San Remo: The Forgotten Milestone
By Salomon Benzimra, April 26th 2015
Ninety five years ago, prime ministers, ambassadors and other
dignitaries from Europe and America gathered in the Italian Riviera.
Journalists from around the world reported on the upcoming San Remo
Peace Conference and the great expectations the international
community placed on this event, just a year after the Paris Peace
Conference had settled the political map of Europe at the end of World
On Sunday, April 25, 1920, after hectic deliberation, the Supreme
Council of the Allied Powers (Great Britain, France, Italy, Japan and
the U.S. acting as an observer) adopted the San Remo Resolution -- a
500 word document which defined the future political landscape of the
Middle East out of the defunct Ottoman Empire.
This Resolution led to the granting of three Mandates, as defined in
Article 22 of the 1919 Covenant of the League of Nations. The future
states of Syria-Lebanon and Iraq emerged from two of these Mandates
and became exclusively Arab countries. But in the third Mandate, the
Supreme Council recognized the "historical connection of the Jewish
people to Palestine and the grounds for reconstituting their national
home in that country" while safeguarding the "civil and religious
rights" of the non-Jewish population.
Subsequently, the British limited the Jewish Homeland in Palestine to
the area west of the Jordan River and allowed eastern Palestine to be
gradually administered by the Hashemites. The territorial expansion
to the east eventually gave birth to the Kingdom of Transjordan, later
renamed Jordan in 1950.
The importance of the San Remo Conference with regard to Palestine
cannot be overstated:
For the first time in history, Palestine became a legal and political entity;
The Jewish people were recognized as the national beneficiary of the
trust granted to Britain in Palestine for the duration of the Mandate
-- a "sacred trust of civilization" as per the League Covenant;
The Balfour Declaration of 1917 -- which "viewed with favour" the
establishment of a Jewish National Home in Palestine -- was now to be
"put into effect"and thus became a binding act of international law;
The de jure sovereignty of Palestine was vested in the Jewish people,
though it was kept in abeyance until the Mandate expired in 1948;
The terms of the San Remo Resolution were included in the Treaty of
Sèvres and remained unchanged in the finally ratified Treaty of
Lausanne of 1923.
The Arabs received equivalent national rights in all the remaining
parts of the Middle East -- over 96% of the total area formerly
governed by the Ottoman Turks).
The San Remo Conference was hailed as a major historical milestone.
Celebrations were held throughout the world with tens of thousands of
people marching in London, New York and Toronto. But the Arabs of
Palestine, led by the Mufti of Jerusalem, were strongly opposed to any
form of national Jewish homeland: the first anti-Jewish riots erupted
in Jaffa just before the San Remo Conference convened -- a harbinger
of the violent Arab rejectionist stance that continues to threaten the
existence of Israel to this day.
While the Middle East peace process has been going on for over two
decades, it is astonishing that San Remo and the ensuing Mandate for
Palestine have hardly been mentioned. Is it deliberate? Is it a mere
omission? How could there be peace and reconciliation without
acknowledging fundamental historical and legal facts?
Middle-East diplomacy has often relied on "constructive ambiguity", a
concept earlier introduced by Henry Kissinger to keep the dialogue
open and avoid discussing core issues deemed problematic. In the
ongoing peace process, the ambiguity of language did not produce
constructive results. On the contrary, layer upon layer of
distortions and gross falsehoods piled up over the initial ambiguity
of "land for peace."
When the notion of "occupation" took root, it soon turned into
"illegal occupation", then "brutal oppression" and, finally,
"apartheid" which is a crime against humanity in international law.
Once corrupted language describes a distorted reality and the
distortion spreads, thought becomes corrupt and any resulting action
is bound to fail.
Commemorating the San Remo Conference should be more than a mere
remembrance. It enjoins us to consider the legal reach of the binding
decisions made in 1920 and to ensure that we do not entertain
incompatible positions when political expediency clashes with
unassailable rights enshrined in international law, namely the
acquired rights of the Jewish people in their ancestral land. No
wonder the Palestinian Authority -- intent on eliminating the "Zionist
entity," as spelled out in the PLO Charter -- abhors the provisions of
the San Remo Resolution, which they view as the root of a catastrophe
engineered by "Zionist gangs."
In reality, the San Remo Resolution and the ensuing clauses of the
Mandate for Palestine are akin to a treaty entered into and executed
by each and every one of the 52 member states of the League of
Nations, in addition to the United States which is bound by a separate
treaty with Great Britain, ratified in 1925.
So next time you hear about the "occupation of the West Bank" and its
supposedly "illegal settlements" -- an almost daily occurrence in the
discourse of the Palestinian Arabs and their supporters -- you should
remember that this territory, as the rest of Israel, was lawfully
restored to the Jewish people in 1920 and its legal title has been
internationally guaranteed and never revoked ever since. Any
negotiation toward achieving a lasting peace should be based on this
Last but not least, San Remo marks the end of the longest colonization
period in history. After 1,850 years of foreign occupation, oppression
and banishment by a succession of foreign powers (Romans, Byzantines,
Sassanid Persians, Arabs, Crusaders, Mameluks and Ottoman Turks), the
Nation of Israel was reborn in April 1920, thus paving the way for the
proclamation of the State of Israel 28 years later. This liberation
from foreign rule should normally be celebrated by all the progressive
elites who have traditionally supported every national freedom
movement. But it isn't so, for reasons that defy reason.
Most of these emails are posted on Shemittahrediscovered.blogspot.com