Now that the United States has given the imperial stamp of approval to Israel’s illegal annexation of Syria’s Golan Heights, what does the future hold? Well, the move announced by President Donald Trump this week augers badly.
Al-Marsad, the Arab human rights centre in the Golan Heights, condemned Trump’s move. “The decision,” it explained, “sets a dangerous standard that glorifies systematic human rights abuses, legitimises illegal aggression and occupation, and endangers peace in the Middle East.”
Most of the Golan, which is actually part of south-western Syria, has been illegally occupied and annexed — albeit illegally —for decades now. In 1967, when Israel attacked Egypt, Jordan, the Palestinians (again) and Syria, the invading forces never left the territories they occupied through military means. Instead, fully consistent with the history of the Zionist movement, Israel set about displacing the indigenous population and colonising the land. More often than not, this meant the outright ethnic cleansing of Arabs for the “crime” of not being Jewish in territories controlled by the self-declared “Jewish state”.
In the Golan Heights, Israel drove out 95 per cent of the local Syrian Arab population, a total of 130,000 people. Exactly as the Zionist terrorist militias had done in Palestine between 1947 and 1949, it then set about systematically demolishing hundreds of Arab villages. This particular form of war crime is indeed ethnic cleansing; a calculated move to create “facts on the ground” and thus make it harder for refugees to return to their homes at the end of hostilities.
In 1981, Israel’s right-wing Likud government officially annexed the Golan Heights, applying Israeli civil law to the territory and, in theory, ending the period of military rule. The relatively few Syrians left in the Golan were offered Israeli citizenship, an offer that the majority still reject.
Until Trump’s move this week, official US policy – in line with most other countries – was to reject Israel’s claims of sovereignty over this large swathe of Syrian territory. Trump’s recognition turns that policy on its head.
Nevertheless, regardless of what far-right imperialists like Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu think, the Syrians of the Golan Heights will always be Syrians, and the Golan Heights will always be part of Syria. “Syrians have always rejected Israeli control of their land and will remain steadfast in standing against Israel’s systematic oppression,” Al-Marsad confirmed. “The US decision will have no impact on this reality.”
It is astonishing that the far-right forces in the White House don’t seem to recognise that Israel’s annexation of occupied Arab territories is a move that can only end with the downfall of the so-called Jewish state as a political and racist entity. In other words, it increases the political pressure for a single, non-racist, democratic state between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea.
Such a state in historic Palestine will afford full and equal rights to Muslims, Jews, and Christians; indeed, people of all faiths and none, regardless of their ethnic identity. A truly democratised Palestine, from the river to the sea, with legal protection for cultural and language rights, would naturally return illegally-occupied Syrian territory to the sovereign state of Syria at the first practical opportunity.
Close diplomatic ties with Syria as with all neighbouring states would be fostered, promoted and extended. In time, this would probably lead to closer economic ties and prosperity, as well as open borders. This was the reality on the ground before the rise of Zionism and other forms of colonialism in the Levant. It was once possible to drive from Beirut to Haifa and Jerusalem, and on to Egypt, Syria or even the sands of Arabia, something quite impossible now because of Israel and imperialist designs on the region.
This, in fact, was the natural state of affairs in the region until the enforced divisions and sectarianism of Western-imposed imperialism. The latter has led to more than a century of seemingly endemic violence, chaos, systemic displacement and institutional racism in Palestine and other Arab lands affected by Israel’s occupation.
The next step for Netanyahu and Israel’s fascist right wing now that they have the US imperial stamp of approval for the annexation of the Golan Heights will be to apply the same illegal process to the occupied West Bank. In the occupied Syrian Golan, Israel drove out 95 per cent of the population by the use of extreme racist violence, so that today the population of Syrians is more or less the same as that of the illegal Israeli settlers. This is not the case in the West Bank, though, where illegal settlers are outnumbered by 3 million indigenous Palestinians.
To annex the West Bank would, therefore, require the perpetuation of an openly racist regime in which millions of Palestinians are denied basic human and political rights forever. This is already the reality on the ground, but annexation would make reality far more stark and obvious to people around the world.
Ultimately, the aim of Zionism is to exclude indigenous non-Jews from its polity: maximum amount of land, minimum number of Arabs. The Zionist dilemma is simple: formal apartheid or expulsion by force; which is it to be? Either option would ultimately lead to the accelerated haemorrhaging of political support for Israel in the West.
While such support has been a bipartisan issue in Britain for years, Israel is now – for the first time – becoming a bipartisan issue in mainstream US politics. Israeli apartheid is accelerating its own downfall, and Donald Trump’s recognition of the annexation of the Syrian Golan Heights does not, in reality, do Israel any long-term favours whatsoever.