April 25, 2010
Israel's Right to Exist as a Jewish Homeland
The U.S. regularly reiterates its support of Israel's security, but it says nothing about Israel's legal rights. These legal rights originated at the San Remo Conference, and the Resolution passed on April 25, 1920 is enshrined in international law. The commemoration of the ninetieth anniversary of this event will certainly open a new vista on the Middle East conflict.
Our calendars are strewn with special dates that link us to the past. In March we celebrated the two hundredth anniversary of Chopin's birth. Every Fourth of July, we celebrate Independence Day. Remembrance days are important, whether they pay homage to greatness or they unite people in national pride.
But there have been momentous events in recent history that remain unnoticed, if not entirely forgotten. One such event redrew the map of one of the most politically contentious regions of the planet, it shook the preexisting world order, it proclaimed the rebirth of a nation, and it marked the end of the longest foreign occupation in history. Yet few people have ever heard of it.
That event took place ninety years ago in the wake of World War One at the Italian resort town of San Remo. On April 25, 1920, after two days of intense discussions, prime ministers and high ranking diplomats of the victorious Allied powers signed the San Remo Resolution and sealed the destiny of the former Turkish possessions in the Middle East.
The Middle East has been a locus of legal misrepresentations and a cauldron of violence ever since, in part because this landmark Resolution, which initiated further agreements enshrined in international law, has seldom been publicized. An uninformed public allowed often poorly informed politicians to concoct implausible -- dare I say unlawful? -- peace plans, the failure of which is too obvious to ignore.
So on April 25, 2010, we should commemorate the ninetieth anniversary of the San Remo Conference and make the public aware of the crucial decisions that were made then and the effect these decisions should now have on the lands and peoples concerned.
In San Remo -- and for the first time in 1,800 years, since Roman times -- the geographical region known as "Palestine" acquired a legal identity. Even though the boundaries of Palestine were not precisely defined in San Remo, the prevailing idea was to draw them as close as possible to the historical boundaries of the ancient Jewish kingdoms of Israel and Judah. In that regard, the expression "from Dan to Beersheba" was introduced by Lloyd George, the British Prime Minister at the time, and it often appeared in subsequent documents.
By referring specifically to the Balfour Declaration of November 1917 -- which was essentially an expression of British foreign policy -- and by reproducing its wording literally, the San Remo Resolution entrenched the provisions of the Balfour Declaration in international law. Thus, the reconstitution of the Jewish National Home in Palestine received international recognition.
The legal title to Palestine was officially transferred from the League of Nations -- when Turkey was dispossessed of its rights to the region at the Paris Peace Conference a year earlier -- to the Jewish people, who became the national beneficiary under a mandate awarded to Britain, thereby designated as the trustee.
The transfer of title and the sovereignty of the Jewish people in Palestine remain binding in international law to this day. Similarly, equivalent national rights were conferred to the Arabs in both Syria/Lebanon and present-day Iraq under two other transitional mandates awarded to France and Britain, respectively. It should therefore be apparent that the legitimacy of the present Arab states of Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq derives from the same international law which reconstituted the Jewish nation in Palestine.
Besides fulfilling the national aspirations of the Jewish people (Zionism), the San Remo Conference also marked the end of the longest colonization in history. Whereas European powers extended their colonization in Africa, Asia, and the Americas for a period not exceeding four hundred years, Palestine has been occupied and colonized by a succession of foreign powers for about 1,900 years (Romans, Byzantines, Sassanid Persians, Arabs, Crusaders, Mameluks, and Ottoman Turks). This early episode of liberation, which preceded the global decolonization process by more than thirty years, should be welcome by all progressive minds.
The commemoration of the San Remo Conference on its ninetieth anniversary is a different kind of remembrance in that it primarily serves an educational purpose. In fact, the European Coalition for Israel, a non-Jewish European organization based in Brussels, is planning to do exactly that in San Remo on April 24-25, in a two-day official gathering at the very place where the event took place in 1920.
By bringing the San Remo Conference to the fore, the public will be better-informed, opinions will be more solidly founded, and decision-makers might revisit their geopolitical plans.