Illegal settlements

Prior to the Israeli occupation in 1967, the Syrian population of the Syrian Golan was roughly 140,000, living in two cities, 164 villages and 146 agricultural farms. Almost all of them were uprooted and expelled during and after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, forced to relocate to refugee camps around Damascus and whose numbers today are approaching half a million. Following Israel’s conquest, the two cities,130 villages and 112 agricultural farms were destroyed. Six villages with a total population of 7,000 remained.

Israeli began to establish settlements in the Occupied Syrian Golan within a month of the 1967 war. Today, there are approximately 23,000 settlers, living in over 32 illegal settlements, profiting from the Occupied Syrian Golan’s abundant natural resources.

The Occupied Syrian Golan is a rich volcanic plateau with extremely fertile soil. The region is home to a huge variety of valuable natural resources, making it an ideal location for settlements and settlement industries. Since the occupation began, the Israeli authorities have aimed to implement policies which control the valuable resources in the region, in particular the land and the water. In recent times, this has manifested itself through Israel’s encouragement of the establishment of industries and businesses in the region, which exploit these natural resources for commercial gain. In order to attract more settlers each year, the Israeli authorities are ‘building new infrastructure and factories and creating various other economic opportunities’.

Today, the economy in the Occupied Syrian Golan is dominated by settlers whose products – such as beef, cherries, apples, wine and mineral water – provide for a significant proportion of Israel’s needs. Approximately 20% of the Occupied Syrian Golan’s settlement produce is exported to twenty different countries, including Canada, Australia and the United States and several in Europe. As of 2009, Israel’s revenue from agriculture produced in the Occupied Syrian Golan reportedly amounted to roughly 500 million shekels (143 million USD.) Nearly 40% of beef, 30% of apples, 32% of potatoes, 23% of corn, 50% of cherries, 41% of wool, 28% of eggs, and 6% of milk in the Israeli market is produced in the Occupied Syrian Golan.

The international community has repeatedly stated that the settlements are illegal under international law and has rejected their continued expansion. Despite this, Israel has announced plans to increase the increase the number of Israeli settlers by 100,000 over the next five years.

For a preliminary background on the development of illegal settlements in the Occupied Syrian Golan, please see Al-Marsad’s publication – ‘From Settlement to Shelf: The Economic Occupation of the Syrian Golan’, available below, along with other relevant publications.

Publications

Statements and position papers