The Golan Is Israeli – This must be understood

An important article in preparation for the next battleground in Olmert’s corrupt giveaway of his nation’s assets:

It is almost politically incorrect, practically heresy, to claim today that the Golan is not Syrian in the least nor a deposit or bargaining chip for negotiations. The Golan is a lot more “Israeli” than “Syrian.” It has been Israeli for 40 years, double the time it was in Syria’s hands. It has been under Israeli sovereignty for 26 years. It has neither a foreign people nor a demographic problem. The Golan has become a part of Israeli life. It is the most frequently visited part of the country, dotted with dozens of Jewish communities, agricultural fields, industrial areas and tourist resorts, nature reserves and wild landscape.

Whoever talks about “returning” the Golan to Syria is being misleading. The Golan was placed under a French mandate in the colonialist agreement that divided the region; Syria won independence only in 1946. In the brief period it was in the Golan – 0.5 percent of its territory – Syria turned the region into a launching pad for its attempt to conquer and decimate Israel. The
Syrian army shelled the Israeli communities along the border, attacked the Lake Kinneret fishermen, tried to divert the course of its waters and made life “down below” a Sderot-style hell. The Golan was conquered in ’67 in a justified defensive war. We paid for it with blood.

The Syrians lost it fair and square.

In previous eras as well, the Golan was not considered a part of Syria, and it is replete with findings of Jewish heroism and sovereignty, starting with the reign of Solomon, through the Second Temple period, the heroic battle of the city of Gamla and the Talmudic period. It was no foreign land that we conquered. The results of the Second Lebanon War greatly increased the
Syrian appetite and led it to threaten a war against Israel unless the Golan is handed over. This is exactly the time to tell the Israeli story of the Golan Heights.

Next is commentary by J.P. GOLBERT, Professor of Law

Here is the real point:


Syria claims its negotiating position vis-a-vis Israel is based on clear title and on the prohibition in the UN Charter against acquisition of territory by force. The countries of the Arab world echo the same position in support. Neither is correct.

As to title, there are two pieces of territory which Syria claims which are in the possession of other nations. Apart from the Golan Heights, there is the Iskenderun enclave at the northwest corner of Syria, which is in Turkey. The histories of the two have a common origin: both were ceded to another country by the former Mandatory powers for imperialist reasons of their own, with no regard to needs or interests of the mandated territories which were entrusted to their tutelage.

When the Ottoman Empire was dismantled, after the First World War, the lands between Turkey and Arabia were created and delineated and Britain and France were given mandates by the League of Nations to govern them; France to govern Syria and Lebanon, Britain to govern Palestine (which also included what is now Jordan) and Iraq. Iskenderun was originally part of Syria and was ceded to Turkey by France, which the mandatory power in Syria, at the beginning of the Second World War. The Golan Heights were originally part of Palestine and were ceded to Syria by Britain, which governed Palestine, including the Golan, under a League of Nations mandate. Syria claims both territories.

It should be emphasized that Turkey did not acquire the Iskenderun enclave by force or by the threat of force. Turkey acquired Iskenderun in exactly the same way that Syria acquired the Golan: by unilateral act of the mandatory power for reasons of its own. Syria ‘s claim to the Golan is no better than Turkey’s claim to Iskenderun but Syria claims them both.

If Syria’s claim to the Golan were based on principle, Syria would relinquish its claim to Iskenderun. Syria does not do so because its claims are not based on right and not on principle recognized in International Law.

As to acquisition of territory by force, Syria’s demand for Israeli withdrawal to the lines of June 4, 1967 denies that principle. The June 4, 1967 borders included in Syria land taken by Syria from Israel in the Israeli War of Independence, 1948-1949: the Banias, a strip along the upper Jordan River and the eastern shore of the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee). Syrian claim to that strip of land is no better than Israel ‘s claim to the Golan.

In fact, Israel’s claim to the Golan is better than Syria’s claim to the land on the Israeli side of the international border. That strip of land was taken from Israel by Syria in a war of aggression, a classic case of acquisition of territory by force prohibited by the UN Charter. To vindicate that claim is to do violence to the UN Charter and to the principle of non-acquisition of territory by force which Syria and the Arab countries claim to uphold by demanding full Israeli withdrawal. Israel captured the Golan in a defensive war against aggression by Egypt, Syria and Jordan for the express purpose of perpetrating genocide against the Jews of Israel.

The UN Charter does not prohibit acquisition of territory by defensive war, as the Arab countries would have us believe. It prohibits acquisition of territory by war of aggression. That interpretation is unavoidable in view of the fact that there are numerous territories in the world which have been annexed by victims of aggression who ultimately prevailed over the aggressor.

Territories acquired in defensive wars

One third of Germany was annexed unilaterally by Poland, the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia after the Second World War. Pomerania, Silesia and East Prussia were, furthermore, almost exclusively German in population and character for centuries. Germany eventually acceded to their loss as the price of peaceful relations with Eastern Europe. The Japanese northern islands (the Kuriles and southern Sakhalin Island) were annexed by the Soviet Union. Japan still makes some formal claim to them in a dispirited way, but there is no sympathy for the Japanese claim. Japan is expected to suffer that loss as the price of peace with Russia. Eastern Poland was taken by the Soviet Union after the war, on justification that it had been taken by Poland in a war of aggression in the 1920 ‘s during the civil war in the Soviet Union.

After the Second World War, Czechoslovakia unilaterally re-annexed the Sudetenland, which it was pressured into ceding to Germany in 1938 by Britain and France, and which had been its only defensible border with Germany.

Syria lost the Golan as a result of a war of aggression, a war of genocide, as mentioned above, which was fomented by Syria and which had as its goal to “drive the Jews into the sea” and “turn the Mediterranean red with Jewish blood.” Syria ‘s position is no better than that of Germany or Japan for the fact that Syria did not succeed in its goal.

For aggression, there is a penalty: the loss of territory, especially territory that served as a springboard of aggression. Any other rule would violate common sense and the universal behavior of states. No one thinks to demand that the Czech Republic return the Sudetenland to Germany, nor should anyone expect Israel to return its only defensible border with Syria, to serve again as a base for terrorism or a springboard for aggression against Israel.

The writer, formerly a professor of law in Los Angeles, California, is a practicing lawyer in Jerusalem and one of the founders of HASHKEM

June 23, 2007 | 1 Comment »

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  1. This issue has been raised and discussed on both our Middle East Radio Forum radio show and in my article (see below):
    by Dr. Steve Carol ©
    Sept. 3, 2006
    (Featured on the www. at Israel National Oct. 19, 2006, in the
    Sept.-Oct. 2006 issue of and at Exposing Islamofascism )
    The Golan Heights is a semi-mountainous escarpment of some 451 square miles, ranging in height from 400 to 3,000 feet. It rises steeply from the eastern and northern shores of the Sea of Galilee, runs the length of the Huleh Valley, and overlooks the coastal plains of the Galilee and northern Israel. There is a Jewish connection to the Golan as it is dotted with ancient Jewish villages and synagogues.

    In 1948, Syria joined with other Arab states in an aggressive attack against the newly
    re-established State of Israel. Syria was defeated by Israeli forces and an
    armistice line was drawn between the two nations in 1949. From 1949 to 1967,
    Syria used its position on the Heights to shell Israeli farms and settlements in the Galilee below and to attack Israeli water projects in the Huleh Valley. In 1964, Syrians on the Golan attempted to divert the headwaters of the Jordan River, which would have severely curtailed Israel’s water supply. Israel used military force to oppose the diversion.
    In June 1967 at the start of the Six Day War, Syria again joined Egypt and Jordan in an aggressive attack against Israel designed to obliterate the Jewish State. Artillery fire from the Heights rained down on the Israelis below. The Syrian positions, built with Soviet assistance and guidance, were deemed impregnable with layers of fortifications and overlapping fields of fire. I recall personally visiting Tel Azzyazziat and viewing through a machine gun position at the Israeli fields and fish ponds below. At great cost, the IDF stormed the Heights and captured them from Syria.
    Six years later, at the outbreak of the October 1973 Yom Kippur War, Syria mounted a massive surprise armored attack into the territory. In a costly stand, the IDF stopped the Syrian thrust across the Golan and then counterattacked, driving a fifteen-mile bulge into Syria. Israel later withdrew from this bulge in 1974, but stayed on the Heights.
    It is important to recall that there is some legal question as to the status of the Golan Heights belonging to Syria in the first place. On June 30, 1939 France detached the Sanjak of Alexandretta from Syria and ceded it to Turkey. To date Syria has never recognized this transfer of territory terming it illegal. Similarly in 1923, Great Britain transferred the Golan Heights from Mandatory Palestine to the French Mandate of Syria under a Franco-British agreement delineating the boundary between the two mandates. Israel is the legal successor state to Mandatory Palestine. Thus the Golan Heights is an area in dispute. The Syrians can’t have it both ways. If they insist on return of Alexandretta then Israel has the right and can insist on return of the Golan Heights.
    Under international law, the principle of “ex injuria jus non oritur” (“Right cannot originate from wrong”) calls for the punishment of an aggressor state. Syria launched aggressive war against Israel directly three times, in 1948, 1967 and 1973. It committed acts of war from 1949-1967. By those acts it has forfeited any claim to the Golan Heights as surely as Germany lost territory to both Poland and Russia (then the Soviet Union) after its aggression in World War II. Similarly Japan lost territory to China, Korea, and Russia after that same conflict.
    Now, unable to regain the Golan Heights by force, having tried direct attack in October 1973, Syria and Hezbollah manufactured the bogus issue of the Shebaa Farms. The Shebaa Farms is part of Mt. Dov and the Golan Heights. Hezbollah claims it is part of Lebanon, in order to give Hezbollah an excuse to keep fighting against Israel. The weak, still Syrian-influenced Lebanese government, agreed. They all demand that Israel return the area, a 200 square kilometer piece of territory as basically a reward for Hezbollah’s aggression. The United Nations, after Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000, certified that Israel had indeed withdrawn from all of Lebanon and the Shebaa Farms was part of the territorial dispute between Israel and Syria.

    Syria still seeks to use force to regain the Golan. In July 2006, even before the rockets stopped flying from Lebanon into Israel, Bashir Assad, the president of Syria, announced the formation of a new terrorist group “The Front for the Liberation of the Golan Heights.” Hezbollah had shown the way, stated Assad. Terrorism and rocket fire, he claimed, had defeated Israel, indeed terrorism alone had forced the unilateral withdrawals by Israel from southern Lebanon in 2000 and from Gaza in 2005. Now Assad plans to use these tactics and weapons to open a fourth front (escalating terrorist attacks from Judea-Samaria being the third) in the ongoing 135 year Arab-Muslim war against the Jewish people in the Land of Israel. Hezbollah has already volunteered to train the Syrians. No doubt the Iranians will be there as well, as they were in Lebanon.

    Incredibly as the most recent round of fighting ended, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his Foreign Minister Tsipi Livni began speaking of negotiating with the Assad regime. That regime had just threatened Israel and vowed to attack the Jewish state again. Appeasement proved to be a failure in 1938, it has been proven a failure in the 13 years of the so-called (misnamed) Oslo “peace process.” Retreat has only encouraged terrorism and war. It has emboldened the patron states of Syria and Iran and their terrorist minions, Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Fatah and others (new groups are formed on a regular basis).

    For Israel to retreat from, let alone return the Golan Heights to Syrian control would be the height of geopolitical folly. Given the range of today’s missiles virtually more than one-half of all of Israel would literally be under the gun from even the shorter ranged missiles. The Golan was under British control for three years, under Syrian control for 44 years and under Israeli control for 39 years. Under Syrian control it was used only as a launching pad for attacks on Israel. Under Israeli control it has become a peaceful and productive region, threatening no nation. Given the historic record the Golan Heights is essential to Israel’s security. It should remain in Israel’s hands.

    Dr. Steve Carol
    Prof. of History (retired)
    Middle East Consultant – Salem Radio Network News
    Official Historian “Middle East Radio Forum”
    Scottsdale, Arizona

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