Monday, June 23, 2008

Golan Heights 5: Legitimacy

Previous posts in this series:

Golan Heights 1: On the Road Again
Golan Heights 2: Flowers in the Jordan Valley
Golan Heights 3: The Beit Shean Valley
Golan Heights 4: Up to the Heights

Settling into our tent-cabin on the Golan, we got ready for a day of hiking.
Home sweet home.

Hakey-Sack Warmups after a long bus ride.

We unloaded our stuff, then loaded right back onto the bus to go to the El Al river (no relation to Israel's national airline.)
Despite the fact that both land masses were captured in 1967, Israel's attachment to the Golan Heights is far stronger than it is to Judea and Samaria (the "West Bank".) This, in spite of the fact that Israel has a much stronger legal claim to Judea and Samaria. After all, the Golan Heights was on the opposite side of a mutually recognized international boundary between the sovereign state of Syria and the sovereign state of Israel.

Judea and Samaria, on the other hand, were mandated by the league of nations after the First World War to become a part of the future Jewish homeland. The later partition plan by the United Nations in 1947 would have placed Judea and Samaria (and a good chunk of pre-67 Israel) under Arab rule. However, when the Arabs opted for an attempted genocide of the Jews instead, sending an invading column of five Arab armies, this nullified the UN partition plan. This is verified by the fact that that Israel's pre-67 territory was recognized de-facto, even areas Israel captured beyond the 1947 partition plan, as well as the international community's rejection of the annexation of Judea and Samaria to Jordan.
Moreover, the Jews who moved to Judea and Samaria were, in many cases, returning to villages they had lived in prior to 1947, which were destroyed by the invading Jordanian army. As far as I know, Syria destroyed no settlements in the Golan Heights because there were none in place in 1947. To the extent that international law, which is really just international opinion based on the emotions and passions of the time, is relevant, the settlers on the Golan Heights are less legitimate than the settlers of Judea and Samaria.

So why the wholehearted embrace of the Golan, with it's diminished international legitimacy, by those who would simultaneously expell the Jewish inhabitants and withdraw from Judea and Samaria? Well, the answer is simple. There are no Arabs here. There are a few Druze in the northeast corner of the Golan in villages like Mass'ada and Madjl Shams (an Arab Cognate of Migdal Shemesh, Tower of the Sun.) These Druze, while remaining loyal to Syria in case the Syrians ever return, are not generally involved in terrorism or fomenting problems. In 1982 Israel annexed the Golan Heights and offered them citizenship, which they rejected. They occasionally break out into rioting, but that's not atypical of Israeli Arabs anywhere. It's usually limited to the villages themselves and the problem is manageable.
The Golan is already approaching a Jewish majority, and the vast open spaces and green fields are just too sweet to give away. But there's also another reason. Many Israelis believe (incorrectly) that there is no biblical history on the Golan Heights. It's just nice land, without complications. The pulsating spirituality of the biblical birthplace of Judaism in Judea and Samaria, on the other hand, sends shivers down the spines of dedicated secularist Israelis. After all, the whole point of Zionism was to replace Judaism with secular nationalism. The deepest real claim Israel has to Judea and Samaria is biblical. To make that claim, many Israelis would have to confront the reality that they have failed to sever the connection with their Jewish past, that when they look in the mirror they may see an Israeli, but everyone else looks at them and sees a Jew.

As for me, seeking legitimacy and favor from the same community of nations who showed their true colors in the 1940's is a total waste of energy and time. I'm much happier just hiking and enjoying the scenery.

Yours truly, in the fields of the Golan.

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