Trump will not change the identity of the Syrian Golan, or the identity of its people

Wednesday 27 March 201904:26 pm

The recent measures by the Trump Administration to legitimise the Zionist military occupation of Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Syrian Golan Heights constitute a precedent in the conduct of international and US foreign policy in the aftermath of World War II – a period which witnessed the onset of pro-independence and self-determination movements along with the dawning of colonial retreat.

Whatever the real explanation may be, the voice of the Syrian Golan Heights emanates from its people.

In particular, Trump’s recent announcement on Twitter recognising Israel’s annexation of the occupied Syrian Golan Heights takes place within a new context of unchartered territory; for while some claim them to be part of the Trump Administration’s “Deal of the Century” – in which the Administration seeks to impose the interests of the United States and Israel across the whole region, others posit that the decisions merely constitute part of the election campaigns of Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Whatever the real explanation may be, the voice of the Syrian Golan Heights emanates from its people.

A historical context of the Golan

During the 1967 Six-Day war, Israel’s military embarked upon the occupation of the Golan Heights, an operation which saw more than 100 villages destroyed and 100,000 Syrians expelled from their lands (including the population of the province’s capital, Al-Quneitra, which remains largely uninhabited to this day).

In the aftermath of the occupation only five villages remained in the Golan, with 26,000 Syrians remaining on the strategic plateau. The Israeli military offensive was subsequently condemned by the United Nations and international community, and Israel was asked to withdraw from the Occupied Territories. This fixed stance continues to be the official position of the United Nations to this day.

However, ignoring international resolutions, Israel’s Knesset issued a law de facto annexing the Golan Heights in 1981 – officially incorporating it into the boundaries of the Israeli state. Following the Golan annexation law, the UN Security Council unanimously issued Resolution 497 demanding Israel revoke its decision.

The resolution declared: “Israel’s decision to impose its laws and administration over the Golan Heights is null and void and with no effect in International Law.” The resolution was supported by all five permanent members of the Security Council, including the US. Nonetheless, in 1982 Israel would attempt to impose Israeli identity on the Golan’s residents – an announcement which prompted a six-month open strike.

A frivolous decision lacking international legitimacy

Trump’s Tweet recognising Israel’s sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights was distinguished by its flippancy and senselessness, as well as its ignorance of international law and international geopolitical reality. Indeed, the decision contravened the principles which were substantively agreed upon by the community of nations following the second World War.

The very principle of the military occupation of territories and their annexation is rejected by most states in the world – not least those of Europe. This conviction was particularly solidified by the experience of the second World War, in which Nazi Germany embarked upon the military occupation of weak European states, often with the approval of the Soviet Union. The international community could not accept such flippancy or whimsical conduct of international relations between states. Thus, the majority of states (and especially those not considered major military powers) across the world cannot accept the legitimacy of military occupation, not least in order to safeguard their own territory and interests.

It is thus widely-recognised that military occupations are illegal under international law as well as the Geneva Conventions. Indeed, it is noteworthy that Israel’s de facto annexation law of 1981 avoided formally using the term “annexation” – instead deploying the terminology of extending Israeli “law, jurisdiction and administration” over the territory. This framing is especially repeated by Israel during sessions of the UN and other international conventions.

In other words, Trump’s recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan takes us back to the Middle Ages – when convention dictated that the first to the pillage was worthy of it; where the powerful consumed the weak, stealing their land and enslaving them. Trump’s Tweet is thus devoid of legitimacy, encapsulating long-extinct concepts that have long ceased being fit for our modern world.

Devoid of its own symbolism

Border demarcations are not a minor matter, and have never been (and will never be) a mere incidental event or outcome of a unilateral decision. International borders are founded upon the implicit understanding of the need to demarcate them, to be consequently accorded recognition of their existence by the international community. This is indeed the reason why Trump’s Golan Tweet was met by a loud, disapproving reverberation around the world – with both ‘major’ and ‘smaller’ states rushing to condemn the decision as illegitimate and illegal.

Indeed, the speed by which the global reactions and condemnations of Trump’s announcement took place clearly points to the lack of an ‘arguable’ legitimacy surrounding Israel’s re-drawn northern border. Thus, one can deduce that even the symbolic value of Trump’s decision was emptied of its essence – a development which could be broadened to encompass US decisions on the West Bank and Jerusalem, and which could further isolate the US in future from the rest of the international community.

Thus, we could surmise that Donald Trump’s greatest achievement lies in taking “radical” decisions which fly against and ignore the reality of the world order – thus connoting such decisions with a frivolous undertone.

What now?

In the end, one thing is clear: Trump will not change the identity of the Syrian Golan, for there is no ‘statute of limitations’ when it comes to the ownership of land – whilst people’s identity cannot be simply dissembled.

As the people of the Syrian Golan have proven recently - in front of the Occupation and the whole world - their identity has not changed over half-a-century of occupation: a truth which they repeatedly manifested in their resistance to the various schemes of “Israelisation” proposed over the years and decades, and in their resistance to the bullets of the Occupation’s police forces.

In the end, one thing is clear: Trump will not change the identity of the Syrian Golan, for there is no ‘statute of limitations’ when it comes to the ownership of land – whilst people’s identity cannot be simply dissembled.

It is also important to note that one of the most dangerous ramifications of Trump’s Tweet is its capacity to serve the Syrian regime. For following this declaration, the response of the regime was awaited by many leaders (as well as individuals and parties) around the world – resembling more theatre which justifies adding another layer of legitimacy to this illegitimate regime. Let it be clear that neither the Golan nor Syria will wait for liberation and freedom from the Syrian regime.

The real voice of the Syrian Golan emanates from its people: its natives who are not only the residents of the remaining villages there, but those who fled from its occupation and suffered the greatest of pains at the hands of its brutality – only to suffer again the added brutality of the Syrian war. The land holds ownership of truths that exist above its surface; truths that prove its real identity, an identity which will not be altered by a white man of imperialist constitution.

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