In September 2016, Israeli occupation forces raided the Syrian village of Majdal Shams and carried out, before our eyes in the Syrian native community, the order of demolishing the house of Bassam and Dalia Jamil Ibrahim. Under the pretext of “construction without a building permit,” the heavy bulldozers declared an intention to further demolish dozens of homes belonging to Syrians in the five Syrian villages not ethnically cleansed during the 1967 Israeli occupation of the Golan (Jawlan in Arabic). Today, the remaining Syrian population of the Jawlan is approximately 25,000 who live in five villages and only ‘control’ five percent of the land.
The Israeli colonial developments and operations of recent years in the occupied Syrian lands, alongside massive Israeli interventions in different locations within the region and non-stop efforts to change the Jawlan’s demographic and geographic-scapes through practices of Judaization and Israelization, have exposed the various mechanisms by which the State of Israel has maintained ‘state-owned’ lands for national purposes, frequently at the expense of those who are excluded from the national ethos.
This approach and line of policies in land planning is not unique to the occupied Jawlan and its Syrian population for it is commonly recognized and known, both regionally and internationally, in regards to Palestinian lands throughout historic Palestine. The Palestinian ownership of land and their rights over land is often prevented by the intervention of public and quasi-public bodies, such as the Israeli Army (by establishing closed, militaristic and firing zones), The Jewish National Fund (JNF), the Jewish Agency, and others.
Recent reports show that a new planning project, submitted in 2013 and led by the Israeli Nature and Parks Authority (NPA), is to be implemented in the northern parts of the occupied Jawlan, in order to take over thousands of Syrian-owned dunums and build an Israeli “natural reserve.” This so called ‘Hermon Nature Reserve’ is to be located around Mount Hermon [Jabal al-Sheikh] and its surrounding areas, covering lands in the north and west of the occupied lands of the Jawlan. However, Jabal al-Sheikh itself has been exploited by Israel and is considered one of Israel’s most important strategic military bases with areas overlooking Syria and Lebanon. With large assistance from The Jewish Agency for Israel, the first lift was installed at the mountain cluster in 1971 and the ski resort opened to skiers that December, years before the Israeli annexation of the Jawlan, although the area was still governed by the military occupation system as part of the Israeli Military Governorate. The resort is operated and held by 32 settler families, with no property rights, in the land of Neve Ativ, a settlement founded in 1972 and built on the land of the destroyed Syrian village of Jubata ez-Zeit.