Passport woes: Arab residents of Golan Heights reject Israeli citizenship

Passport woes: Arab residents of Golan Heights reject Israeli citizenship
Residents of the Golan Heights protest against the 1981 Israeli annexation law of the strategic plateau. (AFP/File)
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Updated 22 January 2023

Passport woes: Arab residents of Golan Heights reject Israeli citizenship

Passport woes: Arab residents of Golan Heights reject Israeli citizenship
  • Egyptian step to end travel requirement raises hopes of similar moves across Arab world

RAMALLAH: Residents of the occupied Syrian Golan Heights have called on Arab states and the international community to drop Israeli citizenship requirements for travel.

Israel annexed the Golan Heights in 1981 in a move that was condemned internationally.

The 30,000 residents of the Golan Heights bear Israeli identity cards similar to those held by citizens of East Jerusalem, where their status is described as residents and non-citizens.

Ayman Abu Jabal, one of the prominent leaders of the Golan community, told Arab News: “The lack of a passport for the residents makes them live in a cultural, political, social and economic siege, separating them from their Arab depth.”

Egypt recently agreed to a request from the Syrian Golan Heights community to end the need for Israeli citizenship to visit the country.

Young people in the community are seeking to work in Arab countries in light of poor economic conditions in the Golan Heights, a community statement said.

But the requirement to hold Israeli citizenship prevents many from relocating abroad, the statement added.

After canceling the Israeli citizenship requirement, Egypt also condemned the occupation of the Golan Heights and praised the adherence of the area’s occupants to their Syrian Arab identity.

Egypt said it would welcome visitors from the Golan Heights with transit documents and visas.

Abu Jabal from the Golan community praised the Egyptian move, describing it as “strengthening the position of the people of the Golan that they live in an occupied land.”

He added: “Unfortunately, a large portion of the people of the Golan were forced to obtain Israeli citizenship to complete their education or to move around in countries of the world that do not recognize the Israeli document granted to them.”

Israeli authorities have exploited the situation to force Golan Heights residents to seek Israeli citizenship, he warned.

Egyptian authorities informed Golan Heights residents that they could visit Taba and Sharm El-Sheikh without visas.

The move has raised hopes that other Arab countries will follow suit and end the Israeli citizenship requirement for residents of the Golan Heights.

Community leaders are also working with the Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to encourage similar moves by Arab countries.

“We demand the Syrian national state redouble its efforts in communicating with the countries of the world to remove this condition for visiting by the residents of the occupied Syrian Golan,” said a community statement.

“At the same time, we turn to our young men and women in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights not to fall into the trap of temptations to visit this or that country, with the price being to obtain Israeli citizenship.

“With patience and a little steadfastness, we can bypass and remove those conditions for visiting those countries,” the statement added.

Meanwhile, in a previous conversation with Arab News, farming community leaders in the Golan Heights complained about the refusal of several Arab countries to import apples due to administrative concerns.

In contrast, apples produced in the Israeli settlements of the Golan Heights have been exported.

Successive Israeli governments have sought to increase the number of Israeli settlers living in 32 settlements across the occupied Golan Heights.

About 30,000 Arabs from the occupied Syrian Golan live in major villages: Majdal Shams, Bqatha, Masada and Ein Qinya and Ghajar, which is close to the Shebaa Farms.

Former US President Donald Trump officially recognized Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights in March 2019 in a move that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised as “historic.”

Syria has long insisted that it will refuse a peace agreement with Israel unless it withdraws from the Golan Heights.

The last direct peace talks sponsored by the US collapsed in 2000, while Turkiye mediated indirect talks in 2008.