San Remo Centenary

San Remo Conference: Eretz-Israel is recognised as the land of the Jews

Edda Fogarollo - 25 April 2020

The Peace Conference and the Mandate system
The Peace Conference, held in Paris on 18 January 1919 to reorganise the world situation after the war and redistribute the territories in the Middle East after the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, is remembered for the first establishment in history of a system of Mandate regimes in order to circumvent Woodrow Wilson’s anti-colonialism.

The Zionists were given the right to take part at the negotiation table. And on 23 February 1919 Chaim Weizmann, Sokolow Nahum and other Zionist delegation members were given a chance to speak. Sokolow exhorted the representatives to acknowledge the Jews’ right to rebuild their national homeland in Palestine. Referring to the Balfour Declaration, he also requested that the region be set under Britain’s Mandate and under the supervision of the League of Nations.

Thanks to the Mandate system, Palestine shifted from imperial Ottoman rule to the new British administration, a new form of government that was intended to be different from the old colonial system. Regrettably, Britain substantially deviated from the League directives and inflicted significant damage on the Zionist cause in the process. Another characteristic of the Mandates was that these were intended as temporary governments in light of a solution to the prevailing nationalism that had caused the Great War.

Proposals for the Peace Conference
The Peace Conference, having taken notice of the dispositions and claims of the Jewish people with regard to Palestine, decided:

  1. That the historic right of the Jewish people to the re-establishment of its National Home in Palestine be recognised for all times as incontestable and that all possible assistance be given to facilitate the achievement of this object;
  2. That, with this ultimate purpose in view, the country of Palestine, within its historical boundaries to be defined by a special Commission, shall at present be entrusted to the care of Great Britain which, in its capacity of Trustee, shall place the country under such conditions – political, administrative, economic etc – as will lead to the steady enlargement and development of the Jewish settlements, so that it may ultimately develop into a Jewish Commonwealth on national lines; it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which will prejudice the civil and religious right of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine or the rights and political status en- joyed by Jews in any other country.

Nehemia de Lieme, chairman of the Jewish National Fund (KKL), sent a telegram to Nahum Sokolow on 12 April 1921 to purchase new land in Palestine following the authorisation given at the San Remo Conference of 1920. ‘After the San Remo Conference (April 1920), which allocated Palestine under British Mandate, and with the establishment of a civil government in the country (July 1920), the purchase of lands that was suspended under military control was made possible again.

Large tracts of land in the Jezreel Valley, untouched by the war and that we wished to purchase in 1914, are now being offered for sale to Yehoshua Chankin in summer 1920. After the J.C.A. (Jewish Colonisation Association) refused the offer, the proposal has been addressed to the representatives of the Keren Kayemeth in Eretz-Israel.’

San Remo Conference: Eretz-Israel is recognised as the land of the Jews
And so after the Great War, the Zionist cause received international legal recognition and Eretz-Israel was declared, for the first time since the diaspora, as the land where the Jews could rebuild their national home.

This was first made possible at the San Remo Conference held between 18 and 26 April 1920 which involved representatives of the conflict’s victorious nations: David Lloyd George (Great Britain), Alexandre Millerand (France), Francesco Nitti (Italy) and Keishiro Matsui, Japanese ambassador.

Weizmann also attended and anxiously waited for the Palestinian question to be discussed. In agreement with Article 22 (of the Covenant of the League of Nations that regulated the Mandates), inspired by Wilson’s 14 points (for the self-determination of peoples), it was decided that the Mandate for Palestine should be entrusted to Britain and that, in line with Article 6 of the same source, a national home should be established for the Jews in Palestine in accordance with the Balfour Declaration. This recognition was then reasserted on 24 July 1922 when the League of Nations confirmed through an international treaty the decisions taken at the San Remo Conference about the Mandate being entrusted to Britain – hence, binding it legally.

Britain maintained control over Palestine until 1947, shortly before the establishment of the State of Israel, with the delegation of Sir Herbert Samuel as High Commissioner. Unfortunately, however, only the initial phase of the Mandate was favourable to the Zionist movement and Jewish immigration (Aliyah) as British policy changed direction in a bid to appease Arab opponents.

In 1922 Colonial Secretary Churchill, despite being a self-declared Zionist, published a White Paper, also known as The Churchill Memorandum, limiting Jewish immigration to Palestine, hence breaking League of Nations provisions on the matter. Moreover, Churchill also decided in arbitrary fashion to divide Palestine into two parts – a geographical division which followed the course of the River Jordan: the area on the left bank of the river maintained the name of Palestine while the right bank became Arab territory named Transjordan, thereby eliminating a large part of the territory agreed by international treaty to be set aside for the creation of the Jewish national home.

This is an excerpt from ‘Towards the Establishment of the State of Israel’ by Edda Fogarollo. This book retraces the principal events, emotions, efforts, adversities and the protagonists who enabled the Jewish people to become a nation after a diaspora lasting for two hundred years.

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