Disaster Tourism at the Edge of the Golan Heights


A few weeks ago at a popular haunt for old men, writers and boozers in Damascus, I was talking with one well-traveled old man about the Golan Heights. Some weeks earlier I had visited Quneitra, the Golan’s capital, which fell to Israel in 1967.

The town was reportedly dynamited and dismantled by Israeli soldiers before their withdrawal following the October or Yom Kippur War. Removable fixtures down to light bulbs and any salvageable building materials were allegedly stripped from abandoned homes and sold to Israeli contractors. Bulldozers knocked down houses. The United Nations condemned in successive resolutions the “deliberate destruction and devastation” of Quneitra. Israel insisted the damage was caused by two wars and shelling from both sides; Syria downplayed any role of its own guns in the ruined shape of Quneitra.

“The whole thing was Henry Kissinger’s idea,” the old man said as he nibbled on a lettuce leaf between big glasses of whiskey. “Why else would the place be as it is today, 30 years later? He arranged for the Israelis to give it back to us, but they had to blow it up first, and the Syrians couldn’t ever rebuild it.”

Read the rest of my recent piece on visiting Quneitra on the Huffington Post.

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