(JTA) – Left-wing members of the kibbutz movement are protesting the organization’s sponsorship of an event celebrating 50 years of settlement on the Golan Heights, which the critics say is occupied territory.
Several members of the left-leaning Meretz party who belong to the movement wrote an open letter last week expressing their disapproval of the plan to hold an event in the near future celebrating the anniversary in the Golan Heights, the nrg news site reported Friday.
Israel conquered the area in 1967 from Syria, which used its elevated position to routinely shell Israeli settlements in the Galilee, and annexed it in 1981. However, it is internationally regarded as occupied, including by the United States, and claimed by Bashar Assad, the president of Syria. His army controls only 25 percent of the internationally recognized land mass of his country since the eruption in 2011 of a still-raging civil war that has killed approximately 400,000 people.
The war has put on hold efforts to facilitate an agreement between Syria and Israel on the future of the strategically important Golan.
In their open letter to the leadership of the kibbutz movement, the document’s eight authors from kibbutzim across Israel acknowledged that at present, “there is no one to return the territory to.” However, they added, “recognizing this reality is no pretext for celebrating occupation.”
The secretary of the movement, Nir Meir, dismissed the letter.
“The thousand kibbutzniks living in the Golan are no less a part of our movement than the ones making arguments against them,” he told nrg. “The very first settlements on the Golan were kibbutzim and we’re not ashamed of that. In fact, we’re very proud. Settlement in the Golan was never controversial, and the attempts to generate controversy are irrelevant now that Syria has ceased to exist and there is no partner on the other side.”