Stop State Repression of Communities Resisting Wind Farm Development in Occupied Syrian Golan
ESCR-Net - International Network of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR-Net) condemns the recent Israeli government attacks on Syrian Arab residents in the occupied Syrian Golan who are resisting the ongoing expansion of a wind-farm development criticized as an example of green-washing the occupation spearheaded by corporate actors. This is all too familiar for many ESCR-Net members who have faced similar struggles in the name of so-called green energy development, including in conflict-affected areas and occupied territory. We express our solidarity with ESCR-Net member Al-Marsad Arab Human Rights Center in Golan-Heights and the wider Syrian community in occupied Syrian Golan who continue to resist in the face of violent dispossession.
On 20 June 2023, Israel sent hundreds of Special Police officers to Golan to protect the wind turbine project being resisted by Syrian Arab residents of occupied Golan. The state forces blocked community access points and dispersed demonstrators, who had gathered for a vigil on their lands. Police deployed tear gas, water cannons, rubber bullets, and live rounds, injuring 27, including five in critical condition. This is a violent response to the legitimate longstanding protests of the people of the Golan against energy projects seeking to profit during the occupation.
In January 2020, three UN special rapporteurs sent joint letters to both Israel and Energix Renewable Energy, an Israeli public company, which is developing the project (also known as the “Aran Wind Project”). The letters expressed “concern at the lawsuit allegedly filed against Al-Marsad by the company Energix as well as the smear campaign targeting the organization, which appear to be linked to its legitimate human rights activities, in particular its opposition to a renewable energy project in the Occupied Syrian Golan.” Both letters also expressed the concern that the invocation of Israel’s Anti-Boycott Law in the case could constitute “judicial harassment.” Five religious groups and activists also reported being subjected to SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) suits due to their public rejection of the Project, and a series of threatening letters were sent to numerous activists. The UN special rapporteurs further voiced concern over “reports of harassment of Syrian landowners aimed at pressuring them to lease their lands to the company.”
In its response, Israel “deplore[d]” and “reject[ed]” the rapporteurs’ characterizations. In May 2020, in a written response, Energix stated “the allegations made and data provided throughout the two articles are incorrect, have no grounds and are misleading for the reading audience.” It stated that the project was planned and approved by the Israeli government. Energix claims that the project would result in more efficient electricity production and infrastructure, job opportunities, among other claims to avoid recognition of the serious harm caused to the local native population, their farmland and the environment, in the context of prolonged military occupation.
ESCR-Net stands with the residents and human rights defenders’ rights to land, sovereignty over natural resources and wealth, to protest and to freely continue their vital work. Israel, as both Occupying Power and ‘home state’ of Energix, has clear duties under international human rights and humanitarian law that it must comply with and respect, including in relation to the indiscriminate, disproportionate and excessive use of force during protests and the protection of human rights defenders. International humanitarian law further prohibits the occupying power from exploiting natural resources of occupied territories or seizing community members’ lands to further the occupying powers’ economic ends. This constitutes pillage; a war crime. As determined by the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, business enterprises have a duty to respect human rights and, in conflict-affected areas, respect the standards of international humanitarian law and carry out enhanced due diligence in such contexts to avoid involvement in grave violations of international law.
We call on Israel to end its occupation of the Syrian Golan, to immediately cease the wind turbine project, and to respect the right of self-determination of the native Syrian Arab population therein.
ESCR-Net is a global network of over 280 NGOs, social movements and advocates across more than 75 countries working to build a global movement to make human rights and social justice a reality for all.
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