This week marked the 96th anniversary of the first international recognition of Jewish national rights in the Land of Israel – namely, the San Remo Conference.
The San Remo Conference was an international meeting of four of the leading Allied powers of World War I, known as the post-World War I Allied Supreme Council. Held in the Italian city of San Remo, it was attended by British Prime Minister David Lloyd George, French PM Alexandre Millerand, Italy’s Prime Minister Francesco Nitti and Japanese Ambassador K. Matsui.
Its resolution that a Jewish nation must be established in Palestine was confirmed by the League of Nations in 1922.
Following the fall of the Ottoman Empire as a result of World War I, it became necessary to determine how the lands formerly governed by the Ottoman Turks would be ruled. The precise borders of the territories were not specified, but regarding the Holy Land, known then as Palestine, the plan was clear, and the Allied leaders resolved as follows:
“The High Contracting Parties agree to entrust… 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 The Mandatory will be responsible for putting into effect the declaration originally made on November 8, 1917, by the British Government, and adopted by the other Allied Powers, in favour of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the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 (emphasis added), 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.”
The international community – the Allies in 1920, and the League of Nations in 1922 – thus officially recognized the national legal rights of the Jewish People in the Land of Israel. Even more significantly, these rights for the Arabs were specifically not recognized. The resolution stated that the “civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine” must be upheld – but specifically left out any mention of “political” or “national” Arab rights. Clearly, these were not a factor in the equation.
Furthermore, the resolution did mention “rights” and “political status” – but only of “Jews in any other country,” emphasizing that they must be upheld. In addition, the parallel League of Nations granted the Arabs political rights in four other mandates: Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and later Trans-Jordan.
Six years ago, on the 90th anniversary of the Conference, the European Coalition for Israel marked the date with educational seminars and a ceremony in the very house (Villa Devanche) in San Remo where the resolution was signed in 1920. It noted that San Remo essentially gave birth to the League of Nations’ "British Mandate for Palestine,” which laid down the Jewish legal right to settle anywhere in western Palestine between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. Later, the 51 member countries of the League of Nations unanimously approved the Jews’ historical connection with the Holy Land.
At the conclusion of the commemoration, a statement was released declaring that "such a seminal event as the San Remo Conference of 1920 has been forgotten or ignored by the community of nations, and that the rights it conferred upon the Jewish people have been unlawfully dismissed, curtailed and denied."
Middle East legal expert Eli Hertz, who headed one of the above seminars, said today, "Any attempt to negate the Jewish people's right to Palestine-Eretz-Israel, and to deny them access and control over the area designated for the Jewish people by the League of Nations, is a serious infringement of international law."