San Remo Conference

Salomon Benzimra, co-founder of Canadians for Israel’s Legal Rights, explains the rights of the Jewish State to the entire Land of Israel according to international law, based on the San Remo Conference of 1920.

san remo

Salomon Benzimra, co-founder of Canadians for Israel’s Legal Rights, explains the full legal rights of the Jewish State to the Land of Israel based on the San Remo Conference of 1920.

The Middle East keeps making the headlines. The carnage in Syria, the weekly violence in Iraq, the political instability in Lebanon, the uncertainty in Turkey, the threat posed by Iran in the Region – all seem to take a backseat to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the perennial pursuit of peace. US Secretary of State John Kerry’s initiative was the most recent of many failed attempts since 1993.

When the search for a resolution of a complex problem –almost predictably and repeatedly since its inception – hits a stalemate, the smart thing to do is to revisit the fundamentals, in this case long forgotten in the past 20 years of diplomatic frenzy. A look back at recent history is essential.

San Remo Conference Drafted Map of the Middle East

Ninety­-four years ago today, on April 25, 1920, the Supreme Council of the Allied Powers (Britain, France, Italy, Japan and the US as an observer) gathered in San Remo, Italy, and ruled on the disposition of the Middle East territories previously held by the defeated Ottoman Empire. They first listened to the claims of both the Zionist Organization [later renamed the World Zionist Organization], headed by Chaim Weizmann, and the Arab Delegation, headed by Emir Faisal, at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919.

san remo conference

After the San Remo Conference, the Jewish National Home unquestionably included all the territory west of the Jordan River.

The San Remo Conference was a momentous event in that it drafted the map of the Middle East as we know it today: Over 97% of the land was adjudicated to the Arabs, which resulted in the creation of the new, exclusively Arab states of Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and, later, Jordan. The geographic region known as Palestine was designated as the Jewish National Home, to be reconstituted there in consideration of the historical connection of the Jewish people to the land.

National rights were exclusively granted to the Jewish people collectively, while the non-Jewish people of Palestine were granted individual civil and religious rights.

These were the terms used in the San Remo Resolution, which were later confirmed in the Mandate for Palestine (1922) and approved by the 52 members of the League of Nations in order to highlight the preexisting rights of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel, hitherto known as Palestine since Roman times. These documents, and the ensuing Franco-British and Anglo-American treaties that were separately signed in the early 1920s, are based on the Mandates System stipulated in the Covenant of the League of Nations and are therefore binding to this day under international law.

The acquired rights of the Jewish people to the land west of the Jordan River are preserved in the UN Charter and in the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, even though the Mandate for Palestine expired in 1948 when the State of Israel was proclaimed.

The usual detractors of Israel regularly ignore, dismiss or strongly reject the validity of the provisions listed above. But their arguments ring hollow.

San Remo Conference

Jewish Quarter in east Jerusalem, 1898. (Encyclopedia of Israel in Pictures, published 1952)

They claim that the Supreme Council of the Allied Powers had no authority to create a new political entity in Palestine. They forget that in the wake of World War One, the same Supreme Council created new countries in Europe (Yugoslavia, Hungary, the Baltic States and a reborn Poland) on the ashes of the German and Austro-Hungarian Empires.

They also claim that a Jewish home in Palestine was not intended to include all of Palestine. Had they read the full text of the Mandate for Palestine, they would find 15 instances of the phrase “in Palestine” – which leaves no doubt as to the inclusion of the entire territory.

San Remo Conference Settled Territorial Claims

These same detractors claim that the purpose of the “Jewish National Home” mentioned in the Mandate was not meant to lead to a sovereign Jewish state. Here again, they are most selective in their singling out of Israel; not only were all the neighboring Arab states created through the same Mandates System, but Mandated territories in far less developed areas in Africa and elsewhere also became sovereign states in the second half of the 20th century. Cameroon, Togo, Benin, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Namibia, Papua New Guinea and Samoa are a few examples.

San Remo Conference

Jewish millinery shop in east Jerusalem, 1898. (American Colony, Photo Dept.)

But among all Israel’s detractors, the Palestinian Authority has demonstrated a particular animosity towards San Remo. A document issued on April 25, 2011, by WAFA, the official press agency of the Palestinian Authority, claims that “[San Remo] is the root of all Palestinian catastrophes and sufferings,” and it bashes the San Remo Resolution as the work of “Zionist gangs.”

Now is the time to give precedence to factual evidence over biased opinion. On this 94th anniversary, we should remember that territorial claims on Palestine were finally settled at the San Remo Conference.