Arab-Druze citizens of Syria residing in the occupied Golan Heights commemorated on Sunday, February 14, the 39th anniversary of their general strike to protest the illegal occupation and unilateral annexation of that territory by Israel. In Sunday’s demonstrations, hundreds took part in marches and rallies, carrying Syrian national flags, in the Arab-Druze town of Majdal Shams.
Israel occupied the Golan Heights during the June 1967 and annexed the territory on December 14, 1981, imposing its laws on the 1,800 square kilometer area comprised of a plateau and its western approaches. Three days after the Knesset’s ratification of the annexation legislation, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 497, rendering the Israel’s step null and void, with no legal binding on the international level.
On February 14, 1982, the Arab-Druze residents of the Golan declared a general strike during which they confronted Israeli occupation forces. Protests simultaneously took place in the city of Quneitra on the Syrian side of the border. The general strike went on for weeks until the government promised not to force Israeli identity cards on the Druze population of the occupied territory. Arab-Druze Syrian citizens of the Golan Heights, numbering today around 23,000, have largely refrained from accepting Israeli citizenship and have even sanctioned those among them who have chosen to do so.
This Sunday’s protests come less than a week after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu affirmed that the Golan Heights would “always remain part of Israel.” Netanyahu made this statement in response to remarks by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken who attempted to walk back the Trump administration’s recognition of the Golan Heights as part of Israel. Former United States President Donald Trump broke with international norms in 2019 to recognize “Israel’s sovereignty” over the Golan Heights, although Joe Biden is expected to re-address the issue.
Related: Posts on the occupied Golan Heights