The UN has made its position clear that the American decision to recognise the occupied Golan Heights as part of Israel rather than an occupied Syrian territory has no standing in international law. That being said, because of the power of the United States, the decision has nevertheless dealt a devastating blow to Syrian prestige whilst helping both Benjamin Netanyahu and Donald Trump score an important domestic political victory at the expense of an Arab Republic that is used to being kicked when down.
Trump’s decision has predictably aroused the anger of those with a firm commitment to international law, those who respect the territorial integrity of nations and those who are appalled at Israel’s brutal policies against Arabs. As such, many of those who are upset with Trump’s decision are speaking from a perfectly genuine position. The problem is that a great many are not.
The fact of the matter is that there are some causes in the world which are fashionable and some which are not and the Golan Heights is where the extremely unfashionable cause of defending Syria’s territorial integrity clashes with the increasingly fashionable trend of expressing outrage at Israel.
This is not to say that Israel doesn’t behaviour outrageously – it most certainly does. The danger however is that supporting Palestine against Israel has become “cool” among a portion of young people in the west who enjoy the rhetoric of politicians like Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Jeremy Corbyn, as well as among those who listen to Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters and watch films with Natalie Portman (Portman is an Israeli citizen who is deeply anti-Netanyahu).
As such, while more westerners support Palestine than they have in previous decades, the fact is that for many, the cause is an exercise in vanity rather than genuine activism. As such, the Palestinian cause has become watered down to the point of being materially insignificant among the western virtue signallers who probably don’t know the difference between, Fatah, Hamas and the PFLP. Unlike in the late 1980s, in 2019, saying “solidarity with Palestine” in North America or Europe is becoming a bit as anodyne as was saying “save the whales” in the late 1970s. Today expressing solidarity with Palestine among young westerners is more of an expression of self-congratulatory nothingness than an expression of a deeply held view, let along of any emotional connection to actual human victims of aggression.
At the same time that Palestine was becoming something “cool” for young virtue signalling westerners to support, Syria was being attacked by multiple forces with the clear endgame of Balkanising the country. As such, those supportive of the Balkanisation of Syria cheered on Donald Trump and his allies when in the spring of 2018 he bombed Damascus. Today, many of these same people are criticising Trump’s move to recognise the Golan Heights as Israeli territory. As such, Trump has been consistent in the matter while many others have proved to be the opposite.
Those whose politics is guided by virtue signalling have the following dilemma: do we praise or ignore Trump’s Golan move as it weakens the “very uncool Syrian regime” or do we criticise it because “the anti-Israel/pro-Palestinian cause is like totally mega hot this season”. Their not so elegant solution was to expose their shameless hypocrisy as such people would be perfectly happy for Syria to lose territory….so long as it wasn’t to the benefit of Israel.
As such, Donald Trump’s entirely predictable decision has exposed the utter hypocrisy of many politically minded people. It is not the first time Trump has done so and it will almost certainly not be the last.