The Challenge of Human Rights

The Challenge of Human Rights

Past, Present and Future

Edited by David Keane and Yvonne McDermott

The Challenge of Human Rights takes a detailed and exploratory approach to topics across the field of human rights, and seeks to map a path for future research and policy development.

Chapter 7: Forgotten Rights: Consequences of the Israeli Occupation of the Golan Heights

Ray Murphy

Subjects: law - academic, human rights, law and society, politics and public policy, human rights


Ray Murphy* The area known as the Golan Heights is a mountainous region and plateau in southwest Syria. The overall landmass of the Golan Heights is 1860 square kilometres, which is approximately one per cent of the total landmass of Syria.1 Reference to ‘the Golan Heights’ has typically described the portion of the Syrian Golan that has been occupied by Israel since 1967.2 Successive Israeli governments have adopted a number of policies to control and contain the Syrian population since Israel began its occupation. Numerous villages have been destroyed, thousands driven from their homes, private and public property expropriated, the remaining Arab villages have been prevented from expanding and the free movement of people curtailed. In 1981, Israel enacted legislation that purported to annex the territory.3 This move was widely condemned.4 This chapter outlines the background to the occupation and the consequences for the local population. It examines the action of the Israeli authorities and argues that certain practices by the Israeli Defence Forces constitute war crimes, which in some cases, may amount to grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention governing the protection of civilians. * Based on Ray Murphy and Declan Gannon, ‘Changing the Landscape: Israel’s Gross Violations of International Law in the Occupied Syrian Golan’ (2008) 11 Yearbook of International Humanitarian Law, 139–74, and a report by Al-Marsad (2008). 1 Permanent Mission of the Syrian Arab Republic to the UN, ‘The Syrian Golan’ available online at: 2 Ibid. 3 Golan Heights Law, Israeli Ministry of...

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