Hammam Yousef | Architect/Designer Czech Republic
June 25th, 2007

Re: ‘Syria's Occupied Golan Heights

Why should Israel return the Golan to Syria?

The answer is so obvious and simple, that it is confusing to the mind to have that question in the first place!

What would be the alternative to the simple answer, i.e. returning the Golan to its rightful owners.

I believe it would be a state of continuous instability, hatred and bitterness. But, come to think of it, what is there to guarantee that these very feelings will disappear at the moment Israel returns the Golan? There are no guarantees, for no one can, or even try to, speak on behalf of all those who have been maimed and victimized, because of the world assault on the crumbling Ottoman Empire, manifesting itself later in the confiscation of land and implanting a heterogeneous foreign state in the fragile weakened body of the Arab world.

But Then! We just have to have the courage to do what is right regardless of all that, or anything else.

Are my words incomprehensible? Are my feelings worthless? What if I represented millions who feel the same way?

Psychologists explain that a father’s slap to a child that lasts one second requires six months for the child to regain confidence in his father. How long in your opinion will Syrians, if not Arabs, need to regain their balance and their faith in the international community which contributed to the establishment of the intrusive entity (Israel) and continues contributing to the shredding of the Arab world.

Since the eviction of Palestinians and Syrians from their lands by Israel, the whole Arab world have born the cost of this arrogant offensive on the most basic of human rights; the right to not be kicked out of one’s own home and one’s own land simply because the offender can, and the defender can not defend his rights. Therefore, the Golan issue is no longer something that the Syrians can resolve on their own nor is the Jerusalem and Palestine issues confined to Palestinians to resolve on their own.

Why can the Zionist movement claim the historic right of return for Jews to the ‚??promised land‚?Ě which they did not forget for thousands of years, yet Muslim and non-Muslim Arabs -who also lived on the very same land for thousands of years- can not claim their right to continue living on it?! Who can prove that a large percentage of those Christians, and later on Muslims, were not originally of Jewish origins who chose to follow the Christ, and later to believe in Mohammed‚??s prophecy! Who can say that Palestinians, or at least, large percentage of them, did not also have Jewish origins? And due to historical factors and their own choice, remained on their land and changed their beliefs by becoming Christians and Muslims, and were always the owners of the land.

When the Palestinians were evicted from their lands by various cruel means, including massacres, starvation, expulsion and blockade, they were not forth of fifth generation that was born on that land. They were at least over fifty generations there!! This, however, is totally ignored while we feel sorry for the Israeli forth or fifth generation that was born on other peoples land! A land on which the war of occupation, colonization and expulsion did not cease since the Haganah and Stern gangs started killing the innocent and unarmed Palestinians some sixty years ago!

With that in mind, for heaven‚??s sake, what can we say to the original owners of this land!? And what logic can be used?!

Should we beg for the return of the Golan? Why? And is the Syrian regime that lost the Golan genuinely concerned with its return or with the well being of the inhabitants of the Golan?! Why this insult to our intelligence?

What I want to say to an “Israeli Citizen” who enjoys conscience and sound thinking, is the following:

If the occupier returns the land he took by illegal means to its proper owners, it will count as a genuine human act that has an intrinsic obvious inevitability, just like the proof that the sun has risen is the daylight itself, to require further elaboration would be unwarranted. Returning the occupied lands is clearly a self-justified act that is accepted and expected by all humans. It does not require an appreciation and indebtedness to the generosity of the confiscator!

However, if the occupier insisted on usurping the rights and territories without justification, then shame on the human race for not being up to the standards which safeguard the lives, properties, rights and honor of its members. But the lessons of history will catch up to us and will drag us in its inevitability if we did not choose to become proactive instead of reactive. And while, Israel is busy digging her grave by her own hands with frantic dedication and sacrifice, History will be laughing and crying simultaneously at the black tragicomedy in which humans have put themselves in!

If you return the Golan then you will be honoring your selves. And if you don’t, you would be harming yourself before causing harm to others. If we can not obtain our rights today, there might come a time that will empower and conspire with us as it did with you. But those who will pay the cost from their human essence and souls would be both of us; we and you… as all of us on this earth are still paying the price of narrow vision, impatience, and surrendering to greed that can not ever be satisfied!

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8 Responses to the Article

Hammam Yousef Says:

This post was originally written in Arabic, it was translated with the help of Creative Syria. For those who can read Arabic and are interested to check the original text please be my guest on my blog.

Hammam Yousef Says:

Thanks agian Creative Syria, especially Alex! :)
The article now is finalized, and I will be happy to get some feed back…
I know it is a late contribution, but still, better than never!

Mr. Israeli Says:

Hammam Yousef,

All-in-all, your rationale is sound and I tend to agree with it. There are a few problems or obstacles, however. You see, on the one hand, there is the historical proximity still to the Jewish holocaust, which many people over the age of 35-40 still remember very clearly through their parents’ horror stories (those few that survived), and which inevitably caused a national ethos of real fear and a feeling that existence is not guaranteed, especially when surrounded by people that hate you. This notion never addressed the origin or casuses of that hatred, only its existence and manifestation through the occassional use of war. On the other hand, the combination of a lack of nation-status to British-controlled Palestine, together with a Jewish “dream” of a return to Zion, led to a historic opportunity that had to be seized by the Jewish people. There was no intention on behalf of our founders to do so at the expense of the Arabs. Do remember, that with the actual establishment of the state of Israel, few if any Palestinians were forced out of their homes. It was within days, however, after the Arab nations around refused to accept the UN-vote and decided to physically attempt to reverse the decision, that the real atrocities began (with terrible crimes committed by Jews against the Arabs, unjustifiably as self-defence). The issue of Palestine is not easy, and I believe the result will be with a state for the Palestinians back to the 1967 lines. Obviously, with everything that’s happening now between Hamas and Fatah, things are bound to get very complicated.

As for the Golan, I agree with everything you said. I do hope that we’ll live to see the day that Israelis could be accepted by the well-known warmth of the Syrian people. An appology is certainly owed to all those that have suffered.

Hammam Yousef Says:

Mr. Israeli,

‚??There was no intention on behalf of our founders to do so at the expense of the Arabs.‚?Ě

I believe Intentions are not what we should focus on; we measure intentions by Actions and Facts.

British occupation of Palestine is not a legal way of land possession!

British handing over Palestine to Jewish Organizations, instead of the Arab Palestinian majority is not justified. It can only be seen as a conspiracy!

Changing the demographically Arab-dominated status of Palestine at the time, by expelling Palestinians, and by encouraging migration into ‚??Israel‚?Ě from all over the world, is a clear evidence of manipulating the history of Palestine, and it does not make it legal.

I am Syrian National from a Syrian father and Palestinian mother; I never felt that my father cared less about Palestine than my mother did. And she also told me ‚??my grand father too- the horrible stories of ‚??Our‚?Ě version of Holocaust that was inflected upon us! Not by our own countrymen ‚??as the case was for Jews in Europe- but on the hands of an outsiders, who invaded our land and kicked us out to the Diaspora!

Well‚?¶ this one is conscience-related one : ) Even if the entire world said that Holocaust was justified, this will never be accepted by Jews, or by any average human being as a matter of fact, including me.
Same applies on Occupied Palestine, Arabs couldn‚??t have chose to legitimize the Wrong to make it Right even if the UN forced it, why should they?

According to Alvaro de Soto‚??s report, mentioned in this article on Guardian, Israel “essentially rejectionist” stance towards the Palestinians, and The international boycott of the Palestinians, introduced after Hamas won elections last year, was “at best extremely short-sighted” and had “devastating consequences” for the Palestinian people.
How can you expect peace when you contribute to War so passionately! I ask Israel!

I am pleased that you agreed on my rationale, and the ‚??warmth of Syrians‚?Ě was and will always be there, But‚?¶ what we Syrians Palestinians and Arabs need is more than a nice apology, Don‚??t you agree!

eileen fleming Says:

Hi Hamman,

I found this site and you through the comment you left on Sabbah’s Blog. I am one of the witers who have been censored, slandered and banned from the Daily Kos.

I visited the Golan Heights in June 2005 and wrote my experiences in my first book, “KEEP HOPE ALIVE”

Everyone I quote is exactly who they are, but I fictionalized me and became five other characters.

I hope it is OK to share this part of the Chapter: 16 Days in Israel Palestine

David Bavly of http://www.shalam.org/ told me:

‚??My mother is fourth-generation to this land; my father was
born here while this land was still called Palestine. So, I am a
forty-two-year-old Israeli-Palestinian secular Jew. In 2000, when
Ariel Sharon went to the Al Aqsa Mosque and provoked the violent
uprising, I cried, ‚??Back off, man! Enough! It is enough already!‚??
When those young Palestinian innocents were killed, I knew I had
to do something. I didn‚??t know what, but I began by knocking on
doors throughout Rosh El Aim, a Christian-Arab community. I told
them I just wanted to help somehow. Mostly they thought I was
crazy; many today think it, too.

“I drove a three hundred mile radius, knocking on doors, offering to help somehow. One day, I was sitting with a bunch of Bedouin kids, and I began tapping my fingers on my thigh. The next thing, all of these kids were imitating me, and I realized I could bring them drums. I have friends who are musicians and artisans, and they have all offered an open hand. Without any assistance from the Israeli government, we have established centers of peace/ shalom/salaam that offer tutoring, health care, folk dance, music lessons, and artistic projects to the least and easily forgotten. We have built community between Israeli Jews and Bedouins, and Palestinian Christians and Muslims.

‚??It‚??s been five years now, and I continue to make daily rounds all
the way into the Golan Heights. Many others have joined in and are
keeping the projects moving forward, as I take on new ones. I have
a friend named Hagit Breittman, a Jewish woman who has done the
unthinkable! She opened her home to Bedouin woman, and they get
together weekly to sew and, more importantly, to be a community.
Right now, we are building community here, for security comes
from community, not walls and gates! We absolutely have hope that
one day, these Bedouin woman will travel to America with their
embroidery and weaving. Hagit also started up a daily lunch service
for the poor in the community. She provides food and comfort
for hundreds everyday, and has done it all without government

‚??Today, the people are so in need of good leadership. If they can
find it, they will follow. People need to be taught morals, boundaries,
limits, and manners. This is the stuff Jesus taught, and he led the
people. Today, people are lost in a violent cycle without basic human
rights and respect for the other. Forget co-existence; we must have
basic existence, basic human rights. Maybe when others see we care,
they care too.‚?Ě

Terese told David, ‚??You remind me of another socially radical
Palestinian Jew who went through Galilee, offering free healings
and love.‚?Ě

The following day, Khaled and his brother Hamid drove a ten year-
old Toyota up the long incline into the occupied Golan Heights
behind David‚??s van. The Toyota began to smoke and sputter, and the
brothers pulled off to the side of the road. David turned the van around as soon as he noticed, and as he exited the van to help the brothers, he announced, ‚??If you need to stretch your legs, don‚??t walk off the pavement. There can be land mines anywhere the pavement ends.‚?Ě

After a half hour, and after three liters of water were poured into
the Toyota‚??s radiator, David led the brothers to the service station, and then they, too, crammed into the van and drove five more minutes to meet Moneer Sabagh at the elementary school where the Olive Trees Foundation for Peace had provided two thousand trees that were now thriving. Moneer was the sole founder of the Association for Improving and Developing the Family in what was once Syria, but is now the occupied Golan Heights. Moneer was a young, soft-spoken Muslim, who told them, ‚??I am in a delicate situation. The Israeli government built our school, but the community here is occupied, and resentment runs high. I am trying to get them to care about what we have, to enrich it, so we can thereby enrich ourselves. Because they are occupied, they struggle with the question of how they can thrive under captivity. It is a difficult situation to understand ‚?? what life under occupation is about. I thank the Olive Trees Foundation for Peace for providing the trees David brought to us. We needed oaks and pines for the school campus, and we thank you for filling that need with the trees we asked for. They make a difference in the atmosphere, in the air we breathe and what we see, and in how we feel.‚?Ě

Th non-profit Olive Trees Foundation for Peace/OTFFP http://www.olivetreesfoundation.org
has now provided the funds for 31,800 olive trees of peace rooted in Israel Palestine. 100% of all proceeds for KEEP HOPE ALIVE are being donated to OTFFP until Dr. Khaled Diab’s dream of blanketing the Holy Land with a million trees of peace has been realized.


Dr. Khaled M. Diab Says:

Since 1948, Israel has won several wars; the Arabs claimed winning some wars. Yet, no side has won the highest prize of all, PEACE. The needs of security and the right to self defense will never hide all of the injustices that have been done and continue to be done to the Palestinians in Palestine and elsewhere. The rights for freedom, self-determination, and resistance to occupation will never cover the crime of killing of innocent Jewish and other civilians by means of suicidal attacks or firing primitive Kassam rockets. Occupation, targeted killings, and other means of pressuring the Palestinians have not brought Israeli people or the Palestinians real hope of peace.

Israeli occupation has converted the remaining Palestinian cities and villages to jails. Israel continued occupation, expansion, erection of walls, and establishing of hundreds of check points that restricts the movement of Palestinians to work, to schools, to hospitals, and to normal trade will never win the peace. The brain-washed Palestinians who blow themselves up to kill whoever on the scene of their suicidal act will never win peace or gain claimed rights. The primitive rockets fired at Israeli areas will only result in hardening of negative positions and moving away from peace.

The blame game, the revenge and the counter revenge and the belligerence will not achieve peace. The labeling of killing of innocent people and the destruction of property as collateral damages does not justify the net result. Continuation of occupation and continuation of the same behavior by the Israelis, the Palestinians and the Americans will never win peace. To win the peace there are other ways.

It is very obvious that the practices of the last sixty years did not win the peace; it is high time to find other approaches that would reach to peace in the land we call Holy Land. Peace is in our interest and the interest of the vast majority of the people in Israel, Palestine, other states in the region and the world. The recent Palestinian in-fighting, Hamas take over in Gaza, and other developments in the area are results of the pressure cooker policies that have dominated the area. I believe that continuation of the past practices will result in annihilation of millions of Palestinians, Jews, Christians and Muslims and other people.

The recent declarations by EU and the USA to supply aid to the Palestinians are a moves in the right direction. It needs to be followed with many other healing steps that include the political, social and economic aspects of life. On the other hand, selling or providing more sophisticated weapons to one side or the other will nullify any hope for peace. Rabbi Michael Lerner has advocated Marshal Plan for the whole world. If we cannot afford a Global Marshal Plan, how about starting with a Marshal Plan, for the land that we call Holy Land?

There is certainly enough wealth in the region and elsewhere to show that the provision of Peace, Reconciliation and Opportunity to work will definitely lead us to peace. Let us go for PRO (Peace, Reconciliation, and Opportunity). Compassionate treatment of humans is the way to peace Let us go for it. Let us win the real prize: PEACE. Let us create all that we can think of to get real peace and justice at the same time.

Mr. Israeli Says:

Dear Dr. Khaled,

From your mouth to Allah. But the problem seems to be that those in power on all sides belong to either the Indecisive camp (at best), or the Peace-not-Feasible camp (at worst). The first, is made up of people who believe in the theoretical possibility of peace, but cannot find the inner-strength to make it happen. They are “leaders” that worry too much about losing their Volvo’s and leather chairs should they risk it all, and find they were wrong. The second, is made up of people who have been brainwashed for so long that they can no longer truly think on their own. They are, for all practical purposes, the fanatic. They believe only in THEIR way, regularly demonize the other side, and simply have no hope whatsoever that they can see a better day in their own lifetime. Their task, as they see it, is to maximize their strength, so that they are better ready for the “next round”, and the one after that, and so on…

It is until we find another Begin, or Sadat, or even a Rabin, that are willing to risk everything to do what’s right for their nation’s future, that I’m afraid we are not going to be seeing peace in this region any time soon. Making declarative statements that sell well on the media, speaking highly of peace as a noble goal, is not enough. Action that will force a change in atmosphere is what’s needed, and few are the leaders that are capable of doing it. As occured in the last 60 years, now too we are witnessing the colossal missing of opportunities, instead switching to inflamatory declarations, troop reinforcements and, untimately, war. I made a comment in another part of the blog today about an article that just came out in Haaretz (also in English) about the “return of the miscoonception” by Uri Bar-Yosef regarding the possibility of war with Syria. I hope he is wrong, but he may well turn out to have been right, and we may find ourselves soon enough in yet another regional war. It’s so sad that we all know how such a war would end, but we do not know its toll, and we almost always underestimate it in advance. Then, 10 years from now, we’ll look backwards in time, and ask ourselves “why did we have to waste so much more time and human lives, if we knew all these years what had to be done???”

You and I are people that can feel empathy towards one another. We can put aside, for just a second, the past and even the present, and focus purely on the future. We both share the same vision for our children and our children’s children, and we both believe it IS possible to make this place a better place, and that we CAN change. But unfortunately, I’m afraid we belong to too small a majority (at best), and there is a historic tendency for people in this region to remain “numb”, and to allow external powers dictate our fate. Perhaps that is the reason none of the nations around here are any older than 60 or 70 years, which is but a drop in the bucket when you consider even the history of the nation-state.

I’ve been saying throughout this blog, that our leaders have to find the strength to do something unexpected (a surprise visit to Damascus, or Jerusalem), in order to start a reaction that might change the atmosphere and people’s emotions. Otherwise, it’s back to playing cowboys and indians on the battlefield… only this time, with thousands of rockets instead of simple tanks, and our cities and neighborhoods as the battlefield, instead of wide open unpopulated regions. I hope I’m wrong… but I’m not sure I am.

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