be under international control and administration (neither Palestinian nor Israeli) , but it was occupied after the 1948 War by Jordan, which lost it in 1967, after it attacked Israel ( notwithstanding Israel request not to enter the war). Formal extension of Israel sovereignty occurred due to the internal political changes and the increased prevalence of nationalist and religious parties (East Jerusalem includes the Jewish Quartier where Jews lived for hundreds of years before the Jordanian occupation and the Temple Mount the holiest place for religious Jews).

      1. @giligan
        Nazi = member of NSDAP – wrong .The only political organization I ever belonged to is Working Youth Union ( aka Communist Youth Union).
        Hypocrite 1. a person who puts on a false appearance of virtue or religion. Wrong .I never pretended to be especially virtuous and for sure not religious.
        2.a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings. Wrong again
        Devoid of morality Well , I sometimes break laws (especially speed limits) but I don’t think we are sufficiently acquainted for you to be able to judge me .

  2. So the CIA takeover of the government in Ukraine in 2014, accepting its ban on Russian speakers, on opposition parties, refusal to follow the Minsk agreement,and arming of the military by NATO were all right? The USA’s wars were for destruction of countries far away, while Russia asked for security guarantees and was rebuffed. It is an existential issue for Russia,which the “defensive” NATO has declared an enemy. Boundaries change often.

    1. In the 1994 Budapest Memorandum Russia guaranteed Ukraine independence and territorial integrity, including of course Crimea, Donbass and all the other parts it just now decided to annex.
      The present government of Ukraine has been freely elected and NATO provided arms to Ukraine in response to the unprovoked Russian aggression.
      What exactly was the existential issue for Russia that absolutely compelled it to invade Ukraine?

      1. The present government of Ukraine was NOT freely elected. It is a government resulting from the amerikan sponsored coup in 2014 which over-threw the freely elected government of Ukraine. This amerikan imposed nazi government then outlawed the Russian language and preceded to indiscriminately shell the Donbass areas killing thousands of innocent civilians. They did this for 8 YEARS before the Russians finally stepped in to stop this carnage.
        What shocks and disgusts me the most is the western backing of this nazi government. One expects this from amerika as they have consistently backed repressive governments throughout their history and even sponsored terrorist groups in their war on Syria during their last effort at destroying a peaceful world. I am deeply ashamed of my government for following amerika in these criminal actions.

      2. 1. The spirit and letter of the Budapest paperwork was flushed down the toilet by the ultranationalists who committed the coup (which you surely deny occurred) in Ukraine in 2014 when Yanukovytch had to flee for his life against Ukrainian Azov murdering mafioso, drunk on $billions in US cash.

        2. Even still, the Russians thenceforth pursued the proper path of justice under international law in dealing the subsequent coup government, which then began a program war against an ethnic minority inside it’s own country – Ukrainian Russians. The Russian reticence to break international law included denying Donbas’ separatist entities their wish for immediate inclusion into Russia.
        Rather than break international law, Russia instead established a legal and ethical path to peace known as Minsk Accords which multiple Ukrainian governments then disingenuously used to cover machinations with the US, with no intention of backing off of ethnic cleansing. Ukrainian ultranationalists used the ensuing 8 years to murder over 10,000 men women & children in Donbas.

        3. That’s less than the full defense of Russian actions and far more than you deserve for reply right there.
        The rest is very well understood history, including eventual direct military protection of an ethnic minority under Article 51 which I would detail for anyone who had an honest approach to this discussion, which you do not. You are a propagandist, as with your previous post here defending Zionist aggression.

        4. You do not deserve my respect or my efforts. You people who would defend criminal Zionists while blathering like you are angling for a job at the NYT make me sick to my stomach. Such hypocrisy, such utter lack of conscience is a special kind of evil.

  3. What is your evidence that the vote in eastern Ukraine was corrupted? Just wondering. Because it is not at all surprising that ethnic Russians who have been bombed daily for eight years might really really, you know, support joining Russia. FFS.

    1. @Linda Hagge
      Nobody bombed Cherson and Zaporoje districts before Russia invaded. And then it was the russians

  4. I subscribe to Sheerpost because I gave up the Main Stream Media which is just full of lies and has no connection with the real world. It is disappointing to see the same lies in your articles on the Ukraine situation. Like the MSM, every reference to Russia must have a negative adjective it seems. So in this article the referendum is described as “phony”. No real justification or explanation for using that term. It just seems required for any reference to Russia or the conflict. And then it goes on to label it corrupt. “as most referenda conducted by authoritarian states are. Since there is no alternative offered on the ballot,” This is complete bullshit as one can easily see 2 boxes on the ballots: one for “YES” and one for “NO”. In my world that is a clear choice between 2 alternatives. Needless to say I stopped reading at that point. These articles on Ukraine disgust me so much that I am seriously considering cancelling my subscription and lumping Sheerpost in with the rest of the lying MSM.

    1. I fully agree with Gary Mills posting. My reaction was identical to his. I was flabbergusted about reading such b****t in Scheerpost. I have seen no credible evidence that the referenda were sham. A people are free to secede after a referendum. That is not a violation of international law.

      Israel’s posture is entirely clear: The Zionists wait for a suitable opportunity to officially annex the Occupied Territories. That gold has been clearly expressed in Ben-Gurion’s writings, before 1948.

  5. Is annexing the territory of one’s neighbor universally illegal? If so, when will Biden initiate the return of the lands the USA seized from Mexico in the Mexican-American War of 1845-1848? Americans are hypocrites and ignorant of their own history.

    1. It doesn’t need annexation for a country to be deprived of sovereignty. Take Germany, my country. Germany does not have the freedom to practice a foreign policy, free of outside interference. Germany has follow US dictates, no question asked. Guess what would happen if Germans were to decide to exit NATO, become an unaligned country and join the BRICs countries’ agenda? US sanctions, embargoes, boycotts, confiscation of German businesses operating in the US, if not war. Please read: https://popularresistance.org/the-united-states-is-waging-a-new-cold-war-a-socialist-perspective/

    2. @Hash Bang
      You are on something! Perhaps Mexico should ask for an urgent UNSC session to deal with the issue!
      FIY we are no more living in the 19th century and the rules changed a little from that time!
      And I am pretty sure an UN monitored referendum in the lost Mexican territories (California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico) will result in majority vote for remaining in the USA…

  6. golan is mainly populated by Druze, not israelis—the 4 regions integrated bon Russia are all Russian speaking–ukrainian language rarely heard in eastern or southern ukraine

    1. There are currently 53000 people living on the Golan Heights : 27000Jews ,24000 Druze ( a small minority with Israeli citizenship), 2000 Alawites.
      The language spoken in various Ukraine regions is irrelevant. The Russian invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Ukrainian territory is still illegal under international law.

      1. “The language spoken in various Ukraine regions is irrelevant” according to you, but it is not irrelevant to violently insane Bandarite Ukrainians, whose mission in life is to purge Ukraine of all things Russian, including the Russian language.

        The first act of the ultranationalist extremist government installed after the democratically-elected president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, was violently driven out of office and out of Ukraine by the U.S.-backed 2014 Maidan coup was to repeal Ukraine’s regional language law, which granted local official status to any language spoken by more than 10% of the population of a Ukrainian oblast.

        Repealing this law immediately reduced the 75% of the Ukrainian citizens living in Donbas whose mother tongue is Russian to second-class citizenship, similar to Jews being reduced to pariah status by the Nuremberg Laws in Germany in 1935.

        A peaceful encampment protesting Kyiv’s repeal of the regional language law sprang up in Odessa in May, 2014, and was violently attacked by neo-Nazi Ukrainian thugs. Protesters took refuge in a government building which their attackers then torched using Molotov cocktails, killing approximately 40 protesters.

        Accounts of the outbreak of the 8-year Donbas civil war, which took the lives of 14,000 mostly Russian-speaking Ukrainians, that omit this event and report “pro-Russian separatists” as instigating the war give the impression to readers who do not know how that war actually broke out that Russia has been trying to “seize territory” from the start and that “pro-Russian separatists” do not want to be part of Ukraine.

        The fact is that Russian-speaking Ukrainian citizens do not want to be ethnically cleansed by U.S.-backed Russia-hating Ukrainian Nazi maniacs and for whose rescue Putin explicitly launched his Special Military Operation on Feb. 24, 2022.

  7. What a dork, The referendums were a yes or no issue.
    There is absolutely no justification compared to anything that applies to Iraq or any other of the numerous destabilization wars the US has implemented which have killed hundreds of thousands.

  8. Amid deafening U.S. warmongering propaganda demonizing “Putin!” and “Russia!” one key event in the chronology that led to the 8-year civil war in Ukraine that preceded Feb. 24, 2022, is rarely mentioned:

    The first act of the ultranationalist extremist government installed after the democratically-elected president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, was violently driven out of office and out of Ukraine by the U.S.-backed 2014 Maidan coup was to repeal Ukraine’s regional language law, which granted local official status to any language spoken by more than 10% of the population of a Ukrainian oblast.

    Repealing this law immediately reduced the 75% of the Ukrainian citizens living in Donbas whose mother tongue is Russian to second-class citizenship, similar to Jews being reduced to pariah status by the Nuremberg Laws in Germany in 1935.

    A peaceful encampment protesting Kyiv’s repeal of the reginal language law sprang up in Odessa in May, 2014, and was violently attacked by neo-Nazi Ukrainian thugs. Protesters took refuge in a government building which their attackers then torched using Molotov cocktails, killing approximately 40 protesters.

    Accounts of the outbreak of the 8-year Donbas civil war that omit this event and report “pro-Russian separatists” as instigating the war give the impression to readers who do not know how that war actually broke out that Russia has been trying to “seize territory” from the start and that “pro-Russian separatists” did not want to be part of Ukraine.

    The fact is that Russian-speaking Ukrainian citizens do not want to be ethnically cleansed by U.S.-backed Russia-hating Ukrainian Nazi maniacs and for whose rescue Putin explicitly launched his Special Military Operation on Feb. 24, 2022.

  9. @Bill Appledorf

    The 2012 law remained valid until 2018, when it was declared unconstitutional.
    In 2019 a new law eliminated the recognition of Russian and other languages as minority languages.
    The comparison with the Nuremberg laws is totally untrue. Under those laws Jews lost their right to German Citizenship, political rights, the right to exercise certain professions and more, even if they spoke perfect German.

    1. The May 3, 2014, Odessa massacre (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-27259620), which launched the 8-year, U.S.-backed war by ultranationalist, Nazi-inspired Ukrainians on Russian-speaking Ukrainians living in Donbas, occurred not because Yatseniuk, the Maidan coup’s U.S. hand-picked successor to Yanukovych, repealed the regional language law but because he threatened to, as this April 11, 2014, Guardian article (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/apr/11/ukraine-interim-prime-minister-fail-break-stalemate-east) explains:

      “In another attempt to placate protesters, Yatseniuk said the government would not repeal a law that allows regions with ethnic minorities forming at least 10% of the population to declare a second official language. Language is an acutely sensitive political issue in eastern regions with large ethnic Russian populations such as Donetsk, where according to a 2001 census Russian is the native language of almost three-quarters of the population.”

      French language speakers in Quebec, for example, or Chinese or Spanish speakers in San Francisco, would not have as sanguine an attitude toward ultranationalist Ukrainians’ 2018 and 2019 actions to eradicate the Russian language from Ukraine as expressed in your reply if the same were done to them. Language is foundational to culture and national identity, which is why ultranationalist Ukrainian maniacs feel threatened to the point of industrial violence by hearing Russian spoken in Ukraine.

      That Ukraine is and has been wracked since before WWII by internal conflict over speaking Russian is documented in this scholarly article out of the University of Ottawa:
      https://socialsciences.uottawa.ca/ukraine/sites/socialsciences.uottawa.ca.ukraine/files/19march-double_talk_why_ukrainian_fight_over_language.pdf

      Comparing the Maidan coup and the coup government’s subsequent attacks on the Russian language with Hitler’s anti-Jewish laws is not as outrageous as claimed in your reply. Nor are Vladimir Putin’s reasons for invading Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, namely to protect Russian speakers and de-Nazify Ukraine. Language is hardly an afterthought with respect to the Ukraine war. Language is its root cause.

  10. @Bill Appledorf

    So by saying that language is the root cause of the Russia invasion you agree that all the “NATO eastern expansion “and “existential threats to Russia” pretexts so freely banded around by Putin apologists are just unfounded B**S?
    This being said , the regional languages law was very far reaching in that that enabled any administrative unit to declare a language spoken by at least 10% of the population as an official language and mandate its use in education , administration, legal system etc. which I don’t think is done anywhere else in the world.
    On the other side, not giving a special status to Russian and recognizing it as a second official language at least on part of the territory seems a stupid and short sighted decision.
    Notwithstanding this, not giving a special status to a language ( which by the way anyone can continue speaking) is not recognized as a casus belli by the UN Charter.

    1. No.

      The U.S. encouraged and enabled ultranationalist Ukrainian maniacs who hate everything Russian, including ethnic Russians and the Russian language, to violently overthrow the democratically elected president of Ukraine ( https://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/feb/08/viktor-yanukovych-ukraine-president-election ), destabilize Ukraine, and launch a proxy war on Russia’s border to further the U.S. aim to dominate Russia in particular, and the entire world in general, militarily.

      The U.S. always finds the most violent, hateful fanatics it can to fight its proxy wars: Mujahedeen in Afghanistan, al Nusra in Syria, Banderites in Ukraine.

      The U.S. proxy war in Ukraine is part of its decades-long project to encircle and crush Russia militarily using NATO.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: