Syrian-Druze residents of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights took to the streets on Saturday, March 23, to protest US President Donald Trump’s pledge to recognize Israel’s sovereignty there.
Trump broke with decades of US Middle East policy, and longstanding international consensus, when he posted a Tweet on Thursday, March 21, in which he wrote that it was time to accept Israel’s widely contested claim of sovereignty over the strategic plateau.
The Golan Heights were occupied by Israel from Syria during the June 1967 war and annexed in 1981. 130,000 Syrians fled or were expelled when Israel seized part of the Golan during the 1967 Six-Day War. Some remained, however, and today around 23,000 Druze reside in the Israeli-occupied sector, alongside 20,000 Israeli settlers. The vast majority of these Druze see themselves as Syrian and have steadfastly refused to accept Israeli citizenship. Israel unilaterally annexed the Golan Heights in 1981.
On Saturday, Syrian-Druze men, women and children rallied in the town of Majdal Shams, adjacent to the armistice line between the Golan’s Israeli and Syrian-controlled sectors. They waved Druze and Syrian flags and carried banners in Arabic reading, “The Golan is Syrian” and “We are the ones who decide Golan’s identity”.
Al-Marsad – The Arab Human Rights Center in – Golan Heights – condemned Trump’s tweet, saying it signals a major shift in US policy that runs counter to facts, logic, and international law while threatening stability across the Middle East.
“Israel has illegally occupied the Syrian Golan ever since 1967, systematically instituting policies that perpetuate the discrimination and oppression of the native Syrian population,” said Al-Marsad in a statement. “Numerous United Nations Security Council resolutions have condemned Israel’s illegal occupation of the Syrian Golan, including resolutions 242 and 497. The US supported and voted in favor of both of these resolutions, signaling that it does not believe Israel’s seizure and asserted annexation of the Syrian Golan is legitimate.”
Al-Marsad said international law is unequivocal in its outlawing of the acquisition of territory after its seizure through acts of aggression and the US has assertively supported this principle elsewhere around the globe.
The organization’s statement said that Trump’s tweet claims that recognizing the occupied Syrian Golan as part of Israel is necessary for Israeli security and regional stability while in reality “the only threat to security in the occupied Syrian Golan is prolonged illegal occupation and US recognition of Israel’s purported ‘sovereignty’ over the region.” Al-Marsad denounced Trump’s tweet, stressing that US recognition of the occupied Syrian Golan as part of Israel would “validate systematic human rights abuses, glorify violations of international law, and cause a major shift in US policy that will destabilize the Middle East.”