Today is June 28, 2014 which marks the 100 year anniversary of the outbreak of World War I, a global war centered in Europe that began in 1914 and lasted until November 1918. The total number of military and civilian casualties in World War I was over 37 million, ranking it among the deadliest conflicts in human history. WW I paved the way for major political changes. Four massive empires crumbled in its aftermath and were divided up into nation-states: the German, the Austro-Hungarian, the Russian and the Ottoman empires.
The fall of the 400 year-old Ottoman empire, which sided with Germany against the allies, created the possibility of fulfilling the aspirations of two ancient peoples who were deprived of independence for centuries: the Arab people and the Jewish people.
On December 11, 1917, which was the eve of Hanukkah, General Allenby led the British troops into Jerusalem. Allenby was hailed as the savior of the Jews, especially in light of the fact that one month earlier Britain had issued the Balfour Declaration.
However, there is a misconception that the Balfour Declaration was just a letter of intent, and not a binding legal document. The reason for this misconception is that most people are not aware of the San Remo Conference which took place on April 19, 1920, lasted for seven days and published its resolutions on April 25, 1920. These seven days laid the political foundation for the creation of the 22 Arab League States and the one and only Jewish State of Israel. The full text of the Balfour Declaration became an integral part of the San Remo resolution as a legal entity and the British Mandate for Palestine, thereby transforming it from a letter of intent into a legally-binding foundational document under international law.
Here is a short clip explaining the legal significance of the San Remo Conference:
Did the Arabs oppose the creation of a Jewish State at San Remo? The answer is a resounding NO! At that time they were focused on the creation of independent Arab states and had no objection to the establishment of a tiny Jewish state in Palestine. This was formalized in the Weizmann-Feisal agreement which led to the League of Nations recognizing the Land of Israel (then Palestine) as the homeland of the Jewish people.
Here is part of the text of the agreement (see link below for full text). Note that Feisal distinguishes “The Arab State” from “Palestine” which is understood to mean “The Jewish State”:
“His Royal Highness the Emir Feisal, representing and acting on behalf of the Arab Kingdom of Hejaz, and Dr. Chaim Weizmann, representing and acting on behalf of the Zionist Organization, mindful of the racial kinship and ancient bonds existing between the Arabs and the Jewish people, and realizing that the surest means of working out the consummation of their national aspirations, is through the closest possible collaboration in the development of the Arab State and Palestine, and being desirous further of confirming the good understanding which exists between them, have agreed upon the following articles…
The Arab State and Palestine in all their relations and undertakings shall be controlled by the most cordial goodwill and understanding and to this end Arab and Jewish duly accredited agents shall be established and maintained in their respective territories…
In the establishment of the Constitution and Administration of Palestine all such measures shall be adopted as will afford the fullest guarantees for carrying into effect the British Government’s Declaration of the 2nd of November, 1917 (the Balfour Declaration)…
All necessary measures will be taken to encourage and stimulate immigration of Jews into Palestine on a large scale, and as quickly as possible to settle Jewish immigrants upon the land through closer settlement and intensive cultivation of the soil. In taking such measures the Arab peasants and tenant farmers shall be protected in their rights, and shall be assisted in forwarding their economic development.”
In the following video you can watch first-hand testimony by one of the British diplomats who was actually in the negotiation rooms about how the Emir Faisal and Lawrence of Arabia both supported the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Israel, and how the document known as the Faisal-Weizmann Agreement came about:
At 2:30 watch how the Jewish Legion fought alongside the Arabs and British to capture the east bank of the Jordan river from the Ottomans in 1918.
At 4:30 watch Anwar Nusseibeh explain how Arabs in Palestine saw themselves as pan-Arabists who were part of Syria. They did not have any notion of an independent “Palestinian people” and no separate identity beyond pan-Arabism.
Emir Faisal, the sole recognized representative of the entire Arab people in 1918, fully supported the claim of the Jewish people to their historic homeland, while he had his eyes on the bigger prize: Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt (none of which were independent before WW I). In fact, very few of today’s nation-states existed before World-War I.
Let this sink in for a moment: before the San Remo conference there did not exist a single Arab independent nation state. Not one. All 22 Arab states that exist today (as part of the Arab League) became nation states either as a direct result of the San Remo conference, or much later. Therefore, the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state is exactly equal or greater to the legitimacy of any of the Arab nation states.
Indeed, World-War I is considered the dawn of most modern nation-states. Four massive empires crumbled in its aftermath and were divided up into nation-states: The German, Austro-Hungarian, Russian and Ottoman empires. At that time, nations that had aspirations for self-determination stepped forward and presented their claims for independence to the League of Nations (the precursor to the United Nations). The Arabs stepped up as one single unified nation, and the Jews stepped up as another.
As you can see from eyewitness reports in the video above, the Arabs of Palestine viewed themselves as Syrian and as pan-Arabs. They had no aspirations for independence. Only later, once they secured all the rest of their Arab lands, did the Arabs change their story and put the Land of Israel under the microscope, redefining the conflict as Jews against Palestinian Arabs within that small territory, rather than what it originally was: returning a small patch of Ottoman empire land to its rightful owners, the Jewish people, while dividing 99% of the land among the Arabs.
The results of the Paris (1918) and San Remo (1920) conferences of the League of Nations was the Mandate for Palestine, granted to the British government for the sole purpose of establishing a Jewish homeland in the Land of Israel:
“Whereas recognition has been given to the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country.”
There are two key legal points in the above statement (as pointed out by Dore Gold in the video at the end of the blog) which establish the Jewish people as the indigenous people of Palestine, and shatter the “Zionists are Colonialists” fallacy.
1. It recognizes that the “historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine” is a pre-existing right (“grounds for“), not a newly-granted right.
2. It calls for “reconstituting” their national home, not building a new national home from scratch.
In 2003, Attorney Howard Grief brought the minutes of the San Remo Conference and the text of the San Remo Resolution out of the dusty British Archives. Grief addresses the 90th Anniversary commemoration of the San Remo Conference about the importance the Conference and Resolution as the legal foundation of the modern State of Israel under International Law.
The Mandate as issued in San Remo in 1920 included both sides of the Jordan river for the Jewish home.
It was unanimously adopted by the League of Nations (thereby ratifying the Balfour Declaration as much more than a British document).
In 1922, with no international debate or resolution, Britain unilaterally exercised Article 25 of the Mandate, cut off the east bank of Palestine and named it Trans-Jordan. This was not based an any explicit League of Nations decision or any explicit mandate to create an Arab state in Jordan.
Trans-Jordan, more than 3 times the size of Israel, was handed over by Britain to about 300,000Hashemite nomadic beduins, who originated in Saudi Arabia, in gratitude for their help against the Ottomans (The Arab Revolt as romanticized in the film Lawrence of Arabia).
Furthermore, Britain did not allow any Jews to settle or buy lands in Trans-Jordan, but allowed Arabs to continue and increase the rate of settling in Palestine. Thus, Jordan became the only country in the history of the world that was judenrein by design, and Palestine (from the Jordan to the Sea) became the only area in dispute between Jews and Arabs. Here is the text of Article 25, and you can see that there was no intention there to create a permanent Arab state in Jordan:
“In the territories lying between the Jordan river and the eastern boundary of Palestine as ultimately determined, the Mandatory shall be entitled, with the consent of the Council of the League of Nations, to postpone or withhold application of such provisions of this mandate as he may consider inapplicable to the existing local conditions, and to make such provision for the administration of the territories as he may consider suitable to those conditions”
“Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled. That the United States of America favors the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which should prejudice the civil and religious rights of Christian and all other non-Jewish communities in Palestine, and that the holy places and religious buildings and sites in Palestine shall be adequately protected.” .
On September 21, 1922, President Warren G. Harding signed the joint resolution of approval to establish a Jewish National Home in Palestine. For more details, please see this link.
The formal recognition of Israel as the Jewish national home became binding international law not in 1947 or 1948, but in 1920, when the resolutions of the San Remo conference were included as part of the Treaty of Sèvres (August 1920), and were adopted and signed unanimously by all 51 countries of the League Of Nations:
The High Contracting Parties agree to entrust, by application of the provisions of Article 22, the administration of Palestine, within such boundaries as may be determined by the Principal Allied Powers, to a Mandatory to be selected by the said Powers. The Mandatory will be responsible for putting into effect the declaration originally made on November 2, 1917, by the British Government, and adopted by the other Allied Powers, in favour of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.
Here is one more video that explains in more detail why the San Remo resolution of 1920 is even more important than the UN partition plan of 1947:
You can find more detailed information about the San Remo conference and the legal foundations of Israel as the Jewish homeland at Eli Hertz’s excellent website: http://www.mythsandfacts.org/. This includes a printable PDF and a PowerPoint Presentation which you can use to present this material.
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122 THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OF INTERNATIONAL LAW FRANCO-BRITISH CONVENTION ON CERTAIN POINTS CONNECTED WITH THE MANDATES FOR SYRIA AND THE LEBANON, PALESTINE AND MESOPOTAMIA * Signed at Paris, December 28, 1920
The British and French Governments, respectively represented by the
undersigned Plenipotentiaries, wishing to settle completely the problems
raised by the attribution to Great Britain of the mandates for Palestine and
Mesopotamia and by the attribution to France of the mandate over Syria
and the Lebanon, all three conferred by the Supreme Council at San Remo,
have agreed on the following provisions: —
The boundaries between the territories under the French mandate of Syria
and the Lebanon on the one hand and the British mandates of Mesopotamia
and Palestine on the other are determined as follows: —
On the east, the Tigris from Jeziret-ibn-Omar to the boundaries of the
former vilayets of Diarbeki/r and Mosul.
On the south-east and south, the aforesaid boundary of the former vilayets
southwards as far as Roumelan Koeui; thence a line leaving in the territory
under the French mandate the entire basin of the western Kabur and passing
in a straight line towards the Euphrates, which it crosses at Abu Kemal,
thence a straight line to Imtar to the south of Jebul Druse, then a line to the
south of Nasib on the Hedjaz Railway, then a line to Semakh on the Lake of
Tiberias, traced to the south of the railway, which descends towards the lake
and parallel to the railway. Deraa and its environs will remain in the terri-
tory under the French mandate; the frontier will in principle leave the
valley of the Yarmuk in the territory under the French mandate, but will be
drawn as close as possible to the railway in such a manner as to allow the con-
struction in the valley of the Yarmuk of a railway entirely situated in the
territory under the British mandate. At Semakh the frontier will be fixed in
such a manner as to allow each of the two High Contracting Parties to con-
struct and establish a harbour and railway station giving free access to the
Lake of Tiberias.
On the west, the frontier will pass from Semakh across the Lake of Tiberias
to the mouth of the Wadi Massadyie. It will then follow the course of this
river upstream, and then the Wadi Jeraba to its source. From that point it
will reach the track from El Kuneitra to Banias at the point marked Skek,
thence it will follow the said track, which will remain in the territory under
the French mandate as far as Banias. Thence the frontier will be drawn west-
wards as far as Metullah, which will remain in Palestinian territory. This
portion of the frontier will be traced in detail in such a manner as to ensure
for the territory under the French mandate easy communication entirely
1 British Parliamentary Command Papers, Misc. No. 4 (1921).
OFFICIAL DOCUMENTS 123
within such territory with the regions of Tyre and Sidon, as well as continuity
of road communication to the west and to the east of Banias.
From Metullah the frontier will reach the watershed of the valley of the
Jordan and the basin of the Litani. Thence it will follow this watershed
southwards. Thereafter it will follow in principle the watershed between the
Wadis Farah-Houroun and Kerkera, which will remain in the territory under
the British mandate, and the Wadis El Doubleh, El Aioun and Es Zerka,
which will remain in the territory under the French mandate. The frontier
will reach the Mediterranean Sea at the port of Ras-el-Nakura, which will
remain in the territory under the French mandate.
A commission shall be established within three months from the signature
of the present convention to trace on the spot the boundary line laid down in
article 1 between the French and British mandatory territories. This com-
mission shall be composed of four members. Two of these members shall be
nominated by the British and French Governments respectively, the two
others shall be nominated, with the consent of the mandatory Power, by the
local Governments concerned in the French and British mandatory terri-
In case any dispute should arise in connection with the work of the com-
mission, the question shall be referred to the Council of the League of Nations
whose decision shall be final.
The final reports by the commission shall give the definite description of
the boundary as it has been actually demarcated on the ground; the necessary
maps shall be annexed thereto and signed by the commission. The reports,
with their annexes, shall be made in triplicate; one copy shall be deposited in
the archives of the League of Nations, one copy shall be kept by the manda-
tory, and one by the other Government concerned.
The British and French Governments shall come to an agreement regard-
ing the nomination of a commission, whose duty it will be to make a prelimi-
nary examination of any plan of irrigation formed by the Government of the
French mandatory territory, the execution of which would be of a nature to
diminish in any considerable degree the waters of the Tigris and Euphrates
at the point where they enter the area of the British mandate in Mesopotamia.
In virtue of the geographic and strategic position of the island of Cyprus,
off the Gulf of Alexandretta, the British Government agrees not to open any
negotiations for the cession or alienation of the said island of Cyprus without
the previous consent of the French Government.
124 THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OP INTERNATIONAL LAW
1. The French Government agrees to facilitate by a liberal arrangement
the joint use of the section of the existing railway between the Lake of Tibe-
rias and Nasib. This arrangement shall be concluded between the railway
administrations of the areas under the French and British mandates respec-
tively as soon as possible after the coming into force of the mandates for
Palestine and Syria. In particular the agreement shall allow the administra-
tion in the British zone to run their own trains with their own traction and
train crews over the above section of the railway in both directions for all
purposes other than the local traffic of the territory under the French man-
date. The agreement shall determine at the same time the financial, ad-
ministrative and technical conditions governing the running of the British
trains. In the event of the two administrations being unable to reach an
agreement within three months from the coming into force of the two above-
mentioned mandates, an arbitrator shall be appointed by the Council of the
League of Nations to settle the points as to which a difference of opinion
exists and immediate effect shall be given as far as possible to those parts of
the agreement on which an understanding has already been reached.
The said agreement shall be concluded for an indefinite period and shall be
subject to periodical revision as need arises.
2. The British Government may carry a pipe line along the existing railway
track and shall have in perpetuity and at any moment the right to transport
troops by the railway.
3. The French Government consents to the nomination of a special com-
mission, which, after having examined the ground, may readjust the above-
mentioned frontier line in the valley of the Yarmuk as far as Nasib in such a
manner as to render possible the construction of the British railway and pipe
line connecting Palestine with the Hedjaz Railway and the valley of the
Euphrates, and running entirely within the limits of the areas under the
British mandate. It is agreed, however, that the existing railway in the Yar-
muk valley is to remain entirely in the territory under the French mandate.
The right provided by the present paragraph for the benefit of the British
Government must be utilised within a maximum period of ten years.
The above-mentioned commission shall be composed of a representative of
the French Government and a representative of the British Government, to
whom may be added representatives of the local Governments and experts as
technical advisers to the extent considered necessary by the British and
4. In the event of the track of the British railway being compelled for
technical reasons to enter in certain places the territory under French man-
date, the French Government will recognise the full and complete extra-
territoriality of the sections thus lying in the territory under the French man-
date, and will give the British Government or its technical agents full and
easy access for all railway purposes.
OFFICIAL DOCUMENTS 125
5. In the event of the British Government making use of the right
mentioned in paragraph 3 to construct a railway in the valley of the Yarmuk,
the obligations assumed by the French Government in accordance with
paragraphs 1 and 2 of the present article will determine three months after
the completion of the construction of the said railway.
6. The French Government agrees to arrange that the rights provided for
above for the benefit of the British Government shall be recognised by the
local Governments in the territory under the French mandate.
It is expressly stipulated that the facilities accorded to the British Govern-
ment by the preceding articles imply the maintenance for the benefit of
France of the provisions of the Franco-British Agreement of San Remo re-
The French and British Governments will put no obstacle in their respec-
tive mandatory areas in the way of the recruitment of railway staff for any
section of the Hedjaz Railway.
Every facility will be given for the passage of employees of the Hedjaz
Railway over the British and French mandatory areas in order that the work-
ing of the said railway may be in no way prejudiced.
The French and British Governments agree, where necessary, and in
eventual agreement with the local Governments, to conclude an arrangement
whereby the stores and railway material passing from one mandatory area to
another and intended for the use of the Hedjaz Railway will not for this rea-
son be submitted to any additional customs dues and will be exempted so far
as possible from customs formalities.
Experts nominated respectively by the Administrations of Syria and
Palestine shall examine in common within six months after the signature of
the present convention the employment, for the purposes of irrigation and
the production of hydro-electric power, of the waters of the Upper Jordan
and the Yarmuk and of their tributaries, after satisfaction of the needs of the
territories under the French mandate.
In connection with this examination the French Government will give its
representatives the most liberal instructions for the employment of the sur-
plus of these waters for the benefit of Palestine.
In the event of no agreement being reached as a result of this examination,
these questions shall be referred to the French and British Governments for
To the extent to which the contemplated works are to benefit Palestine, the
Administration of Palestine shall defray the expenses of the construction of
126 THE AMEEICAN JOURNAL OF INTERNATIONAL LAW
all canals, weirs, dams, tunnels, pipe lines and reservoirs or other works of a
similar nature, or measures taken with the object of reafforestation and the
management of forests.
Subject to the provisions of Articles 15 and 16 of the mandate for Palestine,
of Articles 8 and 10 of the mandate for Mesopotamia, and of Article 8 of the
mandate for Syria and the L9
The phrase “in Palestine”, another expression found in the Balfour Declaration that generated much controversy, referred to the whole country, including both Cisjordan and Transjordan. It was absurd to imagine that this phrase could be used to indicate that only a part of Palestine was reserved for the future Jewish National Home, since both were created simultaneously and used interchangeably, with the term “Palestine” pointing out the geographical location of the future independent Jewish state. Had “Palestine” meant a partitioned country with certain areas of it set aside for Jews and others for Arabs, that intention would have been stated explicitly at the time the Balfour Declaration was drafted and approved and later adopted by the Principal Allied Powers. No such allusion was ever made in the prolonged discussions that took place in fashioning the Declaration and ensuring it international approval.
There is therefore no juridical or factual basis for asserting that the phrase "in Palestine" limited the establishment of the Jewish National Home to only a part of the country. On the contrary, Palestine and the Jewish National Home were synonymous terms, as is evidenced by the use of the same phrase in the second half of the Balfour Declaration which refers to the existing non-Jewish communities "in Palestine", clearly indicating the whole country. Similar evidence exists in the preamble and terms of the Mandate Charter.
The San Remo Resolution of 1920 on Palestine combined the Balfour Declaration of 1917 as international treaty with Article 22 of the League Covenant. This meant that the general provisions of Article 22 applied to the Jewish people exclusively, who would set up their home and state in all of Palestine. There was no intention to apply Article 22 to the Arabs of the country, as was mistakenly concluded by the Palestine Royal Commission which relied on that article of the Covenant as the legal basis to justify the partition of Palestine, apart from the other reasons it gave. The proof of the applicability of Article 22 to the Jewish people, including not only those in Palestine at the time, but those who were expected to arrive in large numbers in the future, is found in the Smuts Resolution, which became Article 22 of the Covenant. It specifically names Palestine as one of the countries to which this article would apply. There was no doubt that when Palestine was named in the context of Article 22, it was linked exclusively to the Jewish National Home, as set down in the 1917 Balfour Declaration, a fact everyone was aware of at the time, including the representatives of the Arab national movement, as evidenced by the agreement between Emir Feisal and Dr. Chaim Weizmann dated January 3, 1919 as well as an important letter sent by the Emir to future US Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter dated March 3, 1919. In that letter, Feisal characterized as “moderate and proper” the Zionist proposals presented by Nahum Sokolow and Weizmann to the Council of Ten at the Paris Peace Conference on February 27, 1919, which called for the development of all of Palestine into a Jewish commonwealth with extensive boundaries. The argument later made by Arab leaders that the 1917 Balfour Declaration and the Mandate for Palestine were incompatible with Article 22 of the Covenant is totally undermined by the fact that the Smuts Resolution – the precursor of Article 22 – specifically included Palestine within its legal framework.
The San Remo Resolution of 1920 on Palestine became Article 95 of the Treaty of Sevres in 1920 which was intended to end the war with Turkey, but though this treaty was never ratified by the Turkish National Government of Kemal Ataturk, the Resolution retained its validity as an independent act of international law when it was inserted into the Preamble of the Mandate for Palestine and confirmed by 52 states. The San Remo Resolution of 1920 is the base document upon which the Mandate was constructed and to which it had to conform. It is therefore the pre-eminent foundation document of the State of Israel and the crowning achievement of pre-state Zionism. It has been accurately described as the Magna Carta of the Jewish people. It is the best proof that the whole country of Palestine and the Land of Israel belong exclusively to the Jewish people under international law.
The Mandate for Palestine implemented both the 1917 Balfour Declaration and Article 22 of the League Covenant, i.e. the San Remo Resolution of 1920. All four of these acts were building blocks in the legal structure that was created for the purpose of bringing about the establishment of an independent sovereign Jewish state. The Balfour Declaration of 1917; in essence stated the principle or object of a Jewish state. The San Remo Resolution of 1920 gave it the stamp of international law. The Mandate furnished all the details and means for the realization of the sovereign Jewish state. As noted, Britain’s chief obligation as Mandatory, Trustee and Tutor was the creation of the appropriate political, administrative and economic conditions to secure the sovereign Jewish state. All 28 articles of the Mandate were directed to this objective, including those articles that did not specifically mention the Jewish National Home. The Mandate for Palestine created a right of return for the Jewish people to Palestine and the right to establish settlements and communities on the land throughout the country of Palestine in order to create the envisaged Jewish state. YJ Draiman