San Remo's Mandate: Israel's 'Magna Carta'

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JERUSALEM, Israel - This year marks the 91st anniversary of the resolution that transformed the Middle East and laid the groundwork for the formation of the modern state of Israel.

On April 25, 1920, delegations from the Allied nations that triumphed in World War I met in San Remo, Italy, to divide the Middle Eastern lands they had conquered.

That historical meeting transformed the Middle East because, for the first time in nearly 2,000 years, the world's nations called for the establishment of a Jewish homeland in the land that was then called Palestine.

That decision effectively answered a fundamental issue that still plagues the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks today: whether Israel is an occupying power or it has a rightful claim to the land.

Watch Gordon Robertson give a biblical perspective on Israel's claim to the land, following Chris Mitchell's report.

Dividing an Empire

In San Remo - England, France, Italy, and Japan, with the United States as an observer, divided the Ottomam Empire empire into three mandates: Iraq, Syria and Palestine.

Until its defeat in World War 1, the 400-year-old empire had spread itself throughout the Middle East. Now, France would oversee Syria, while Iraq and Palestine fell under Great Britain.

The resolution also included the Balfour Declaration, written by England's Lord Balfour in 1917. The declaration called for "the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people." One British diplomat, Lord Curzon, called it Israel's "Magna Carta."

Arab's Lion-Share, Israel's Niche

Last year, on the 90th anniversary of the signing of the San Remo resolution, Tomas Sandell of the European Coalition of Israel helped organize an historic gathering.

Click here to watch expanded interviews and more with participants from this historic event commemorating the signing of the San Remo resolution.

"Chaim Weizman said, at the time, you can say that the Israeli state was born on the 25th of April in San Remo because that was the significance of it," Sandell said.

Howard Grief said the resolution, which was adopted by the League of Nations, established several important precedents.

In his book, The Legal Foundation and Borders of Israel under International Law, Grief explains that the resolution gave the Jewish people exclusive legal and political rights in Palestine. It also gave the Arabs the same rights for the remainder of the Middle East.

"The Arabs got the lion's share….I mean they got Syria, which was subsequently divided between Syria and Lebanon," Grief said.

"They got all of Mesopotamia and all of Arabia. This is what Balfour himself said. 'Why are you complaining? You are getting all these lands and we're granting a niche - he called it a niche - to the Jewish people who were going to get Palestine," he said.

Immutable Law

Grief also explained that the 1920 San Remo resolution supersedes later U.N. resolutions.

"There is a doctrine in international law," Grief said. "Once you recognize a certain situation, the matter is executed. You can't change it."

"The U.N. General Assembly exceeded its authority, exceeded its jurisdiction. It did not have the power to divide the country," he said.

Settling Contested 'Settlements'

But what about all those contested Israeli "settlements" in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) that many people - including U.N. Secretary-general Ban Ki-moon - say are illegal?

"Settlements are covered in Article 6 of the mandate for Palestine," Eli Hertz, president of Myths and Facts, explained to conference participants.

"Again the legal international document of the mandate for Palestine and [it] clearly says that not only [do] the Jews have the right to settlement, but the world has the obligation to help them to settle," Hertz explained.

This legal right of the Jews to build in Judea and Samaria or in east Jerusalem neighborhoods is little understood in the world today.

Sandell said he hopes to remedy that problem.

"We feel that we have an historical duty to just bring the facts to the table," Sandell said. "Because we are here dealing with historical facts and this should be known and this should be taken into consideration in the public debate."


Watch More:

Watch expanded interviews with some of the participants in this historic event commemorating the 90th anniversary of the San Remo resolution: 

  • Tomas Sandell, the founding director of the European Coalition for Israel, helped organize the 90th anniversary event.  ECI seeks to education European leaders "about the complex realities of the conflict in the Middle East by acknowledging the right for Israel, as the only democracy in the region, to exist within secure borders."  Click here for more from Sandell.  
  • Eli Hertz is the president of Myths and Facts, a research organization focused much on the Middle East. Hertz has written a short pamphlet on this subject called "This Land is My Land: Mandate for Palestine, Legal Aspects of Jewish Rights," an excellent primer and succinct explanation of the legal foundation of the Jewish state. Click here for more from Hertz.
  • Salomon Benzimra is from Canadians for Israel's Legal Rights. Benzimra and Goldie Steiner of CILR played a pivotal role in organizing the anniversary. CILR believes "... that a just peace in the Middle-East cannot be achieved while crucial facts are ignored, hidden or distorted." Click here for more from Benzimra.
  • Danny Danon is the only member of Knesset from Israel to attend the anniversary of the signing of the San Remo Resolution. Click here to watch his message to a seminar the day before the anniversary.

--Originally aired July 11, 2010.

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