Syria is a Failed Experiment. Why Do Some Still Foolishly Insist on Reattaching the Golan Heights to It?

March 29 2019

While the U.S. has recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan, most of the world still insists that the territory properly belongs to Syria. Douglas Feith explains why Syria’s claims to the area rest on shaky historical grounds, and why the Middle East is better off leaving it to Israel.

Syria has been an unhappy political experiment. It never secured for its multiethnic population freedom, prosperity, or domestic tranquility. Aided by Iran and Russia, the Bashar al-Assad regime has just won a long civil war through mass murder of its own civilians (including by use of prohibited chemical weapons) and by imposing on other countries millions of desperate, impoverished refugees. Under the circumstances, there is no compelling reason for local or world powers to remain committed to reassembling Syria as it existed before the civil war, [let alone before 1967]. . . .

Syria’s borders do not have deep roots in religion, culture, or history. They reflect nothing profounder than the interests of France and Britain at a moment in the early 20th century. [And they] have spawned resentment and belligerence among the country’s leaders, who have never respected the lines. They have continually used their military forces or terrorist proxies to violate the sovereignty of Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, Jordan, and Israel. . . .

When Syria someday, with new leadership, seeks to reestablish official relations with the United States, it will now have to do so on the understanding that Israeli retention of the Golan is a closed issue. Syria’s new leadership would not then be asked to humiliate itself by ceding the territory but only to recognize that President Assad lost it permanently as one of the many consequences of the civil war.

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More about: Bashar al-Assad, Golan Heights, Israel & Zionism, Syria, Syrian civil war, 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