OVER half a century since Israel occupied Syria’s Golan Heights and 37 years after Tel Aviv purported to annex the territory, local people remain militantly opposed to the military occupation.
Israel claimed the Golan population requested municipal elections rather than local officials being imposed by the occupying power, dressing this up as a simple matter of democratic accountability.
Today’s general strike by the Druze Arab population of the Golan followed yesterday’s overwhelming boycott of Israel’s polling stations to confirm they are Syrians and want an end to the occupation of their land.
The handful of collaborators choosing to vote were disowned by their fellow Druze, just as Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem gave short shrift to the tiny minority joining in Israel’s municipal elections there.
Palestinians are united behind the need to exercise their inalienable national rights and have voiced that demand in backing their own independent, viable state, with East Jerusalem as its capital, as part of a two-state solution, alongside Israel.
They know that zionist expansionism is intent on occupation and/or domination of the entirety of historical Palestine, together with parts of Syria, Lebanon and Jordan.
Binyamin Netanyahu’s government may have thought the Golan Druze population would be more amenable to his absorption manoeuvring than East Jerusalem’s Palestinians, but, if so, he was wrong.
True, Israel’s Druze population has traditionally been treated better than the rest of the country’s one-fifth Arab minority, serving in the military and in politics.
This is in keeping with the Druze practice of identifying with the country where they live and playing a full civic role, whether this be Israel, Syria, Lebanon or wherever, but this is changing.
The Druze in Israel will suffer a similar loss of recognition as other minorities, with their Arabic language demoted from equal status with Hebrew, with the onset of apartheid-style nation-state legislation passed earlier this year.
Israeli Defence Forces Brigadier General (resigned) Amal Assa'ad spoke out forcefully in August, calling the law racist and concluding: “Israel is an apartheid state.”
The Netanyahu government disregarded major protests by the Druze population, as well as those led by the Joint List of Arab parties and the Communist Party of Israel, bent on its goal of a Jewish state.
Nation-state legislation marked a qualitative break in Israel’s legal treatment of its Druze minority, but, in reality, apart from their compulsory military service — ironically, a demand emanating from the Druze themselves as a way to assert entitlement to full citizenship rights — intensified anti-Arab racism was already putting them at a disadvantage.
Despite possessing papers specifying that they have completed military service, they find Jewish employers as reluctant to take on Druze workers as other Arabs.
Druze schools receive less government money than Jewish schools and recently acquired legal rights for communities to refuse entry to anyone they don’t like have also been directed at Druze.
Having seen the treatment meted out by Tel Aviv to its fellow Druze — Israeli citizens — it is scarcely surprising that the Syrian Druze living in the Golan Heights have politely declined the offer to engage in the military occupation’s offer of “democratic participation,” reiterating their demand for Syrian sovereignty to be respected.
Israel tries to present its problem in the Golan as generational, claiming young people are more open-minded than their parents, but they are whistling in the wind.
People in all of the territory Israel conquered militarily remain opposed to domination and annexation.
They will continue to resist until the colonising power is forced to submit to international law and end the occupation.
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