By Adam Raz
Nearly 130,000 Syrians lived on the Golan Heights at the beginning of June 1967. Two months later, their number had dwindled to 6,396, nearly all of them Druze. In the aftermath of the Six-Day War, the fate of these Syrians was of little concern to the Israeli public, and the rapid conquest of the land and subsequent Jewish settlement there helped erase their memories of them. Indeed, local history books rarely talk about what befell the native residents of the Golan Heights.
Historian Yigal Kipnis’ informative book The Golan Heights: Political History, Settlement and Geography since 1949 (Routledge, 2013), relates that “the number of Golan civilian inhabitants who left the area with the [advent of the] Israeli occupation was between 115,000 and 120,000.” The numbers are correct, but what does “left” mean? For various reasons, scholars have not addressed the fate of the tens of thousands of Arab residents of the Heights, whose ruined villages still mar the area’s landscape. The available archival documentation is also very meager, and as with other politically sensitive subjects, accessible documents have been partially redacted.
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