Syria Forfeited Its Claims to the Golan Heights When It Used Them to Attack Israel

March 28 2019

To Western opponents of the White House’s official recognition of the Golan Heights—seized from Syria during the Six-Day War—as part of Israel, the move rewards the acquisition of territory by force and needlessly angers Arab and Muslim allies. Nothing could be farther from the truth, writes Jeff Jacoby:

Those angrily denouncing [the announcement] include the dictators and terror-sponsors who rule Iran, Turkey, Russia, Syria, and the Palestinian Authority. Tellingly, though, there was barely any protest from most Arab governments, which in recent years have come to value Israel as an ally against Iran and its proxies. . . .

Syria’s implosion in 2011 plunged the country into a hellish civil war that eventually included Iran, Russia, Islamic State (IS), and Hizballah. If Israel hadn’t retained the Golan Heights, the plateau would likely have been captured by Iran or IS, and Israel might well have faced an unspeakable existential nightmare. Instead, the Golan Heights remained an oasis of stability and decency amid the savagery of the Syrian war. Israel even made use of the territory to provide free medical care to thousands of Syrian civilians.

If Israel had seized the Golan Heights as an act of aggression, it would arguably have no right to keep the land even after all these years. But in 1967, Israel was the target. It seized the Heights in a defensive war against an enemy explicitly bent on “annihilation.” Syria forfeited its sovereign right to the territory when it was defeated by its intended victim. To claim otherwise is to claim that a belligerent aggressor should lose nothing for waging an unlawful war. That would be folly.

By endorsing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan, the Trump administration is sending a message of deterrence to would-be warmongers. It’s a message that should have been sent years ago.

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More about: Golan Heights, International Law, Israel & Zionism, Syria, U.S. Foreign policy

 

Who Changed the Term “Nakba” into a Symbol of Arab Victimization?

April 19 2019

In contemporary Palestinian discourse, not to mention that of the Palestinians’ Western supporters, the creation of the state of Israel is known as the Nakba, or catastrophe—sometimes explicitly compared with the Holocaust. The very term has come to form a central element in a narrative of passive Palestinian suffering at Jewish hands. But when the Syrian historian Constantin Zureiq first used the term with regard to the events of 1948, he meant something quite different, and those responsible for changing its meaning were none other than Israelis. Raphael Bouchnik-Chen explains:

In his 1948 pamphlet The Meaning of the Disaster (Ma’na al-Nakba), Zureiq attributed the Palestinian/Arab flight to the stillborn pan-Arab assault on the nascent Jewish state rather than to a premeditated Zionist design to disinherit the Palestinian Arabs. “We [Arabs] must admit our mistakes,” [he wrote], “and recognize the extent of our responsibility for the disaster that is our lot.” . . . In a later book, The Meaning of the Catastrophe Anew, published after the June 1967 war, he defined that latest defeat as a “Nakba,” . . . since—just as in 1948—it was a self-inflicted disaster emanating from the Arab world’s failure to confront Zionism. . . .

It was only in the late 1980s that it began to be widely perceived as an Israeli-inflicted injustice. Ironically, it was a group of politically engaged, self-styled Israeli “new historians” who provided the Palestinian national movement with perhaps its best propaganda tool by turning the saga of Israel’s birth upside down, with aggressors turned into hapless victims, and vice-versa, on the basis of massive misrepresentation of archival evidence.

While earlier generations of Palestinian academics and intellectuals had refrained from exploring the origins of the 1948 defeat, the PLO chairman Yasir Arafat, who was brought to Gaza and the West Bank as part of the 1993 Oslo Accords and was allowed to establish his Palestinian Authority (PA) in parts of those territories, grasped the immense potential of reincarnating the Nakba as a symbol of Palestinian victimhood rather than a self-inflicted disaster. In 1998, he proclaimed May 15 a national day of remembrance of the Nakba. In subsequent years, “Nakba Day” has become an integral component of the Palestinian national narrative and the foremost event commemorating their 1948 “catastrophe.”

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More about: Arab World, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, New historians, Yasir Arafat