Socialist Worker

The scandal of Israel’s occupation of the Golan Heights is bigger than Priti Patel

by Nick Clark
Issue No. 2580

An Israeli tank in the occupied Golan Heights during a war with Syria and other Arab states in 1973

An Israeli tank in the occupied Golan Heights during a war with Syria and other Arab states in 1973 (Pic: CIA)


Priti Patel, the Tory international development minister, is expected to be sacked over secret deals to fund Israel’s army in the occupied Golan Heights.

As far as the government is concerned, Patel’s crime was that she “broke protocol” over her visit to the Golan Heights and then lied about it.

Britain doesn’t officially recognise Israel’s claim to own the Golan Heights. But British politicians are happy to support it in practice—and it’s all to do with imperialism.

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Israel snatched the Golan Heights from Syria during the Six Day War in 1967—the same war that began its occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.

At least 95,000 Syrian civilians were driven from the Golan Heights. So were thousands of Palestinian refugees who had lived there since fleeing Palestine when Israel was created in 1948.

Israel began settling the Golan Heights almost immediately and eventually annexed it in 1981.

The Six Day War, when Israel defeated six Arab armies including Syria’s, had bigger significance. It was when Israel proved to the US that it could defend the US’s interests in the Middle East.

The Golan Heights plays an important role in this.

Its occupation gives Israel leverage over the Syrian regime.

Former Syrian president Hafez al-Assad, father of current dictator Bashar al-Assad, encouraged movements that he thought could help regain control of the Golan Heights.

But the prospect of deals to return the Golan Heights to Syria—never fulfilled—encouraged his regime to crush resistance movements that challenged the US and Israel.

Military

The Golan Heights is also important to Israel’s military. It’s where Israel could launch attacks on Syria and other neighbouring Arab countries.

Israel is already supporting some groups fighting the Assad regime, and recently stepped up airstrikes in Syria.

Victory for Assad would help Israel’s main rival in the Middle East, Iran. Iran propped up the Assad regime and could even get permanent military bases in Syria after the war.

That wouldn’t just be seen as a threat to Israel, it would also further undermine the US’s dominance in the Middle East.

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Israel is gearing up for conflict with Hizbollah, an Iranian-backed militant group fighting on behalf of Assad. If Israel was going to launch a war against Hizbollah in Syria and Lebanon, it would do it from the Golan Heights.

Patel said her deal was to fund a military field hospital for people injured in the Syrian civil war. But Israel’s military operation in the Golan Heights isn’t humanitarian, and nor is Britain’s policy.

As the US’s junior partner, Britain always backs Israel to the hilt—and the Tories cut all sorts of deals to keep it that way.

Theresa May met Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu last week to commemorate the signing of the Balfour Declaration that helped dispossess the Palestinians.

The Jewish Chronicle newspaper reported on Wednesday that Theresa May’s office knew of two meetings Patel had with Israeli officials. It claimed Patel was told not to include them on an official statement earlier this week as they would embarrass the government.

The Tories couldn’t care less that Patel gave legitimacy to Israel’s occupation of the Golan Heights—only that she was caught doing it.


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