November 4, 2012 | 11:33 pm
Posted by Ariel Blumenthal
Adel Abu Jabel, Israeli Druze, was working on Saturday in his apple orchard in the Golan Heights, by the Syrian border, as he does every day. On the Syrian side that morning, 3 government tanks entered the Syrian Golan, an area that had been demilitarized since 1973.
Abu Jabel’s home and orchard are located in a disputed area: the Golan Heights were taken from Syria in the 1967 war. Israel had controlled it since, but in the last 2 decades reports had surfaced time and again that Israeli Prime Ministers had offered to return the Golan Heights to Syria in a peace deal. Just last month in fact, it was reported that Netanyahu - Mr. Hawkstein himself - was prepared to do just that as recently as 2010.
The Druze, a minority in Israel, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, are tied to their land, not to nationality. Mr. Abu Jabel has many relatives in Syria; They used to go out to the “Shouting Hill” by the border to conduct basic, loud conversations with family across the border, today they just go online. Syrian Druze are officially enemies of Israel, yet Abu Jabel served in the IDF, just like his sons and most Israeli Druze.
So if the Golan had been returned to Syria, Ahmed would have stayed put by his orchard, and would find himself on the Syrian side right about now. He’d have to deal with the fact that similar tanks to the 3 parking outside his window had shelled civilian homes and that the Shabiha boys that sometimes follow the tanks, torture, rape, massacre and pillage like it’s 1399.
Reality has it, after all, that the Golan is still in Israel. There’s always some minor disagreement between Israel and Bashar Al-Assad or his late dad Hafez - those reports that surface say. Wait --- Bashar Al-Assad on the White House loan shaking hands with the American President and the Israeli prime Minister? Sounds like a dissonance - in lights of recent events? Well, it’s not that a new and surprising nature of the Assad family emerged in the current civil war: In 1982, as we remember, Hafez killed in the neighborhood of 40,000 people in Hama. That’s how it used to be done in the good ol’ days.
But returning the Golan Heights to Syrian hands remains the widely accepted just solution for the Syrian-Israeli dispute. I wonder what Adel Abu Jabel thinks about that idea, or what his relatives across the border, who have to be really-really careful not to upset those 3 tanks, have to say. (Not that they would say anything, remember --- really-really-really careful.)
It makes sense that this territory, that was taken in a war, would be given back if reconciliation is reached. Reconciliation, peace, justice: all virtuous goals anyone in their right mind would like to see pursued. Precisely because of the desire to achieve those goals, one should decide what’s more just: the returning of land or assets, or having the basic rights to life and freedom. (I wanted to add “justice” in between “life” and “freedom”, but that would just give out the answer.)
And what about progress? Isn’t that another form of justice? Mr. Abu Jabel’s brethren on the Syrian side don’t have access to technology that allows growing apples year round. So Abu Jabel’s apples, together with roughly a fourth of the crop grown by Israeli Druze, goes to Syria, in a complex operation conducted by the Israeli secretary of Agriculture, the IDF and the Red Cross. Mr. Abu Jabel, clearly in serious advantage here, is in risk of regressing if moved to the Syrian side. Another example of regression, still in the world of agriculture and much more dramatic, took place in 2005. On August 15th some of the most advanced greenhouses in the world were located in Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip. The greenhouses were bought by donations from American Jews so they can be given to Palestinians after the nearing Israeli withdrawal, but on August 16th, once the withdrawal was completed, the greenhouses were gone: looted, destroyed. The area where they once stood is now frequently used to fire rockets at Israel, it just can’t be more symbolic.
It makes sense that this territory, that was taken in a war, would be given back if reconciliation is reached. But a solution that comes bundled with so much injustice and regression is a problematic proposition. Very likely the Syrian civil war will end with Al Assad gone, but since it’s hard to expect that what replaces him is a Middle-Eastern edition of Norway, the injustices and regression I mentioned above are still relevant.
Come to think of it: does it really make sense that this territory, that was taken in a war, would be given back? Three times Syria aggressed Israel in wars the Arab world waged. Mission: remove from map. In one of them it lost territoey inhabited by Druze. For 64 years Syria has periodically launched limited attacks on Israel, using the Mujahideen, later on artillery, then Palestinian organizations and Hizbullah. Mission: Harass and kill. International law does not intend to incentivize and encourage this kind of aggression, violence and bad intentions, and I doubt it if any of my readers can come up with an example when it did.
The scale of justice, therefore, heavily tilts towards the Golan Heights remaining Israeli.
Yes. I think verdict is served.
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