The United Nations Human Rights Council addressed the subject of the dire state of the human rights of Syrian citizens this week. The discussion did not, however, relate to the Syrians being shot at , murdered or imprisoned by their own regime in the town of Dara’a in southern Syria even whilst the council session took place. The resolution – proposed by Cuba, North Korea, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan and Venezuela – related solely to the human rights of “Syrian citizens” of the Golan Heights.
Whilst we are by now regrettably familiar with the UNHRC’s practice of sidestepping the issue of the human rights of millions of people who live under some of the oppressive regimes which also hold seats in that institution, here we have an instance in which what should be an internationally respected body is fabricating supposed abuses for purely political ends. Sadly, some nations on the council which should know better – including the UK, France and Belgium – chose to abstain from the vote rather than opposing it. Only the US voted against the resolution.
In the wording of the resolution the Human Rights Council declared itself to be:
“Deeply concerned at the suffering of the Syrian citizens in the occupied Syrian Golan due to the systematic and continuous violation of their fundamental and human rights by Israel since the Israeli military occupation of 1967.”
This statement of course refers to the 20,000 or so Druze citizens of the four villages in the north of the Golan; Ein Kinya, Majdel Shams, Bukata and Massade, as well as around 2,000 Alawite citizens of Ghajar. In December 1981, with Israel’s enactment of the Golan Heights Law, all these people were offered Israeli citizenship. The residents of Ghajar took up the offer en masse whilst in the Druze villages, some 10% of the residents opted to take Israeli citizenship.
Those who chose not to accept Israeli citizenship have the status of residents, and whilst having rejected the offer of an Israeli passport (they travel on a Laissez Passer document) or the right to vote in national Israeli elections, they otherwise have rights equal to those of other Israeli citizens including education, healthcare and social services. They also elect and run their own local councils and enjoy freedom of expression and assembly.
In recent years Israel has helped the Druze of the Golan to export some of their agricultural produce to Syria: the only trade which exists between the two countries which are technically at war. Druze elders are also allowed to visit their religious sites in Syria on holy days: they are the only residents of Israel who can travel between the two countries. Whilst the Druze of the Golan are entitled to study in Israeli universities just like all other residents, and often do, they also received financial aid from Syria for many years and a high proportion studied abroad, making them one of the better educated groups within Israel.
Read the rest of the essay, here.