Wednesday, October 16, 2013

On The Neglected And Exploited Occupied Golan

[Photo Idea by Amru Abu Saleh, directed by Nihad Awidat].
Special thanks to Yara Sa’adi.

*While most of the Arab Golan community is preoccupied with the ongoing battle in Syria, another struggle affecting their own occupied lands is only few kilometers away. 

In February 2013, the Israeli Ministry of Energy and Water (headed by Uzi Landau) granted a subsidiary of an American company, Genie Israel Oil and Gas1, a three-year exclusive petroleum exploration license covering around third of the total occupied territories (396.5 square kilometers), located in the Southern part of the Golan. It is the first license to be awarded in the occupied Golan since the 90s when then, the defense minister Yitzhak Rabin claimed that, “exploration permits might be harmful to the “peace” process with Syria2”.

Ever since the Naksa (1967 war) Israel has carried out numerous illegal activities on Syrian land. The forcible transfer of civilians and the destruction of property have led to the mass depopulation of Syrian citizens from their own land. A foreign ethnic group, namely, Israeli-Jewish settlers, has gradually replaced the Syrian population. Today, about 20,000 (and the number is increasing) Jewish settlers are living in 33 illegal settlements in the Golan, and make use of the land’s natural resources such as mineral water, natural lakes and arable lands expropriated from native Golan citizens3.

Israel’s exploitation of occupied natural resources is a clear violation of article 55 of the Hague Regulations among other provisions of International Humanitarian Law such as the Geneva Convention and Customary International Law. Yet, according to the Who Profits report4, at a similar case from December 2011 regarding mining operations in the occupied Palestinian territories, the Israeli High Court of Justice validated the

excavating of natural resources in the West Bank. The legality of the Israeli quarries in the occupied West Bank was challenged by the Israeli organization Yesh Din – Volunteers for Human Rights, through a petition in 2009. However, the Israeli High Court concluded in its verdict that the Israeli quarries in the occupied West Bank are legal and do not violate international law.

In addition to the Israeli economical involvement and violation of international and humanitarian law, both in the region as a whole and in the occupied Golan in particular, the American company Genie energy is headed by former minister and military commander Effie Eitam the colonel who in 1988 "followed the orders" of Yitzhak Rabin who discreetly told the Israeli army to break the bones of Palestinians rising up during the first Palestinian intifada, by ordering his troops to beat Ayyad Aqel (from al-Bureij refugee camp) and his brother to death. Effie was also a previous minister of housing and construction who worked hard to accelerate settlements in the occupied Golan, the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Nevertheless the existence of these facts, Syrian community in the occupied Golan keeps on neglecting the Israeli violations; scattered between proposition and opposition of Assad's regime, which in no doubt shapes the socio-political sphere of the Golan, yet abandons the Israeli exploitations happening on the Golan's behalf.

It takes one hour to travel by car from northern Golan to its south whereas it takes only several minutes to recognize the enormous Israeli exploitation of land and resources taking place there. The dramatic and rapid escalation of events happening in other countries in the region, keep the situation in the Golan deserted, undocumented and subsequently unexposed while the violations and exploitations are in fact still ongoing. 

By *Aamer Ibraheem, Grad Student on Gender Studies
Occupied Syrian Golan