West Bank Palestinians and Golan Syrians at joint camp

I was intrigued to see the news from Maan that a summer camp has brought some 350 Palestinians from the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and from inside Israel, along with Syrian indigenes from the Golan together in Bethlehem this week.
Many people in the US seem quite unaware that there is a strong human dimension to Israel’s 42-year-long military occupation of Syria’s Golan region. Thus, while the Palestinian issue is understood by most westerners to include some very tough issues of the serious violations of basic human rights that Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza has inflicted on the 4.3 million Palestinian residents of those regions, the Golan issue– when it is discussed at all in the west– is discussed overwhelmingly as “purely” a strategic issue.
Little or no attention is paid to the harms that have been imposed and continue to be imposed on either (a) the 18,000 indigenous Syrian residents of Golan whose lives have been severely constrained by the imposition of firstly Israeli military law and since 1981 Israeli civilian law on the towns, villages, and farms in which they live, or (b) the more than 500,000 Syrian citizens who in the chaos that surrounded the collapse of the Syrian army’s positions in Golan in 1967 fled from their homes and farms in the region, deeper into the Syrian interior– or who are descendants of those IDPs from 1967.
You can learn more about the Syrian Golanis here.
The way Golan is discussed in the west, it is as though that entire fertile plateau was always empty of people until the Israeli settlers came along and started to “make the plateau bloom.” Yet another version of the old Zionist myth of a “land without a people for a people without a land”!
The Syrian government, for its part, has never made a big deal at all of the plight of the indigenous Syrian residents of Golan– either those who stayed in 1967, or those who left. I once asked a Syrian colleague about whether there was anything that you might call a “Golan lobby” inside Syria, that agitates there for the restoration of the rights of the Golanis. He explained that there are no special-interest lobbies inside Syria– on Golan or anything else. (I kind of knew that, already.)
Also, if the Damascus government were to launch a big international campaign about the human rights of the Golan Syrians (whether displaced, or “occupied”), then other Syrians could start to ask for more concern for their rights, as well.
But whether the Damascus government takes up this issue as a human rights issue (and not just one of “the restoration of Syria’s national sovereignty over the Golan), or not, there still is a human rights issue… And those of us who are citizens of countries that have been strong backers of Israel throughout the 42 years of Israel’s occupation of Golan need to take our share of the responsibility for ending the systematic rights abuses that running a military occupation always entails– in Golan, just as in East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank, and in Gaza.
Golan is like East Jerusalem, in that fairly early on in its 42-year military occupatin Israel imposed an Anschluss (annexation) on it. That happened in 1981; and since then, Israel has considered it just a regular part of Israel.
In Golan, the Israeli authorities went to great lengths, in 1981-2, to try to impose Israeli citizenship on the indigenous residents. In East Jerusalem, they haven’t ever undertaken much of a campaign to do this– probably because in E. Jerusalem there are some 270,000 indigenous residents, who would constitute one-third of the city’s voters and be a non-trivial voting bloc in Israel’s national politics, as well. The numbers in Golan are that much smaller.
Plus, most of the Syrian Golanis are Druze. The Israeli state authorities probably feel they have done a pretty good job of ensuring that Israel’s own (Palestinian) Druze community has been sufficiently bought off that it doesn’t cause them many problems; and they probably hoped that it would be fairly easy to assimilate the Golan Druze in with the Israeli-Palestinian Druze…
But that proved not to be the case. The vast majority of the still-resident Syrian Golanis have resisted having Israeli citizenship thrust upon them, though I think they have had Israel’s “Druze” education system thrust upon them, along with many other Israeli state institutions and regulations. This, while they maintained their Syrian citizenship. The Israelis and the ICRC have enabled some contacts to continue between these Syrians and their sisters and cousins residing on the other side of the disengagement line. I think a number of Syrian Golanis go to study in Damascus each year. Syrian Golani apple farers have been able to sell their beautiful produce to Syrian wholesalers, etc.
… So anyway, I’m interested to learn about the Bethlehem summer camp. I don’t know if this is the first year it’s been run; but it seems like an excellent initiative. Palestinians who live under Israeli occupation (with or without being Anschlussed), Palestinians who are citizens of Israel, and Syrian Golanis living under occupation/Anschluss all have a lot in common; but of course the Israeli authorities have always tried to maintain a strong policy of “divide-and-rule” among them. So it’s good these young people can find a way to get together among themselves.
Let’s hope that next summer, youth from Gaza can participate as well.
And that the summer after that, Israel’s occupation of all these parts of the Arab world will have ended once and for all.
(A note on the timeline here: the US has formally agreed to end its entire military occupation of Iraq by the end of 2011. That withdrawal is complicated by the sheer logistics of trucking all that military materiel out of Iraq. The logistics of trucking all Israel’s military materiel out of the West Bank and Golan are nowhere near as complex! The logistics of moving all the Israeli settlers out of the West Bank and Golan may be a little more complex… But the Israeli government, which put them in there in blatant violation of international law can doubtless find a way to do that… But anyway, I’ll give them two years to complete the process… )

2 thoughts on “West Bank Palestinians and Golan Syrians at joint camp”

  1. (A note on the timeline here: the US has formally agreed to end its entire military occupation of Iraq by the end of 2011.
    Let not be fool Helena, your words not more than words put naicly to feel good.
    Wiate to what you siad 2011 nad see and the we have diffrent talk of all these feel good statments.
    NOTE: Malik in his visite to WH siad US tropes may say in Iraq after 2011 Helena are you a ware of that statement?
    BTW, you talking about US withdrawal from Iraq… which will never happen (withdrawal means nothing as such as much as who control the matter inside Iraq and its represent and working for national inters of Iraqi as nation without orders from out side power), also you mentioned Israeli withdrawal of “the logistics of moving all the Israeli settlers out of the West Bank and Golan”
    Could you telling us when your country troops of their Nobel mission of heroism will withdrawal from Afghanistan?
    Why you silinet from talking about it?
    Is it just Israeli you accusing here, US more close to tell us your stories Helena.

  2. Helena read this report from Iraq…. in the past western media all taking about the lunatic Uday, today they do not care what happening everyday on the street of Baghdad
    Read this what your administrations brought to Iraqi if Saddam was a lunatic now Iraq have 1000 Saddam..
    حادثة الاختطاف الخامسة :
    الوقت مساءً . المكان ، العرصات ، يقطع الشارع الرئيس عدة مفارز وسيطرات وزارتى الداخلية والدفاع والشارع بطبيعته لا يؤدي الى طريق المسبح المعزز بالحماية والمفارز وكذلك ينحدر الشارع الى الكرادة خارج او قليلا للاسفل حيث المسرح الوطنى الزاخر بعشرات السيطرات وشمالا حيث الجادرية موقع المجلس الاعلى وقوات منظمة بدر ومقر المجلس الاعلى مكتب السيد عمار الحكيم وقصر رئيس الجمهورية والطريق يزدحم بالقوات الامنية الحكومية والحزبية ناهيك عن ملاحظة مهمه وهي عدم قدرة الخاطفين السير عبر الازقة كونها مغلقة ومنذ سنوات بالجدران الكونكريتية الامر الذي يؤكد ان الخاطفين ، الذين نجحوا وللمرة الخامسة خلال هذين اليومين باختطاف فتيات قصر وعذراوات يتم سحلهن من الشارع بقوة وعنجهية وامام انظار المارة ويتم رشهن بمادة مخدرة والانطلاق بهن لجهة مجهولة . العصابة لاتطلب هذه المرة مالا ولا تتفاوض مع اهالي المختطفات انما الصمت بعد الاختطاف والداخلية لا تجد جوابا والعوائل تبحث في المشافي فلا تجد جوابا ايضا .. لا جثث ، لا اثر ، لا دليل !!! .

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