Did Bashar al-Assad prompt a Guardian correction? Editors award Golan to Syria

A September 24th edition of the Guardian ‘Corrections and Clarifications’ included the following entry:

An article about a meeting between Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, and Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, to discuss security concerns along Israel’s northern border referred to “the Golan Heights, bordering Syria”. The Golan Heights are in fact part of Syria, but have been occupied by Israel since 1967 (Israel and Russia discuss Syrian civil war, 22 September, page 17).

We’re so glad Guardian editors responded to a complaint from someone (Bashar al-Assad or his propaganda minister, perhaps?) evidently concerned that readers may have gotten the wrong impression concerning rightful possession of the border territory.

Of course, since the fall of the Ottoman Empire, three independent countries have ruled Golan: France, Syria and Israel – and Israel’s possession (at 48 years) has now lasted  more than twice as long as Syrian control (21 years).

But, leaving aside the question of possession and rightful ownership, can anyone seriously argue it would be in the interest of the region if Bashar al-Assad – the butcher of Damascus – resumed control of the territory?

After five years of a civil war that Middle East analyst Jonathan Spyer suggests could become a “frozen conflict” (a war which continues to smolder without resolution), Assad’s shrinking “country now consists merely of much of the western coast.


While nobody can predict what the boundaries will look like in the long-term – though Russia’s increased military presence and Iranian support suggests Assad could hold on to his small patch of land for a long time – it would be hard to find many serious observers who could make the case that expanding Syria’s territory would stem the bloodshed in a war that has claimed over 200,000 lives.

Though modern “Syria” (carved out of the old Ottoman Empire by European powers during the Sykes-Picot Agreement) has already essentially ceased to exist, we wonder how the Guardian would refer to Golan if, one day, Assad is forced to flee and his forces abandon the territory they now control, and some combination of foreign powers and jihadists assume control.  

In other words, will Israel still be “occupying” Golan even after the previous recognized sovereign power no longer exists?  

Well, considering Jordan’s 1988 relinquishing of control of the West Bank didn’t change political perceptions of Israeli control of the ancient Jewish land, don’t expect the international community (or Guardian editors) to “award” Golan to Jerusalem no matter which coalition of brutal extremists ultimately triumph and take possession of the territory now called Syria. 

22 replies »

    • Israel agreed to the arrangement with Jordan and the Wakf since the Jordanian Hashemites had traditionally been the keepers of AL Aksa and the Dome of the Rock.

      Once again proving that attempts to placate the Arabs by respecting their true history and wishes is a waste of time. They simply pocket the gesture and go on to demand more.

  1. The present internationally recognised Syrian borders were established by the League of Nations mandate in 1920. It was the intention of the mandate that France would prepare the country for independence although they reneged on this and had to be pressured out in 1946, leaving the Independent Syrian Republic, still in the 1920 borders.

    Israel’s occupation of the Golan in 1967 contravened international law and violated internationally agreed borders. No amount of bluster about ’48 years’, the nature of the Assad government or the current fractured state of the country can get around these basic facts. Should Syria ‘cease to exist’ there will need to be an international settlement to resolve the matter. The Israeli occupation will remain illegal regardless.

    • Of course the use of the Golan Heights by Syria to fire weapons on Israeli civilians didn’t contravene “international law”.

      • Brian: The same principles of international law that support your claim that when the Mandate for Syria terminated, Syria’s sovereignty extended to the full extent of that Mandate’s territory applies with equal force in confirming Israeli sovereignty throughout the Mandate lands as they existed when the Mandate for Palestine terminated in 1948 – meaning the territory that is now Jordan, which became an independent country in 1946, was excluded even if that action violated the plain language of the Mandate for Palestine. The applicable legal doctrine has a name: uti possidetis juris.
        As far as sovereignty over the Golan Heights, it depends on whether the facts establish that Israel seized it as part of a defensive war against Arab aggression in 1967 – in which case there is no legal obligation for Israel to return it, and an aggressive war – in which case there is no legal basis for Israel to retain it.

    • Its OK Brian.

      In 400 years, just as the Portuguese occupation of Brazil has now been accepted as a fait accompli, the British occupation of Ireland also, the US occupation of most of the deep south of the USA etc. now that 250 years have elapsed is incontrovertibly recognized as US territory, so the tiny Golan Heights will be accepted as indivisibly part of Israel.

      Of course, ( the country formerly known as) Syria has no better claim to any of its territory as the various factions carve it up, as we can see happening in front of our eyes,

    • Sorry Brian, but the laws of reality clearly state that if you repeatedly try to slaughter my family and I take away your gun and take over your perch, you don’t get it back to try it again.

    • The same League of Nations Sencar points out as evidence of “Israeli transgressions” also happened to recognize Palestine — all of it, including modern day Jordan– as being the National Homeland of the Jews.

      It must suck to be a Sencar.

    • “It was the intention of the mandate that France would prepare the country for independence although they reneged on this and had to be pressured out”

      Just like Britain with regard to the Jewish homeland.

      Britain gave the Golan to the French, but what’s a little horse trading between European Imperialists?
      As for Israel ever relinquishing this strategic territory, I encourage you, sencar, to hold your breath.

      • “Britain gave the Golan to the French,..”

        No Jeff we didn’t give it to the French we traded it for the oil fields in Iraq.

        Don’t forget that the French also wanted Jerusalem, if they didn’t get it their second choice was Belgium.
        Before you ask because they are both Roman Catholic countries.
        Now that would have been interesting Jerusalem run by the Belgians.

          • “Notice the expression “horse trading” in the penultimate sentence”

            Indeed I did notice that expression. It was, later, in the same sentence in which you wrote, “Britain gave the Golan to the French,”

            I don’t believe any country needs a lecture from the USA or its citizens about giving things away in light of your countries recent antics with Iran.

            • Gerald,
              It’s not a lecture, just a fact of history from almost 100 years ago about the actions of governments, not citizens. As for the recent “antics with Iran,” as you put it, that was also done without the consent of the governed, as most Americans, from whom you can’t stomach a lecture, oppose the Iran deal.

              • “..just a fact of history..”

                No, Jeff.
                A ‘fact of history’?
                No it is your interpretation and opinion of events that happened in the past..

                This may come as a surprise to you, but, just because you think or believe something it does not make it a fact.

                • Gerald,
                  I really do not know what you are on about. One cannot enter into a trade without giving something.
                  For someone who doesn’t want to hear a lecture you sure are fond of giving them.
                  This may come as a surprise to you, but the sell by date for your condescending arrogance toward Americans has long past. Put a cork in it, and the next time you need to pick at something, make that something your left nostril, if it’s not too high to reach.

                  I won’t embarrass you by asking just what your government did to attempt to thwart the Iran deal.

                  • Jeff,
                    you are getting uppity.
                    Thank you for your advice, but please print it out and then shove it up your arse! Of course you will have to remove your head first, as it is clearly stuck up there.

                    “I won’t embarrass you by asking just what your government did to attempt to thwart the Iran deal”

                    I’ll answer that question for you, Nothing.
                    When guard dogs bark does that embarrass me? Of course not it’s what I expect them to do.
                    When politicians and diplomats seize the opportunity for lucrative trade deals does that embarrass me? Of course not it’s what I expect them to do.

                    What would embarrass me would be if they just gave everything away for the sake of a President’s legacy or to justify him already receiving the Nobel Peace Prize.

  2. Good job, Adam.

    It never ceases to amaze me how the miniscule bit of the Golan that Israel owns, compared to the vast stretches of ( the country formerly known as) Syria is the key issue at stake. It is patently obvious that its only value is in the ability to more easily attack the North of Israel from Syria.

    • Gerald,
      Your childish tantrums aside, Britain gave the Golan to the French. I don’t care if they traded it for oil fields or for beach front property on the Sea of Tranquility. They, you, gave it to the French.

      • Jeff,
        I can see that like the proverbial pig that is happy wallowing in its own shit, you are happy wallowing in your own ignorance.
        Be happy Jeff.
        And please continue to post your amusing rubbish, it helps to pass the time while I’m waiting for the next Rugby match.

  3. Since Syria is still at war with Israel – there is nothing to talk about. We don’t have to give them any of our territory – which was part of the original mandate that the British illegally exchanged for Basra oil fields.

  4. Proof Golan is historically Israel’s.
    Brilliant article
    MONDAY, JUNE 2, 2008
    The Golan Hights – Historical Rights and Legitimacy .

    The Golan is where the tribes of Dan and Menashe settled, and Israeli kings ranging from Saul to Herod ruled there. The Golan saw consecutive Jewish settlement for 800 years; 300 Jewish communities from the time of the Mishna and Talmud were discovered there, along with the remnants of 27 synagogues. Later, 1,000 years of desolation followed, until the Jews returned. In the 16th century, the Ottoman Turks came in control of the area and remained so until the end of World War I.

    The Golan belongs to Israel because it is the estate of the Jews forefathers and not only by the power of occupation in a defensive war against an aggressor, like America in Texas and Poland and former German territories.

    Syria controlled the Golan for only 21 years, half the period it has been under Israeli rule. Almost half of its territory has been purchased by Rothschild and later robbed by the Syrian government. Jews settled in the Golan as early as 1886 (long before the Syrian Arab Republic existed) but they were expelled, massacred, or fled because of malaria.

    In 1886, the Jewish B’nei Yehuda society of Safed purchased a plot of land four kilometers north of the present-day religious moshav of Keshet, but the community, named Ramataniya, failed one year later. In 1887, the society purchased lands between the modern-day Bene Yehuda and Kibbutz Ein Gev. This community survived until 1920, when two of its last members were murdered in the anti-Jewish riots which erupted in the spring of that year. In 1891, Baron Rothschild purchased approximately 18,000 acres (73 km²) of land in the Hauran, about 15 km east of modern Ramat Hamagshimim. Immigrants of the First Aliyah (1881–1903) established five small communities on this land, but were forced to leave by the Ottomans in 1898. The lands were farmed until 1947 by the Palestine Jewish Colonization Association (PICA) and the Jewish Colonization Association, when they were seized by the Syrian army.

    According to the Agreement of San Remo,(April 1920) The mandate for Palestine comprises an area incorporating what is now the entire state of Israel, including the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and the Golan Heights. The mandate specifically states that a national homeland for the Jewish people should be established in Palestine, but that the rights of non-Jews should be protected. In 1923, Britain ceded the Golan Heights (1,176 square kilometers of the Palestine Mandate) to the French Mandate of Syria, in spite of the specifications of the San Remo agreements and the Mandate for Palestine which was conferred on Britain in 1922 by The League of Nations. Jews were also barred from living there. Jewish settlers on the Golan Heights were forced to abandon their homes and relocate inside the westerb area of the British Mandate.

    Claims that the Golan is Syrian land has no geographic or historical basis. All theese evens should be known before we talk about strategy and security.

    And the situation today?

    A poll found that 48% of the public said they would refuse an order to evacuate the Golan. This strengthen the Golan loyalists, and it appears to undermine Israel’s right to hand over parts of the country to other states.

    With the exception of Stalinist Russia, states only expelled the populations of enemies defeated in war, rather than their own citizens. And just like depriving a person of his rights and freedoms is forbidden, “cleansing” the Golan off Jews would not only be a national sin, but also a crime against humanity, which allows for the right to resist. Should Golan leaders not internalize this, the Gush Katif tragedy shall repeat.