Israel’s renewable energy projects in the Golan are a land grab

Tuesday 19 March 201907:01 am
The last three years have seen the highest temperatures on record on the planet, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). More voices have begun to warn against global warming, as it has become almost impossible to deny this phenomenon, or our role in the dramatic rise in the temperature of the Earth’s surface. Since the Paris Climate Conference in late 2016, countries have taken precautionary measures to adhere to climate agreements and meet agreed global standards. In light of this, the Israeli government is turning to wind power as an alternative to the electricity generated by fossil fuel. However, as always, this government throws the entire burden of this on the Arab community. The resources of the occupied territories are exploited in a manner that is unjust and dangerous and is characterized by theft and vandalism, while Israeli society reaps the benefits. Recently, the Planning and Building Committee of the Israeli government has begun to discuss a plan to establish wind turbines in the occupied Golan Heights. The plan is to set up dozens of turbines on private land, which the government threatened to confiscate if their owners do not agree to the contract to produce wind energy. The project limits the capacity of the occupied villages to expand, and traps people in crowded and suffocating residential areas. It also harms a central source of livelihood for the Syrian Golan population: agriculture. Since the turbines will be built on agricultural land, their impact on the surrounding environment and the impact of the construction process will cause great losses in the agricultural sector.

Why the Golan?

Israel plans to set up alternative energy projects in particular in the Golan Heights with the explicit aim of increasing land grabs. The project burdens the Syrian population in the Golan Heights with the responsibility of compensating for environmental damage which they have not contributed to, since they do not have heavy factories or participate in oil production. Heavy industry factory owners and oil and gas producers have escaped this responsibility while benefiting from the natural wealth of the Golan since they will be financing the turbine project. In other words, the largest polluters have put the entire burden on the farmers in the Golan, and they benefit from the economic profits of the project. These projects will serve as punishment for the inhabitants of the Golan Heights for the mistakes made by the colonizer, who benefits either way: the revenue brought in by the projects and the destruction of Syrian property in the Golan Heights.

Opposition and rejection of the project

The project was defined as "an Israeli national project". As a result, the minister of finance of the government of Israel was granted the power to confiscate land or parts of it with the pretext of improving the infrastructure (expansion of agricultural roads, construction of new "tourist" roads and construction of a commercial mall) in the area where the turbines will be built. The Golan’s people learned from the experiences of the Palestinians before them – that this government is not trustworthy when it comes to the question of land, and the granting of the "expropriation power" of the land may end with them being dispossessed of the land and not  "improving the infrastructure" as they claim. We can not hand over land that we inherited from our fathers and grandfathers to the occupation government. It is a government that does not care about the needs of the Syrians of the Golan. Rather, it aims to control our land. The history of the Golan is full of reasons for our lack of confidence in the government of Israel, such as the uprooting of trees and crops and the confiscation of land in different areas. In addition the Golan suffers from a severe housing crisis caused by two factors. The first is the cost of obtaining a building permit, which costs hundreds of times more than it does in settlements, as a result of deliberate attempts to ruin attempts at planning and construction in our villages, and a systematic policy of land confiscation and the imposition of useless structural maps for the area.   The other factor is due to the government pushing the population to build up, thus limiting the expansion of the villages, and turning them into a cluster of suffocating blocks that lack character. This makes the population density in the villages stifling, which contributes to the failure of the already poor infrastructure. This is intended to limit the architectural expansion of villages. The turbines to be built are located on Syrian land, between villages, with schemes that are intended to limit urban expansion, to prevent future construction. Thus, the inhabitants of the Golan have no possibility of building, and this suffering will increase with time. Perhaps in the distant future we may see the migration of young women and men from our villages. In addition, turbines have an annoying sound and, in the future and with their presence, there will be a significant drop in property prices in the Golan Heights. The presence of the Syrians in the occupied Golan is threatened by those who exploit it for profit only, and this is dangerous for the present and future generations. If we do not make sure that we have the land in the present, we will not be able to inherit it and ensure our possession of it in perpetuity. We must take responsibility for preserving our land to ensure our future existence.
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