Yishai Fleisher, April 26, 2020

Photograph of President Truman in the Oval Office, evidently receiving a Menorah as a gift from the Prime Minister of Israel, David Ben-Gurion (center), and Abba Eban, the Ambassador of Israel to the United States.

One hundred years ago this week, the British Balfour Declaration — which recognized Jewish rights to the land of Israel — became international law.

The Allies, the countries that defeated the Ottoman Empire in World War I, gathered in San Remo, Italy in late April 1920 to carve up the Middle East. Basing their outlook on Woodrow Wilson's principle of self-determination, they set out to establish new would-be countries through a mentoring program called "mandates." The Arabs, now free of the Turks, would get Syria, Lebanon, and Mesopotamia (Iraq). The Jews would get "Palestine" (Palestine was a Jewish thing back then).

The language of the 1917 Balfour Declaration was put directly into the San Remo accords: "The Mandatory should be responsible for putting into effect the declaration originally made on November 2nd, 1917 by the Government of His Britannic Majesty, and adopted by the said Powers, in favor of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people."

This decision was soon unanimously ratified by 56 member states of the League of Nations, and later became part of the United Nations Charter, thus paving the way for the third Jewish commonwealth, reborn on its ancestral soil after 2000 years.

Yet this momentous occasion, on which the international community recognized and then ratified the inalienable right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel for the first time in modern history, is often forgotten. Instead, attention is diverted to the radio broadcast of the UN vote for Partition on Nov. 29, 1947, where the UN General Assembly voted in favor of a resolution adopting the UN Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) partition plan of Palestine into Jewish and Arab states and for which 33 states voted in favor, 13 against, and 10 abstained.

Legally speaking, the two events cannot be put on the same scale. The San Remo Accords were binding law, ratified by member states, which took quick effect. Even the United States, which was not a member of the League of Nations, took measures to recognize the accords.

Conversely, the UNSCOP Partition Plan was merely a non-binding resolution, voted on in the toothless General Assembly (not the Security Council), and was immediately rejected by the Arabs — in other words, the whole exercise of the partition plan vote was null and void.

The UN bundle narrative

The UN partition vote does have the distinction of being the immediate precursor to Israel's declaration of independence. While David Ben-Gurion and the Jewish Agency accepted the partition plan — ready to take what they could get for the Jewish people in the aftermath of the Holocaust — other Zionists rejected the plan outright as an abrogation of previous agreements. At the time, the UN resolution was instrumental, but that is a far cry from the portrayal of the UN partition vote as the foundational moment of Israel as a sovereign Jewish state.

So why does the empty UN partition resolution get so much play compared to the real law of the San Remo Accords? The answer lies in who is presenting the history — what they want Israeli policy to look like and what they want to say about Israel's legitimacy.

For those who wish to see a "two-state solution" implemented, the idea that Israel was created through the UN partition vote is an indispensable narrative. The logic is clear: If the UN gave birth to Israel, and that birth was within the partition framework, then that original vision of two states is the controlling rubric. Any deviation from partition/two-states is an act of imperialism, colonialism and occupation — words which UN-narrative folks use against Israel's presence in Judea and Samaria regularly.

Moreover, if the UN is the parent of the Jewish State, then under the principle of "Honor thy father and mother," Israel must kneel to the UN's many anti-Israel resolutions and declarations. The UN's admonitions that Israel is not democratic enough, that it has stolen land, that it abuses the Palestinians, and most centrally that it must "give back" land to create yet another Palestinian state, must be heeded.

In short, promoters of the UN narrative argue that Israel was born in the halls of the General Assembly and that the original vision of partition is its only legitimate path forward. It is not surprising therefore that two-state proponents are invariably UN-touters — cut from the same narrative cloth.

The liberals of San Remo

The San Remo narrative, however, is very different. For those who argue that San Remo is the international legal basis for the creation of Israel, the agreement stands for an unabashed recognition of historic Jewish rights in the land of Israel and a stated goal of reconstituting a Jewish commonwealth.

The text of the Mandate for Palestine (the 1922 document that put the resolutions of San Remo into practice) is straightforward: "Whereas recognition has thereby been given to the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country."

At the San Remo conference, delegates never contemplated giving "Palestine" to the Arabs — the absurd idea of taking Judea away from the Jews and creating an Arab state there. For the delegates, giving Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq to the Arabs and giving the Jews their historic and biblical land was equitable enough. This was in line with the Wilsonian "self-determination" doctrine — indigenous peoples would gain independence from former empires and govern themselves. Indeed, no one was about to give recognition to the imperialistic Islamic conquests of the 7th century, nor to the 400-year Ottoman domination that the Allies had just terminated.

The text of the Mandate is clear on the issue of land division: "The Mandatory shall be responsible for seeing that no Palestine [Jewish] territory shall be ceded or leased to, or in any way placed under the control of, the Government of any foreign Power."

Indeed, original Israel, as recognized by San Remo-crafted international law, was going to be a big Jewish state, surrounded by newly freed and even bigger Arab states. That was the vision.

And what about democracy?

The issue of democratic voting in the new Mandate states was not clearly defined at San Remo. However, the framers at the conference were well aware of what it would take to balance power in the region: The Jewish state would be Jewish by charter and not by majority rule.

The Mandate for Palestine states that "nothing should be done which might prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine," but does not mention national rights, which could potentially undo the Jewish character of the country in any given election. There was no intent to back an untenable, all-out participatory democracy.

But UN-touters cannot stomach the idea that Israel's core identity is Jewish, without the necessity of a Jewish majority. That is why they are always stressing the contrived "Jewish and Democratic" stipulation — so as to force the two values onto equal footing. In that line of thinking, Israel is not a Jewish state, but rather a democratic state that happens to house a lot of Jews.

However, since demography coupled with democracy could spell the end of the Jewish character of the state, their only viable solution is to shrink away from Arab populations and gerrymander the borders smaller and smaller until there are no Arabs left, only a perfect Jewish democracy on a very small parcel of land remains.

Indeed, the framers of San Remo foresaw the folly of such an approach.

The non-jihad Arab narrative

Anti-Zionist tendencies among Arabs were strong in the 1920s, but were not ubiquitous. At the time, there also existed a line of thinking among some Arab leaders which saw the process of Middle East self-determination as being a boon to all the indigenous people of the region — all the children of Abraham.

Two weeks before the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 — the prelude to the San Remo Accords — the Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann met with Emir Feisal, son of the Sharif of Mecca, and put an agreement to paper in which the Arabs would accept the tenets of the Balfour Declaration:

His Royal Highness the Emir Feisal, representing and acting on behalf of the Arab Kingdom of Hedjaz, and Dr. Chaim Weizmann, representing and acting on behalf of the Zionist Organization, mindful of the racial kinship and ancient bonds existing between the Arabs and the Jewish people, and realizing that the surest means of working out the consummation of their natural aspirations is through the closest possible collaboration...

A few weeks later Feisal wrote a letter to the future US Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter, a Zionist: "The Arabs, especially the educated among us, look with the deepest sympathy on the Zionist movement. Our deputation here in Paris is fully acquainted with the proposals submitted yesterday by the Zionist Organization to the Peace Conference, and we regard them as moderate and proper."

Since that time, much has been done to undermine the goodwill between Arabs and Jews as expressed by the Feisal-Weizmann dialogue. But hidden in the ashes are a few coals of this thinking among the Arabs of today. These Arab thinkers, who usually live in fear of jihadists, believe that Arabs have their 22 states on their tribal lands, and Jews their one state on their tribal land, and that mutual acceptance of these facts will avert needless war and bring about regional cooperation and then prosperity.

But the UN-partition narrative denies that Arabs could possibly accept a sovereign Israel in Judea and Samaria or that regional cooperation could come about without further partition. Instead, the UN types promulgate the belief that there is no possibility of peace without partition. Without saying it, they assert the jihadist position that the Arabs could never really accept a Jewish state in their midst and that large areas of the land of Israel must be Judenrein if there is ever to be a chance for peace.

Yet, after the 2005 Gaza disengagement, Israelis have seen clearly that surrendering land only leads to more violence and more demands. A smaller Israel is nothing but a weaker target.

Arab Palestine 1.0

There is yet another fundamental reason why UN-narrative folks wish to bury the story of San Remo: They don't want us to remember that an Arab Palestine was created in the '20s that should have satisfied Arab demands and made the Israel-Palestine conflict disappear before it began.

In the three years between San Remo and the League's ratification of the accords in 1923, the British utilized a legal loophole to strip away 77% of the mandate for a Jewish Palestine and gift it to the leaders of the Hashemite clan. This was the creation of Trans-Jordan, which was later renamed the Kingdom of Jordan.

For many years, we have been told by the UN proponents that there is no Middle East peace because there is no Arab Palestine. They want us to avert our eyes from the fact that the Kingdom of Jordan, created on the land originally intended for the Jewish state, is actually an Arab Palestine — but one that refuses to absorb the Palestinians.

Therefore, for the pro-Palestine camp, history must start in 1947, where a Jewish state was slated for partitioning as the UN gave birth to it. No one has to know that an Arab Palestine was created 20 years prior.

Deal of the century

We are in the era of the Trump administration's "deal of the century" — with Israeli sovereignty over the Jewish communities of Judea and Samaria slated to become a reality. And yet, for some, the goal of an Arab Palestinian state on Jewish land persists.

It would behoove us now to remember the original deal of the century — the San Remo Accords, signed exactly 100 years ago — which recognized and confirmed Jewish historical national rights to the land of Israel, and equitably divided up the Middle East into a strong Jewish state neighbored by strong Arab states. In that deal of the century, Israel was meant to be big, defensible and Jewish by charter and not by majority — and there were many Arabs ready to accept and respect it.

As we celebrate Israeli independence this year, let us cast off the contrived UN narrative in which Israel was born into the inevitability of two states. One hundred years ago, the framers of San Remo laid down common-sense principles, that with implementation, can still become the real deal of the century.

Editor's Addendum:

These are some of the comments that added useful information.

Phillip Nagle

From day one, the British ignored the reason for the mandate. First, they gave the portion of the mandate east of the Jordan River to an Arabian satrap who had no connection to the area. Next, they severely limited Jewish immigration while importing masses of Arabs from Egypt, including Yassir Arafat. Finally, they actively tried to destroy the nascent nation of Israel by turning over important military and strategic positions to the Arabs, arming the Arab nations while blockading arms to Israel and allowing the army of Transjordan (now Jordan) to be led by British officers. Britain was one of only three nations to recognize Jordan's illegal annexation of Judea and Samaria. It was a sad day for the Jewish people when that evil empire was given the Palestine Mandate.

VJ Draiman

The truth — not the fantasy — is that there was never an independent, sovereign Arab state called Palestine.

Israel is "the only nation in the world that is governing itself in the same territory, under the same name, and with the same religion and same language as it did 3,000 years ago."

Jerusalem was never the capital of any Arab polity in all of recorded history. Only one people has ever made Jerusalem its capital and only one people ever established their indigenous ancestral and biblical homeland between East of the River Jordan and West to the Mediterranean Sea: the Jews.

Israel was reconstituted in 1920 by the April 1920 San Remo Treaty which was confirmed by the August 1920 Treaty of Sevres Article 95 and the Treaty of Lausanne, also by the January 1919 Faisal Weitzmann Agreement. The Arabs received at the same time over 6 million sq. miles (13 million km.) of territory with a wealth of oil reserves and the Jewish State was to receive 46,300 sq. miles which is Palestine. In the years before Israel was formally reconstituted and declared sovereign in 1948, the world referred to its Jewish residents as Palestinians. Indeed, the Palestinian military units fighting with the British Army in World War Two were Jewish to the man and woman. Few, if any, Arabs or Muslims fought against the Axis powers during that war and indeed many Arabs served in SS units; often willing collaborators with the Germans in murdering Jewish communities in the Balkans and elsewhere.

Remember, the word Palestine was the name the Romans renamed Israel and also named Jerusalem Aelia Capitolina. The Mandate for Palestine over the territory was granted under international law and treaty by the League of Nations in 1920 to Great Britain as trustee with the express duty and obligation of re-establishing within it a Jewish homeland exclusively for the Jewish people as agreed to in international treaties executed after WWI.

At that time, the Palestine Mandate covered all of what is Israel — including Judea and Samaria, or what is erroneously called the West Bank — and present day Jordan.

What so many in the media forget, if they ever knew, is that after the Ottoman Empire was dismantled by the victorious Allies, France and Britain, at the end of World War One, many new Arab states were created on over 6 million square miles (13 million sq. km.) with a wealth of oil reserves and Palestine was reserved exclusively for the Jewish people as a Jewish homeland under international law and treaty. (Napoleon in 1799 in a letter to the Jewish community in Israel Pomised to give the Jwish people its land, since it belong to the Jewish people. But Napoleon lost the battle in Acco and his promise was never came to fruition.).

But Britain violated international treaties, thus, it reneged on its duty and obligation to the Jews and tore away four fifths of the Mandate territory in 1922 — that is all the land east of the Jordan River — and arbitrarily gave it away as a new Arab State to the Hashemite Bedouin tribe and the Arab/Palestinians. Immediately Jews were expelled their assets confiscated and were forbidden to live in what became Trans-Jordan and eventually the Kingdom of Jordan in 1946: An early example of ethnic cleansing and Arab apartheid. All Jewish property East of the Jordan River was confiscated and any Jews expelled.

The borders of the Mandate for Palestine were revised by the British as eventually determined; Jordan (which is the Arab/Palestinian State) East of the Jordan River as the new Arab/Palestinian state taking away over 77% of Jewish territory and Israel was left with everything West of the Jordan River including Jerusalem and Golan Heights.

Interestingly, Arabs and their leaders had rejected any notion of a separate Arab Palestinian identity. For them, Palestine was merely a part of Greater Syria and the Arabs were indistinct from their neighbors. Indeed, the Syrian dictator, Assad, still plots for the return of Jordan, Israel and the disputed territories.

As far as Palestine was concerned to those Arab absentee landlords of the early years of the 20th century, living in the fleshpots of Cairo, Damascus and Beirut, the land was worthless: desolate, barren and malarial infested.

Then the Jewish pioneers returning in the late 19th century began to purchase the wasted and barren land at exorbitant prices — much higher than fertile land in Iowa and Idaho — drained the swamps and redeem again the ancestral ancient beloved Jewish homeland.

Jewish development of the centuries old desolate and neglected land, restored in familial love through blood, sweat and tears, ironically these brought into the territory hundreds of thousands of illegal Arab aliens who found livelihoods that were unavailable in the stagnant and corrupt neighboring Arab societies.

The British authorities invariably turned a blind eye to the flood of hundred of thousands Arab Illegals seeing in them a stick to beat the Jewish residents. Herein lays the false genesis of the present day Arab claim to all the land and their descendant's stated threat to extirpate any and all Jewish life within its borders. The British as trustee for the Jewish people gave away without authority land to the Arabs in Israel.

So many well-meaning people in the West, as well as latent anti-Semites, have fallen hook, line and sinker for the fabrication, delusion and myth of an Arab homeland called Palestine. So many people now believe the false and deceptive claim by the well-funded Arab deceptive propaganda machine that the Jews came and stole it, which is blatantly false.

But though it sounds affecting and no doubt to the liberal mind particularly emotional with all the tugging of the heart strings that it implies, it is still an absolute lie just like the weed that can never be fully uprooted.

For so many people who are either ignorant or hard hearted towards the Jewish state, they are unaware that the Jews were the aboriginal and remaining indigenous inhabitants for two millennia before the Muslim religion was created and Muslim armies swarmed out of Arabia with a Koran in one hand and a sword in the other to occupy vast territories in the name of Allah, while beheading some of the males, raping the women and taking them as slaves. The pity is that the bible as history is there for all to read. Sadly, so many ignore what is written.

The Arabs have a spread of territory which is over 13 million square kilometers with a wealth of oil reserves in the Middle East and into North Africa (the Maghreb). Israel's territory is barely 21,000 square kilometers (it was suppose to be 120,000 sq. km. all of Palestine) and may soon be reduced further in violation of international law and treaties and the Faisal-Weizmann agreement of January 3, 1919, which agreed that all of Palestine is allocated to the Jewish people; if the Jewish biblical heartland of Judea and Samaria is torn from it to create in its midst a terror state called Arab-Palestine: the 23rd Arab state.

When the world extends to the million Jewish refugees who were terrorized, persecuted and expelled from Arab lands and all their assets including 120,000 sq. km of real property confiscated nearly 70 years ago the same sympathetic obsession that they extend to the Arabs who needlessly left Israel at the urging's of the corrupt Arab League, then there maybe hope for a better international community than exists at the present time. The need for oil blinds them to the truth.

Fighting terrorism is not unlike fighting a deadly cancer. It can not be treated just where it is visible — every diseased cell in the body must be destroyed completely with no traces left.

When a poison strikes the human body, the only way to address it, is to remove it and destroy it completely. That is the way the terrorist organizations and its supporters should be treated.

Yishai Fleisher is the international spokesman of the Jewish community of Hebron and an Israeli broadcaster.

This article was published by Alemeiner and is archived at
It is archived at Think-Israel at

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