In the occupied Golan Heights, Israeli authorities have faced accusations of using a wind farm project as a means to exert control over land and displace the local Syrian Druze population. The project involved the establishment of a wind turbine farm by Energix Renewable Energies Ltd, backed by the far-right Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir. However, the Syrian citizens, who are the lawful owners of the land, vehemently opposed the project, viewing it as a pretext for further Israeli control and occupation.
To ensure the construction of the wind turbines, Israeli authorities mobilized hundreds of police officers and more than 100 police vehicles, effectively storming privately-owned apple and cherry orchards belonging to the Syrian Druze community members. Access to the fields was blocked off by blocking all roads leading to them. These heavy police presence aimed to provide protection and facilitate the entry of the private Israeli company into the area.
The wind farm project, known as “Golan Winds,” was championed by Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, who claimed that it was necessary for the Israeli economy and that the occupied Golan Heights required more Israeli governance. In a matter of days, the company proceeded with the construction of the wind turbines, while Israeli police served as “bodyguards” safeguarding their work. The entire development took place against the will of the Syrian citizens, who were the rightful owners of the land.
This coercive approach led to widespread discontent and protests among the local population. On June 21, Israeli police responded with excessive force, using live ammunition against the protesters, resulting in life-threatening injuries to at least five individuals. The use of violence further exacerbated the tensions surrounding the wind farm project.
The origins of this project can be traced back to 2013 when Israeli authorities initially planned the development of a wind farm in the occupied Golan Heights. The project was later declared a “national project” by the Israeli Planning Administration, granting the finance minister the authority to confiscate privately-owned lands for development purposes. In the face of this plan, the Syrian citizens of the area lodged numerous objections to the Israeli planning authorities, citing legal and cultural reasons for their opposition.
Despite the objections and concerns raised, the Israeli planning authorities disregarded the opposition and, in 2019, approved the development of 21 wind turbines on privately-owned lands belonging to Syrian citizens. Notably, this wind farm became the first of its kind to be established on privately-owned lands in Israel, out of the over five existing wind farms.
According to the approved plan, the wind farm project would occupy a total area of 3,674 dunams (3,674,000 sqm). The wind farm itself would cover 3,644 dunams (3,644,000 sqm) and accommodate turbines reaching heights of up to 200 meters. Additionally, 20 dunams (20,000 sqm) were allocated for roads, eight dunams (8,000 sqm) for infrastructure, and one dunam (1,000 sqm) for use by Israeli military and police forces.
The opposition to this project stems from several significant factors. Firstly, the Syrian Druze community in the occupied Golan Heights has a long history of land dispossession and marginalization. Following the six-day war in 1967, most of the Syrian population in the Golan Heights was expelled to Syria, leaving behind only five villages. Since then, the Israeli government has implemented policies mirroring those imposed on Palestinians in 1948, including land confiscation, resource inequality, apartheid-like conditions, and police brutality.
The wind farm project aggravates the existing situation by obstructing the geographical contiguity.