In early 1980, prior to Israel’s purported annexation of the Occupied Syrian Golan in 1981 (see http://golan-marsad.org/en/topic/land-appropriation-property-destruction/), Israel began efforts to force Israeli citizenship on the remaining native Syrian population in the Occupied Syrian Golan. The vast majority of the Syrian population refused to renounce their Syrian nationality and, consequently, suffered severe harassment by the Israeli authorities that included Israeli forces conducting house raids; threats to fire people from their jobs; cutting off water supplies intended for crop irrigation; and closing shops.
Following the purported annexation, on January 17, 1982, the Israeli Interior Minister began administrative procedures seeking to impose Israeli nationality on the native Syrian population in the Occupied Syrian Golan by October 1, 1982. The Israeli authorities believed that if enough of the Syrian population accepted Israeli nationality then a de facto annexation of the Occupied Syrian Golan would be accomplished. However, again, the majority of the Syrian population opposed such measures, organising peaceful demonstrations to show their opposition. Following an escalation of intimidation by the Israeli authorities that included arrests and the use of ‘administrative detention’ (a procedure that involves indefinite detention without charge or trial), the Syrian population organised a general strike in early 1982 calling for the annexation to be suspended and for attempts to impose Israeli citizenship on the Syrian population to stop.
The Israeli authorities responded with the imposition of curfews, house raids, and the forced issuance of Israeli identity cards. Typically, the Syrian population threw the cards in the street and burnt them – some even sent them by post back to the Knesset (the Israeli parliament). After nearly six months of a general strike, the Israeli authorities announced in July 1982 that they would not force Israeli citizenship on the Syrian population.
However, despite the initial success of the general strike, the Israeli authorities since imposed a form of Israeli nationality on those who had rejected Israeli citizenship, making the current situation in the Occupied Syrian Golan very challenging for the Syrian population. The situation is similar to that experienced by Palestinian residents in Occupied East Jerusalem who have permanent residency under an Israeli jurisdiction. Yet whilst Palestinians residing in Occupied East Jerusalem are permitted to have Jordanian nationality, the native Syrian population of the Occupied Syrian Golan are recognised as having an ‘undefined’ nationality and are only awarded an Israeli ‘Laissez-Passer’, if they wish to travel. Those (the remaining native Syrian population in the Occupied Syrian Golan is 26,000 people) that have been assigned this status face daily challenges in terms of freedom of movement, discrimination and family separation, amounting to a serious violation of their human rights.
Furthermore, this residency status may be revoked if an individual’s ‘centre of life’ changes or if citizenship of another country is obtained (like Palestinians in Occupied East Jerusalem). According to Al-Marsad research, around 100 native Syrian inhabitants of the Occupied Syrian Golan have had their permanent residency status revoked since 1982 following travel and residency abroad for study or work. These people are unable to return back to their homes and join their families in the Occupied Syrian Golan.
For additional information, please see Al-Marsad publication Breaking Down the Fence: Addressing the Illegality of Family Separation in the Occupied Syrian Golan