Golan apples that go behind policy

Every year, a 50-year-old man leaves his farmland in the occupied Golan on a quiet afternoon spring and goes with his small family to the occupied town of Majdal Shams to meet a date at the village's border with relatives inside Syrian territory, carrying a basket full of apples with distinctive taste produced by his land.  But unfortunately he could only carry the loudspeaker to hear his relatives effortlessly, and without much impact from the mixing of shouts with others who have the same goal. They stand in front of gray barbed wire preventing them from passing to Syrian territory.

This is not a cinematic scene that tells the details of life in a previous era, but a reality That has been imposed since 1967 when the Syrian Golan was occupied by the Israeli occupation which will add other concerns for this man and other residents of the Golan, as a result of Washington’s  recognition of Israeli sovereignty on  the area .


How did the Golan fall into Israel's grip?

In the middle of the Levant|( Belad al Sham), a high plateau overlooking the Sea of Galilee and the Houla plain between Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and occupied Palestine. This plateau, which occupies a total area of 1860 square kilometers, is administratively following the demarcation of the international border in 1923 - the Syrian province of Quneitra.

Israel occupied two-thirds of the Syrian Golan in the 1967 war, but Syria has repeatedly tried to retake its territory in the 1973 war. Despite the heavy losses suffered by the occupying power, it managed to retain the Golan. The conflict ended with the deployment of an international observer force on the ceasefire line in 1974.

On December 14, 1981, Israel, which was permanently incapable of gaining control of the Arab territories, annexed the Golan Heights by a decision taken by the Israeli parliament (Knesset). The international community vehemently rejected the Israeli decision. Israel has built dozens of settlements in the area to house some 20,000 Israeli settlers live. Some 150,000 Syrians emigrated from the occupied Golan towards the Syrian territory between the 1967 and 1973 wars, and only about 18,000 Syrians, mostly Druze, remain. The occupying power has not been able to subdue the Golan Druze who have refused to acquire the Israeli identity with its privileges, as well as the temptations to recruit into the occupation army. They have strongly and repeatedly expressed loyality to their homeland Syria. This was evident in the civil disobedience of April 1982, which ended in July of the same year with the rebellion against the occupation authorities, which granted them the status of "temporary citizen", and subjected them to bargains that led to the reduction of their sphere of influence and presence. They have been besieged and deprived of the capabilities of the Golan including preventing them from family reunification, marriage or study at the Syrian universities, while in 1991 it allowed only selective visits between the people of the Golan and their relatives inside Syria.

 In order to confront the policies of the Israeli government, the Golan residents formed a national movement that was able to thwart the annexation project through people who refuse to accept Israeli citizenship, and adhere to belonging to the motherland. This movement stood behind the strike of the Golan residents in February 1982 in protest against the annexation law.

What is the secret of the Israeli keenness to retain the Golan?

Despite their legal annexation, successive Israeli governments have conducted negotiations with Syria on the Golan.  However, these rounds failed each time because of the occupation's refusal to withdraw to the lines of June 4, 1967, but the arrival of Benjamin Netanyahu to power limited the Israeli stand to one corner; that is the corner of Israeli control only. In November 2010, he took the stricter line on the Golan, and in November 2010, extracted a resolution from the Israeli Knesset that would impede any withdrawal from any territory under Israeli sovereignty, meaning  the Golan and occupied East Jerusalem without  getting  a majority in a referendum.  .

Israel has economic ambitions in the Golan. This region, where one-third of Israel's water resources are located, is in the process of an Israeli exploration in hope of finding gas and oil that enhance Israel position as an important energy player in the region, as it is believed that the existence of oil wealth in the Golan “We found a 350-meter-thick oil layer in the southern Golan, which indicates in large quantities that the average global oil layer thickness is 20,” says Yuval Bartov, the main geologist for the US-based Jenny Oil.

Moreover, the strategic location of the Golan Heights also gives it great military importance. The high plateau provides a good opportunity for the occupation to monitor developments in Syria.


Haifaa Mafalani