It has been refreshing to see the government stand firmly against the Russian invasion and occupation of Ukraine.

While it’s been easy to see the reasons for Russia’s action in the provocative expansion of NATO to Russian borders, there has never been justification for war with all the needless suffering and death which follows.

In response to Russia’s initial invasion in February, the government issued an immediate condemnation and within a few days had announced a first round of sanctions against Russia. These include a 35% tariff on all Russian goods entering New Zealand, bans on exports with military potential and travel bans against Russians with close links to the Kremlin.

Now, in response to Russia’s announcement of the annexation of four Ukrainian provinces after a series of bogus “polls”, the government will shortly announce another round of sanctions most likely to focus on “imports and exports” according to the Prime Minister.

It’s good we stand up against anyone stealing another people’s land. International law and United Nations resolutions should have taken us past the “might is right” approach to conflicts and Russia needs to feel the full force of international condemnation and punitive sanctions.

Russia is not the only country wielding annexation as a weapon however.

It’s hard to keep a straight face with the jaw-dropping statement from Israeli’s Foreign Ministry last week that “Israel supports the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. We will not recognize the annexation of the four provinces by Russia.”

Prominent Israeli writer Gideon Levy is scathing of his government’s hypocrisy over Russian annexations when Israel has been at it for decades.

“Where to begin? With an occupying state preaching to a different occupying state? With an annexing state announcing that it won’t recognize a different annexation?”

What Levy is referring to is Israel’s ongoing annexation of Palestinian land, with barely a peep from any of the countries now protesting so loudly against Russia.

Israel set the scene for the annexation of Palestinian land in 1967 when it attacked neighbouring countries and took over the entire area of historic Palestine – from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea – which it continues to occupy today. Repeated United Nations resolutions have not been enough to force the withdrawal of the Israeli military and Israel has been progressively annexing this land, area by area, ever since.

Israel has annexed Syria’s Golan Heights and East Jerusalem as well as threatening annexation of vast swathes of the Occupied West Bank – land ear-marked for a Palestinian state. Israel has already turned this area into Swiss cheese by establishing over 200 illegal, Jewish-only settlements, housing more than half a million Israelis. So much so that an independent, viable Palestinian state is no longer possible.

In the early 2000s Israel built what it called a “security wall” (accurately dubbed an “apartheid wall” by Palestinians) which cut through Palestinian areas and annexed further large areas of Palestinian land. This wall was declared illegal by the International Court of Justice but it still stands today as a symbol of enforced annexation.

The latest area facing annexation is at Masafer Yatta in the Occupied West Bank where the Israeli military took over in May and has has turned this area of 20 Palestinian villages into a “live fire zone” to force the Palestinians out.

Bit by bit, annexation is the weapon Israel is using to progressively steal Palestinian land and expel the Palestinians. Israel wants the land without the people.

Israel has its phony justifications to occupy and annex just as Russia has. Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who looks to be on track to regain the Prime Ministerial role in Israel’s November election, says a large area of the Occupied West Bank is named after Jews (Judea) and must be annexed by Israel. The name Judea is used in some faith histories such as the Bible, but this is no justification for annexation. If it were then perhaps the Italians should annex the US because America is named after the Italian explorer, Amerigo Vespucci. Or perhaps the Netherland’s should annex Aotearoa New Zealand because this country was named New Zealand by the Dutch explorer Able Tasman.

Justification for annexation is always self-serving.

Gideon Levy makes a stark, withering comparison between Russian and Israeli annexation policies.

“It’s amazing to see how not one muscle twitches on the faces of Israel’s decision makers and ordinary citizens when talking about the Russia occupation…it violates international law and the resolutions of the international community…   What about the Israeli occupation? Is it prettier? More legal? Is it not violent and brutal? Has it not killed thousands of innocent people, including hundreds of children? The Israeli occupation is simply older and more rooted”

Israel has refused to put sanctions on Russia. It doesn’t want to draw attention to its own annexation polices and be called a hypocrite for supporting BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) against Russia but crying “anti-semitism” when calls for BDS are made against Israel for the same policies.

In the meantime I’ve lost count of the human rights organisations, such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty international which have, quite rightly, called out Israel as an apartheid state. Apartheid is a “crime against humanity” under international law but New Zealand is all but silent.

It’s time our own government with its so called ‘independent foreign policy’ started to apply the same policies against Israel as we are supporting against Russia.