A research paper written by the CIA in 1981 reveals the historical facts about the Golan Heights and Israel's illegal occupation and settlement policies in the region, contrasting the recent decision by U.S. President Donald Trump to recognize the area as Israeli territory.
The report digs deep into the historical roots of the Golan Heights after a brief description of Israel's occupation of the region. "Historically, the Golan Heights had never been a part of the unified Jewish state, and the region had not contained a significant Jewish population for 3,000 years," says the report.
The report then explains how Israel has changed the demography of the region with settlements. "More than 100,000 Syrian Arabs fled or were expelled from the area during and after the 1967 fighting," says the report.
Not allowing the return of the almost 100,000 refugees who had fled or were expelled during and after the war, Israel began establishing farm communities on the Golan beginning in 1968, taking roots in the area.
The report reveals that the Golan Heights region was a part of Syria's province of Al Qunaytirah until 1967. Based on statistical data in 1965, the province of Al Qunaytirah had a population of 142,600, that consisted of Muslim Arabs, Druze, Alawites, Christian Arabs, Sunni Muslim Circassians and some 13,000 Palestinian refugees.
"Since 1967 the Israelis have razed at least 80 of the 190 former villages and have destroyed other Syrian private property to make way for Israeli settlements, farms, fortifications, and military training areas," says the report.
The Golan Heights was seized by Israel from Syria during the Six-Day War in 1967. Israeli settlement in the Golan began soon after the war. Fourteen years later, the Israeli parliament unilaterally proclaimed sovereignty over the territory; however, the U.N. Security Council declared that the motion was "null and void and without international legal effect."
Israel occupies roughly two-thirds of the wider Golan Heights as a de facto result of the conflict. In a bid to consolidate its presence in the region, Israel has lobbied in the U.S. to recognize its claim over the Golan, yet all past administrations refused such a move. Israel has been seeking to maintain its grip on the Golan Heights mainly because of its geostrategic significance due to water sources and its physical location.
On Monday, President Trump signed a proclamation officially recognizing Israel's annexation of the Golan Heights, which it captured from Syria and has occupied since 1967, by rejecting decades of U.S. policy.
The decision sparked a global outcry as many countries, including European states, raised concerns about the consequences of recognizing illegal annexation and also about the broader regional consequences.
The U.S. stood alone in the U.N. Security Council meeting on Wednesday for recognizing Israel's sovereignty over the occupied Syrian Golan Heights as all the members of the council except Washington condemned the action as a unilateral move that violates international law and U.N. Security Council resolutions that the U.S. has previously supported.