Israel’s leftist Meretz party is on board – for flagrant colonialist war crimes in the Golan

Israeli occupation forces on patrol outside Majdal Shams, a Syrian town in the Golan Heights, in May 2011. Oren Ziv ActiveStills)

Jonathan Ofir

Mondoweiss  /  December 28, 2021

Israel has just approved a plan to double the roughly 25,000 settlers on the occupied Syrian Golan heights because Joe Biden refused to reverse Trump’s decision on the illegally-acquired territory, and because leftwing Meretz went along too, saying the matter was “complicated.”

Israel has just approved a plan to double the roughly 25,000 settlers on the occupied Syrian Golan heights. Israel’s 1981 annexation of the territory, which it seized by force in 1967, is “null and void” under international law (UNSC Resolution 497). Transfer of population to illegally annexed territory is a war crime. The Trump administration, however, in defiance of international law, recognized the Golan as Israeli territory, the first and only country to do so. The dysfunctional Netanyahu-Trump bromance culminated in a ceremonial naming of a new Golan settlement in 2019 – “Trump Heights”.

The feeble Biden administration will not go so far as reversing this decision. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said there were legal questions surrounding the decision, but — a reversal did not lie in the foreseeable future.

Thus, once again, and as with the moving of the US Embassy to Jerusalem, the US political establishment signaled a green light of bipartisan consensus. Trump could be as outrageous as he wanted to be, but when it came to Israel, he actually called the shots, and the Israel-loving Biden would not go against them.

This consensus emboldened the Israeli settler-leader Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to say:

The Golan Heights are Israeli. This is self-evident… The fact that the Trump administration recognized this, and the fact that the Biden administration has made it clear that there has been no change in this policy, are also important.

Consensus is just great, isn’t that self-evident?

And what better than to mirror such a consensus with an annexationist settler government in Israel, where even the most leftist of the Zionist parties, Meretz, supports not only illegal annexation but also expansion of settlements and increase of settler numbers?

Thus, on Sunday, the Israeli cabinet, including two Meretz ministers (Tamar Zandberg and Nitzan Horowitz), held a meeting on those very occupied territories to launch a massive settlement expansion plan, involving the infusion of a billion shekels (about $317 million) with the aim of doubling the Jewish-Israeli settler population by 2030.

The meeting echoed Netanyahu’s first-ever cabinet meeting on the occupied Golan in 2016, where he vowed that the Golan will remain part of Israel forever.


Meretz’s Zandberg said that the decision was “complicated.” “We support peace and hope one day it will happen,” she added. Enact and support brazen war crimes, and hope that peace will one day happen.

Never was hope so cheap!

The illegal meeting was a bit too much for Meretz Palestinian minister Issawi Freij, who decided not to partake, like the members of the conservative Islamist Ra’am party, also a coalition party in the new government. Palestinians know that there is something called colonialism and expansionism, and with all the wish to be relevant in the Jewish State politics, participation in such brazen violations can be detrimental for one’s moral credibility.

But no worry, the decision passed in a vote, and Meretz still hope for peace.

What many people today do not realize, is that the Golan heights were ethnically cleansed in 1967. Roughly 124,000 of the 130,000 Syrian inhabitants were forcibly expelled in 1967 and roughly 200 villages were destroyed. Israel allowed about 6,000 Druze to remain, since Druze are traditionally amenable to Israel’s expansion and have been allied with the Jewish State since 1948, and have served in many security positions.

So Israel’s Golan occupation creates much less news, simply because there’s no resistance there, unlike in the Palestinian Occupied Territories of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. In this sense the Syrian Golan has become like a dreamland for Israel’s colonialist expansion designs – “a land without a people for a people without a land”, as the fictitious Zionist myth goes.

And if there’s hardly any people besides the chosen ones, then hey, what’s the big deal, right? Just some empty areas waiting to be settled, it’s the classical “terra nullius” idea of the British re Australia – no people, no problem.

But just as Netanyahu’s meeting on the Golan was a precursor to Bennett’s, Israeli’s current expansionist move on the Golan is a precursor to more normalization of settlements elsewhere. It may be that Meretz leaders only see this as a limited consensus on a matter not as contentious as West Bank annexation, simply because it hardly generates noise in Israeli society (nor resistance). But for Bennett and his ilk, this move is only part of a greater plan.

In Bennett’s worldview, there is no significant difference between the Golan and the West Bank, it is all “Eretz Israel”, the “Land of Israel”, and for him it’s self-evident, because it’s in the bible somewhere. Annexing Area C of the West Bank, which is something Bennett has long wanted, is a bit too much to swallow currently for the Biden administration, as well as for Meretz, and it will create a backlash – so why not go through the back door and work with the consensus?

Once again, the simple truth came from Palestinian lawmaker Ahmed Tibi of the Palestinian representative party Joint List. He tweeted.

It doesn’t matter how many cabinet meetings are held on the Golan, it is occupied Syrian territory,

Tibi also pointed to the responsibility of the leftists:

All elements of the coalition are responsible for the decisions made during this cabinet meeting. As well as for the deepening of the settlements in the West Bank and the violence of settlers.

Messiah’s donkey

Zionist expansion was always a question of gaining a broad consensus to cement the next expansionist gain. In popular religious-settler terminology, there is a term called “Messiah’s donkey”. It was coined by the rabbi Avraham Isaac Kook, and the idea was that secular Zionist Jews were the donkey, a necessity to carry the orthodox religious Jews in order to create a Jewish State that would hasten the coming of the Messiah. Kook’s son, Zvi Yehuda, continued his father’s ideology and is considered the ideological father of the religious Zionist settlement movement in the West Bank.

Naftali Bennett is certainly a disciple of this ideology. And this Messianic ideology needs a donkey. Meretz is happy to provide it, even several donkeys.

Jonathan Ofir is an Israeli musician, conductor and blogger/writer based in Denmark