The Golan Heights, Zionism and Resistance
by Haytham A K. Radwan
This year marks the 44th anniversary of the June War that led to Israel‟s illegal occupation of the Syrian Golan Heights. It is a myth not to believe that Zionism had provoked the June War in 1967 against Syria in order to capture the Golan Heights. Imperial Zionist created a myth stating that the Syrians used their positions on the Golan Heights overlooking Israel‟s illegal settlements on the plain of the Galilee to rain indiscriminate fire on those settlements at whim and without provocation. Zionist messages to the world that Israel was acting in pure self-defence in storming and occupying the Syrian territory was swallowed by well prepared media machines which have served Zionism very effectively.1 Yet, with Israel trying to achieve its dreams by forcing the Syrians to swallow the message forcibly, the Syrians seem to have resisted the message very effectively. Research into Zionist history and the history of the period between Israel‟s occupation of Palestine and the June War and close examination of the events along the lines of confrontation between Syria and the Zionist states reveal a completely different image from the ones painted by the Zionist conspiracies, western media, and books.
Israel dreams in capturing the Syrian Golan Heights dates back to the early days of Zionism. Several attempts were made, from as early as 1891, to purchase and lay claim to land on the Golan Heights and Huran. Writing to the British Prime Minister Lloyd George in 1919 on the eve of San Remo Conference, the Zionist leader and first President of Israel, Chaim Weizman, stated: 2
“Zionists do not accept under any circumstances the Sykes-Picot agreement because not only does it divide historical Palestine but also deprive the Jewish National Home of some of the most fertile lands for settlements in the Golan and Hauran on which depends the future of the Zionist project”.
The Zionist projects are a real danger to the Syrian Nation. This danger lay in the Zionist endeavour to establish an exclusively Jewish state in Syria based on the claim that the Jewish people had an inherent and inalienable right to Palestine. This endeavour, based on the belief that the Jews constitute a nation, was unnatural because the Jews were diverse in their tendencies and inclinations and contrasting in their ethics and customs as any other people. 3
The road to the Golan
The occupation of Palestine in 1948 did not fulfil the project of territorial expansion. To achieve the project by gaining additional fertile lands, Israelis needed more wars against Syria. Indeed, the year 1948, ended with the occupation of Palestine. With no peace agreement, Israel went into a series of violent border clashes. To achieve its imperial ambitions in the Golan Heights, it started to develop its strategic doctrine and forces long before the war. After a series of conclusions of the armistice agreements between Israel and Syria in July 1949, the Zionist road to the Golan Heights was paved by a series of threats and attacks on Syrian sovereignty.
In order to change the post-war territorial status quo, Israel began its aggressions against Syria by staking an illegal claim to sovereignty over the demilitarised zones and its resources. It then proceeded to squeeze the Syrian civilians out of the zones in total disregard for the spirit and letter of the armistice agreement. In one occasion the Israelis moved forcibly several hundred Syrian civilians because they refused to accept Israeli identity cards. Israel‟s actions in the demilitarised zones were also in conflict with the UN. Israel‟s forces repeatedly obstructed the operations of the UN observers. With the UN unable to prevent such illegal actions, Israel proceeded, as an opportunity offered, to expel more civilians and to razed their villages to the ground.4
After a series of expansionist steps, Zionist realised that without water Israel would be doomed. From around 1952, they embarked on a long project to build a modern army, a plan that came together spectacularly in 1967. However, in 1953, Israel was forced to abandon its plan to divert water from the Jordan River in the demilitarised zones to the Negev. In 1959, it began instead to build the National Water Carrier to convey water from Lake Tiberias to the Negev. While Syria attempted legally to protect its water recourses Israel started a series of successful violent clashes backed by Western powers.5
New evidence that Israeli politician and generals were planning for to occupy Syrian territory has began to surface from Israel itself. In a document published recently one finds abundant confirmation that in the years before 1967, Rabin calculatedly prepared Israel to war against Syria. When the Israeli generals failed to deter the Syrians completely, Rabin made it clear that his intention was to provoke the Syrians into an all-out war. In December 1966, he wrote to Israel‟s military attaché in London: 6
“….an escalation with Syria is not against Israel‟s interest, and in my view there is no better time than now for a confrontation with Syria…
Israel‟s leaders were naturally interested in military confrontation over water resource and the demilitarised zones with Syria. Eshkol‟s aid-de-camp, General Lior, noted that Rabin‟s threat stemmed from what he called the “Syrian syndrome”, the obsession of the military of Israel and its chief commander with the Syrian enemy and their tendency to overreact to the Syrian: 7
“….In the north a pretty heavy war was conducted over the water resources. The war was directed by the chief of staff, Rabin….I had an easy internal feeling on this matter. All the time it seemed to me that Rabin suffers from what I call the “Syrian syndrome.” In my opinion, nearly all those who served along the front lines of the northern command….were affected by the Syrian Syndrome….service opposite the Syrian enemy, fuels feeling of exceptional hatred for the Syrian army and people….we loved to hate them…
“Rabin and Dodo (David) were very aggressive in combat operations over the headwaters in the north. Incidents over these headwaters and over control in the demilitarised zones became an inseparable part of the daily routine”.8
When Israel gained the upper hand in the demilitarised zones by winning the water war, the road to the Golan Heights was preceded. In the mid-1960s the border between Syria and Israel witnessed increasing Israeli aggression and started the slide to the war in 1967. According to the UNTSO, movements of Israeli tanks, tank-transporters, artillery, and personnel carriers were observed near the frontier and were reported to the UNTSO headquarter in Jerusalem. But Syria did not respond to these deliberate provocations. Instead, on 8 May, Syria warned Nasser, the Egyptian President, of Israeli troop concentration on its frontier.9
To further provoke the Syrian, Israeli set up an incident. A patrol went down to a Syrian village called Nukheila. When the Syrians opened fire to protect their positions, Israeli tanks pounded the Syrian positions. The Syrian fired back. When Israeli Brigadiers realised that the attack was a failure, the Israeli manufactured another incident at the same place. At the point the Israeli destroyed two Syrian Panzers and the Syrian retaliated shelling the Israeli positions. To escalate, Israel sent its air force. As early as 1964, as a pattern emerged, the British Embassy in Damascus was commenting that „the Israelis were plainly provocative in sending patrols into an area they knew was in dispute‟. Many of the United Nations observers who were based on the frontier stated that „while the Israelis professing to offer complete co-operation, lie most of the time and do all they can to deceive UN officers‟. A widely held belief among the military observers was that the Israelis would periodically „fabricate‟ incidents. General Odd Bull, who commanded the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation (UNTSZO) which did its best to make the armistice arrangement work, warned that Israel‟s activities deepened the mistrust on the border. 10
Evidence of the Zionist intention to conquer Syrian territories continues to arrive. Moshe Dayan, Israel War Minister during the June War admitted that Israel provoked the war in order to conquer the Heights. In an interview with Rami Tal of Yedioth Aharonoth in 1976, he made the stunning confession that at least 80 percent of the clashes with the Syrians in the years that preceded the 1967 war were initiated by Israel. He said: 11
“I know how at least 80 percent of the clashes there (on the Golan front) started. In my opinion, more than 80 percent, but let‟s talk about 80 percent. It went this way: we would send a tractor to plough someplace where it wasn‟t possible to do anything, in the demilitarised area and knew in advance that the Syrians would start to shoot. If they didn‟t shoot, we would tell the tractor to advance farther, until in the end the Syrians would get annoyed and shoot. And then we would use artillery and later the air force also, and that‟s how it was”
Yet, Israel steadily built up the deterrent power of its military, giving priority to the armoured corps and to the air force, add to it the American Naval Spy Ship, USS Liberty, attached to the American Sixth Fleet waiting on the Mediterranean to help Israel. Israel caught Syria unprepared. The Syrian forces resisted courageously, but the Golan Heights proved vulnerable without air support. The UN called for cease fire. But President Johnson deliberately refused to put pressure on Israel to respect the UN cease-fire call until after Israeli conquest had been completed. 12
The West did nothing to repair the damage
When the western backed army of Israel occupied the Syrian Golan heights in 1967, over 131,000 indigenous Syrians, whose parents had lived in the territory for thousands of years, were forcibly expelled from 159 villages and 146 farms, or fled in terror of Zionist militias. According to calculations, the IDF and Israeli terrorist militias had illegally used napalm and destroyed and levelled villages to the ground while most countries of the international community watched on. In 1973, Syria managed to liberate the Golan‟s major city and capital, Quneitra. However, the Syrian troops found it to have been completely reduced to rubblesincluding the major hospital, the Church, homes, shops, schools and police stations. Israel and the international community, especially the United States did nothing to repair the damage.13
As early as mid-July Israel started approving plans for the building of Jewish settlements in the Golan Heights in violation of international law. Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits an occupying force from transferring any part of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies. Moreover, international humanitarian law prohibits any permanent change to an occupied land, including imposed demographic changes intended not to benefit the occupied population. In 1981, Israel illegally annexed the territory.14
Not surprisingly, western governments have been for centuries trying to convince the world that they are leaders of peace, justice and democracy. If that is true, is it not proper to ask: Where is the evidence that the west, especially the United States, has been dedicated to peace, justice and human rights in the Syrian Golan Heights? Since the occupation of the territory, Israel has committed serious human rights violation in breach of international law, but has never been seriously criticized by the west.
For western governments, the occupation of the Golan Heights and the displacement of its population are convenient ways to blackmail the Syrian public for Israel‟s benefit. At the same time, they have tried to convince the Syrian that even though they had support Israel all the way in its wars on Lebanon in 2006, and Gaza in 2008-9, they were still concerned about ending the Golan crisis.
The young Syrians, injustice and resistance
Today, despite Israel‟s long history of bombing nations and cities and reducing entire towns to rubbles, the Syrian people of the occupied territory have not forgotten the object lesson of military powers and occupation.
The truth is, while the international community is unwilling to challenge Israel and United State‟s domination of the process, the Golan crisis is unlikely to be resolved accept through armed resistance. Resistance remains the only effective method for returning rights to its people, and it remains the only power in reshaping the map of the region.
Reshaping Syrian methods of dealing with Israel and the western powers is essential. Uprising, as genuine option, my soon develop into a “Golan Intifada”, a word whose Syrian roots refer to shaking up.
The young Syrians, inside the occupied territory and outside, are pressing for a legitimate resistance and total commitment to the liberation of their territories by all means. In the forty two years of occupation, a new generation, inside the occupied territory, has grown up knowing nothing but military occupation, repression and despair. And a new generation of the displaced young Syrian has grown up dreaming of returning to their land. So, with the international community unable to return the occupied territory to its inhabitant, a Syrian uprising seems inevitable but legitimate. But some may argues that an uprising in the occupied Golan is impossible with the Israel‟s overwhelming military presence.
In Gaza and south Lebanon, Israel‟s military presence was everywhere and the Palestinians and Lebanese resistance forces were able to put an end to occupation. In the Golan Heights, an uprising may start as a spontaneous action, stone-throwing and young people challenging the tanks and troops of the occupying forces. But it may not turn out exclusively like the Lebanese and Palestinian uprising due to the small population and lack of weapons supplies.
Whatever the consequences, struggle remains an option of protecting the national dignity. With the liberation of South Lebanon in 2000, Gaza in 2005, the opining up of a new ideas, new empowerment of young men and women, new levels of emotional and material support, the new young Syrians have build their future hopes around liberation and struggle.
Injustice can result in violence if left to its own whims. It can propel people into resistance it in order to gain justice. In the eyes of the international community-especially those in the west- Israel has never stopped violating the international law which require it to recognise the rights of the indigenous Syrian people of the Golan. As the occupation is illegal, the international community and Israel‟s efforts to disallow the displaced people from returning to their native land is condemned by International Law, the United Nations, and some non-governmental organisations. In the meantime, Israel, shielded by the international community, has caused many Syrian deaths and condemned many others to a life of agony and despair.
The overall figure of internally displaced people from the Syrian Golan has been estimated to be over 500,000 people. They continue to be prevented from maintaining ties with their relatives living in the occupied land. It remains impossible for them to exercise their rights and family life in dignity. For example, family visits and contacts between the displaced Syrians and their 21,000 family members living in the occupied territory are severely restricted. In most cases, Syrians have to resort to mega-phones to communicate across the valley with fellow family members and friend.15
Thus, a just settlement would require an independent and an honest broker, western or non-western.
Today, Israel is still refusing to withdraw peacefully from Syrian territories. Benjamin Netanyahu and his foreign minister apparently now believe that Israel must remain in the Golan Heights and yet call for peace with Syria! Now, with the international community unwilling to help, the Syrians have no other option but to keep their spirit up and their fighting strength alive. The Syrians are left with no other alternative but to resist and struggle. And „resistance and struggle‟, in this context, is a basic national right no matter how hard western and Zionist forces attempt to portray it as „terrorism‟.
1 Quoted in Ghayth N. Armanazi, G, N 2007, ‘The Road to 67, The Golan: Ending Occupation, Establishing Peace’. Conference Report held in London in June 2007.
3 Quoted in Edmond Melhem, E 2007, The Road to Revolution: The First Syrian Social Nationalist Revolution against the Lebanese Government, Melbourne: 2007, p 36.
4 Adel Beshara, A 1995, ‘Syrian Nationalism: An Inquiry into the Political Philosophy of Antun Sa‟adeh’, Beirut: Bissan, 1995, p. 179. Quoted in Edmond Melhem, Ibid, p. 36.
5 Avi Shalim, a 2000, The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World, Penguin Books, London, p. 45-71.
7 Yemimah Rosenthal (ed),’Yitzhak Rabin, Prime Minister of Israel, A selection of Documents from His Life’, Jerusalem, 2005. Quoted in Shlomo ben-Ami. 2005: Scars of War Wounds of Peace, the Israeli-Arab Tragedy, Phoenix, p. 100.
8 Shlomo ben-Ami. 2005: Scars of War Wounds of Peace, the Israeli-Arab Tragedy, Phoenix, p.100.
9 Avi Shalim, 2000, The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World, Penguin Books, London, p. 229.
10 Tabitha Petran, 1972, Syria: A Modern History, British Library, p.178.
11 Jeremy Bowen, 2003. Six Days: How the 1967 War Shaped the Middle East. P. 17-19.
12 Quoted in Shlomo, bem-Ami. 2005, Scars of War Wounds of Peace, the Israeli-Arab Tragedy, Phoenix, p. 96.
13 Elyas Rezk, 2007, Masirat Tahrer Al Golan: 1967-2007, p. 43.
14 Tabitha Petran, 1972, Syria: A Modern History, British Library, p.199.
15 UN Human Rights Committee, 1969-70.
About the Author
Haytham A. K. Radwan is a Syrian-Australian citizen living in Adelaide, Australia. He is currently completing Bachelor of Laws at the University of South Australia. He has completed a Masters in International Studies / Relations in 2011, and Bachelor degree in International Studies in 2006 at the University of South Australia. His Masters research examined Saudi Arabia’s Politics, Its Islam, and Its Relations with the U.S. As A Threat to World Stability: Myth or Reality. Haytham also studied Psychology and Education Studies in the early 1990s at Damascus University, Syria. He is been admitted into the Golden Key International Honour Society in 2006, awarded the University Merit Award in 2006, and the Chancellor’s Commendation in 2005 from the University of South Australia. He can be reached at: email@example.com
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