A POCKET HISTORY OF THE GOLAN HEIGHTS FOR TRUMP

IN FORMALLY RECOGNISING ISRAELI CONTROL OVER THE  GOLAN HEIGHTS  DONALD TRUMP HAS ACHIEVED THE IMPOSSIBLE – UNITING VIRTUALLY EVERY NATION IN THEIR OPPOSITION AND CONCERN FOR THE OUTCOME.

In the 1940s, Britain secretly advocated the creation of a Greater Syrian state that would secure Britain preferential status in military, economic and cultural matters. France and the United States opposed British hegemony in the region, which eventually led to the creation of Israel on 14 May 1948. 

  • 1948 The  First Arab–Israeli War, was fought between the newly declared State of Israel and a military coalition of 5 Arab nations which rejected the establishment of the Jewish state in Palestine. Israelis call it “the war of independence”; Arabs call it the “nakba” or the catastrophe.
  • 1956 The second Arab-Israeli war broke out when Israel, Britain and France launched a joint attack against Egypt aimed at regime change and deposing Abdul Nasser the country’s leader.
  • 1967 Israel launched preemptive attacks on Egypt, Jordan and Syria, unleashing the June War, that resulted in the Israeli occupation of what remained of historic Palestine. Israel subsequently captured and occupied the West Bank and Gaza, capturing East Jerusalem from the Jordanians and the Golan Heights from Syria. The displacement of civilian populations resulting from the war had long-term consequences, as 300,000 Palestinians fled the West Bank and about 100,000 Syrians left the Golan Heights. Israel began to settle the occupied Golan Heights almost immediately, directly flouting international law.
  • 1973 Syria tried to retake the Golan Heights during the ‘Yom Kippur ‘war.  Egyptian and Syrian armies, with advanced Soviet weapons, launched a two-front offensive on Israel, from the north and the south. Despite inflicting heavy losses on Israeli forces, the surprise assault failed. Both countries signed an armistice in 1974 and a UN observer force has been in place on the ceasefire line since.

The UN Security Council Resolution 242 passed in 1967 called on Israel to withdraw from the territories it occupied in 1967 including the Golan Heights.  UN Resolution 338 adopted on October 22, 1973 reaffirmed the 1967 Resolution. Despite international condemnation Israel continues to build settlements on all occupied land, a well recognised strategy of  ‘sovereignty by stealth’.

AS SYRIA  LIES IN RUINS AND OTHERS CONTINUE TO SHAPE ITS DESTINY  IT IS TIMELY TO CONSIDER THE UNSAVOURY HISTORY WHICH LED US TO THIS POINT.

Damascus is considered to be the oldest permanently settled city in the world today.  The importance of Syria’s strategic location is illustrated by the repeated invasion and capture by foreign dominating powers. Syria has been fought over by foreign empires including Egyptians, Hittites, Assyrians, Persians, Macedonian Greeks, Romans, Mongols, Turks, British, and French. St Paul was converted on the road to Damascus, establishing the first Christian church at Antioch in the first century. From AD 324 many Christians migrated due to the divisions occurring within various Christian sects. Following the Muslim Arab conquest of AD 635 most Syrians became Muslim and Arabic replaced Aramaic. Throughout its centuries of rule, the Muslim Ottoman Empire was comprised of groups of Orthodox, Catholic, and other Christians; Alawis, Ismailis, and other Shia Muslims. Yazidis, Kurds, Jews, and Druze lived in neighbourhoods in the various cities and towns alongside Sunni Muslim Arabs.  Non-Muslim communities adhered to their own cultural traditions dress and customs and spoke their own languages, the allegiance was to the village or city and to ethnic heritage.

THE INFLUENCE OF WESTERN POWERS IN ‘NATION BUILDING’ PAYS LITTLE HEED TO THE CULTURE AND TRADITIONS OF THE EAST AND LESS TO CONSEQUENCES.

During the First World War, Great Britain and France were at war with the Turkish Ottoman Empire, which had sided with Germany and Austria. The  notorious Sykes-Picot Agreement made between Britain and France divided the Middle East between the two colonial powers. Britain subsequently made other conflicting deals,  leaders of the Arab revolt were promised an Independent Arab State in repayment for support in overthrowing the Ottomons but Britain reneged on the agreement. In May 1919 the French and British Prime Ministers met to decide their respective claims to territories or spheres of influence in the Middle East.They decided that in return for a British guarantee of French control in Syria, the British would be given a mandate over Mosul and Palestine. 

The long promised and short lived Arab Kingdom of Syria which emerged in 1920 died at birth. France was determined to retain control and invaded, imposing regime change on the Damascus government, making Syria a de facto colony of France, supposedly under the “mandate” of the League of Nations. The terms of the mandate required France to prepare Syria for independence, but the French showed little intention. The next three years were spent conquering the country and reformulating the territory. A policy was implemented of changing the social and cultural orientation by supplanting the common language Arabic, with French and making French customs and law primary. Catholicism was promoted as a means to undermine Islam, and to favor minorities as a means to control the Muslim majority, the aim being to establish a Christian-dominated viable state.

Constitutions were proclaimed periodically, only to be revoked, and independence was promised time after time. By 1921 Syria was divided into detached administrative units. The French created a “Greater” Lebanon from two Lebanon and Beirut, to establish an anchor in an otherwise hostile area. When the division inevitably failed, the autonomies were transformed into the Mandatory Syrian Republic in 1930. In 1933 when France attempted to impose a treaty of independence heavily prejudiced in favor of France, riots and demonstrations brought the economy to a standstill.

In 1936, the Franco-Syrian Treaty of Independence was signed, due to the French fear of being outflanked by Nazi Germany, if France relinquished its colonies in the Middle East.  However lingering colonialist inclinations  led France to reconsider its promises and it refused to ratify the treaty. With the fall of France in 1940 during World War II, Syria came under the control of the Vichy government until the British and Free French invaded and occupied the country in July 1941. Syria proclaimed its independence again in 1941 but it wasn’t until 1st January 1944, that it was recognized as an independent republic. On 29th May 1945, France  bombed Damascus and tried to arrest its democratically elected leaders. When the UN officially came into existence on 24th October 1945 the Syrian Prime Minister was at the founding conference of the United Nations in San Francisco, presenting Syria’s claim for independence from the French Mandate. The French mandate for both Syria and Lebanon was legally terminated on that date and full independence attained.

The al-Assad family  has ruled Syria since Hafez al-Assad became President of Syria in 1971 and established an authoritarian government. After his death in 2000, his son Bashar Assad succeeded him… and the rest as they say is history.

See also: Jerusalem – A pocket history for Trump

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