Implication of Israel’s Nation-State Law on the occupied Syrian Golan

Bethlehem/PNN/13 September 2018

The occupied Syrian Golan and its native Syrian population will be seriously affected by the recent Basic Law declaring “Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People”. The nation-state law undoubtedly violates international law and is an unlawful attempt to validate Israeli colonial policies which have apartheid characteristics.

The nation-state law states, inter alia, that “the State of Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people” and that “the fulfillment of the right of national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people”. It provides that immigration to Israel leading to automatic citizenship is exclusive to Jews under the Law of Return and that the State will encourage, promote and establish Jewish settlements. It states that “Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel” and that Hebrew is the official language, while Arabic loses its status as an official language and instead has a “special status” to be determined by a separate law.

The nation-state law – as a Basic Law – has a constitutional character and will be implemented in the occupied Syrian Golan and East Jerusalem, which have been illegally annexed by Israel.

How then will this law affect the occupied Syrian Golan?

It is difficult to predict all the possible consequences of this law on the Syrian population in the Golan. However, it is certain that this law will strengthen discriminatory policies against Syrians while benefiting Israeli settlers. It will encourage illegal Israeli settlement expansion, while further hampering the ability of the remaining five Syrian villages in the Golan – which are already severely overcrowded – to expand. [1]

It will also increase the complexity and obstacles faced by Syrians in situations such as family reunification and the loss of permanent residency rights for those who have lived outside of the Golan for a number of years. The law will drastically reduce the existing meagre options available to Syrians to obtain certain partial rights through the Israeli legal system.

This law defines and reaffirms Israel’s colonial policies in the Golan in a legislative framework, and opens the door to new forms of discriminatory practices, marginalization and oppression. As such, legitimate political activity or protests will be at an even greater risk of being categorised as illegal and prosecuted than now. It will also make it close to impossible for Syrians to defend their cultural identity, resist the process of the ‘Israelization’ of the Golan, and object to educational curricula based on Zionist ideology.

Another certainty is that the nation-state law will complicate any future peace agreement with Syria and Israel’s eventual withdrawal from the Golan; therefore further jeopardizing the right of return for Syrians – about 500,000 people, including descendants – who were forced to leave the Golan during Israel’s 1967 occupation. [2]

The nation-state law is anti-democratic and a grave violation of the inalienable right to self-determination of the Syrian people – both in the Golan and beyond. It comes in the midst of the ongoing military conflict in Syria, a conflict which Israel continues to exploit to garner international acceptance of its control over the Golan. If, as with the recent decision by the Trump administration to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, Israel succeeds in its ambitions, such recognition would amount to the denial of the right to self-determination of the Syrian people.

It must be also noted that the nation-state law is in direct contravention of international law principles, including international human rights law and humanitarian law, which are applicable to the Golan as an occupied territory. International law prohibits the annexation of occupied territories; the transfer of the population of the occupying power to the occupied territory/establishment of settlements; discrimination against the occupied population and imposition of the occupying power’s constitutional identity; and any attempt to impose on the occupied population allegiance to the occupying power and its laws.

In sum, the nation-state law will strengthen Israeli policies that deny the Syrian people their right to self-determination in contravention of the United Nations Charter. The nation-state law is illegitimate, as it establishes a colonial regime with distinct apartheid characteristics. The law seeks to maintain a political system in which Israeli settlers are dominant over the native Syrian population in the Golan, while advancing ethnic superiority through the promotion of racist policies in the most basic aspects of life.

[1] There are around 27,000 Syrians living in these 5 villages and roughly the same number of Israeli settlers living in 34 settlements across the Golan.

[2] 95% of the Syrian population in the Golan was forcibly transferred or displaced following the Israeli occupation. Subsequently, the Israeli army demolished their homes, destroying 340 villages and farms.