San Remo: The Forgotten Milestone

How can there be peace and reconciliation without acknowledging fundamental historical and legal facts?

By Salomon Benzimra, P. Eng., INN

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 internationalcommunity placed on this event, just a year after the Paris Peace Conference had settled the political map of Europe at the end of World War One.

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 ofnational 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 againsthumanity 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 premise.

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.

April 26, 2015 | 20 Comments »

Leave a Reply

20 Comments / 20 Comments

  1. @ bernard ross:Very well said.

    I stand by San Remo, as did Howard Grief z”l and as does Jacques Gauthier. SAn Remo is a watershed moment in which Jews were awarded the land for a Jewish homeland. Jews became the benficiary of a sacred trust. The reservation that it would be without prejudice to the civil rights of Arabs has no legal effect. Sovereign Israel can do what it wants. Give it up CA. Stop being the devil’s advocate. Stop demanding perfection.

    A court will never decide who owns the land. That issue will be determined by Israel’s might and determination. But is is of value to claim colour of right to the land rather thqan to have no basis for keeping it.

  2. @ adamdalgliesh:
    Thank you for your question. Please note that I am no “professor” and never claimed to be, but I will answer your question to the best of my knowledge.

    It is true that the Treaty of Lausanne (signed in July 1923) does not mention anything related to Palestine. It is a long document of some 140 articles dealing especialy with the borders of Turkey with Bulgaria, Greece, and the eastern part of Asia Minor.

    However, Article 16 declares: “Turkey hereby renounces all rights and title whatsoever over or respecting the territories situated outside the frontiers laid down in the present Treaty…”

    Therefore, this article recognized that Turkey had no more pending claims on its previous possessions in the Middle East (which were not mentioned as being within the new Turkish borders) and, in so doing, it accepted whatever provisions had been adopted earlier for the political status of those territories, namely the French and British Mandates of Syria, Mesopotamia and Palestine.

    The Mandate for Palestine was officially put into force in September 1923 (at the same time as the two other Mandates), after the Treaty of Lausanne was signed, but it was clear that the provisions of the Mandate had already been applied in practice since the adoption of the San Remo Resolution.

    The Treaty of Lausane had, therefore, no effect whatsoever on the decisions made at San Remo.

  3. Dear Mr. Belman: Please bring my query to the attention of Professor Benzimra and ask him to reply.

    My recollection, from reading several histories of this period, is that the treaty of Lausanne, which was ratified by the Turkish parliament, did not include any of the language of the San Remo conference or the Balfour Declaration with respect to the Jewish National Home, even though the earlier treaty of Sevres, which the Turkish parliament refused to ratify, did contain these San Remo-Balfour provisions. Apparently, the Turkish parliament refused to ratify the Jewish National Home out of solidarity with their fellow Muslims and the traditional Muslim bias against Jews. This may be a small point, but please fact-check it nevertheless, and if my memory is correct, please make the necessary correction to your article.

  4. “But it isn’t so, for reasons that defy reason”. That is precisely the definition of ANTISEMITISM.

  5. @ CuriousAmerican:

    It is because of San Remo that they [the Arabs] see Israel as a thief

    Please note that roughly at the same time that the Supreme Council adopted the San Remo Resolution, they reconstituted Poland after it had been gobbled out of existence by the Russians and the Germans, two invaders that had no legitimate claim to Polish territory. Don’t you see the analogy between Poland and Palestine and the corresponding analogy between Russians-Germans and the Arabs?

    In both cases, the Supreme Council restored territory to its legitimate owners.

  6. All of the relevant documents of San remo, LON mandate etc are chock full of non performance and material breaches however the value is that they clearly demonstrate that all those who call Israel illegal and illegitimate are filthy liars engaging in a murderous attempt at blood libeling the jews. There is nothing more legal, signed and sealed by all the liars who pretend it never happened. When dealing with liars it is folly to “play fair” and be “good Jews”

  7. CuriousAmerican Said:

    if you are too paranoid to see it, that is your business.

    “just because I am paranoid it does not mean that they [BDS supersessionists and their funded rabid dogs] are not out to get me”!
    c’mon, be a mentsch, stop the charade. 🙂

  8. CuriousAmerican Said:

    I am trying to show you, the people on this board, how to avoid a pitfall.

    No pitfall at all! San Remo and the other documents show the legal root of the current state of fact. Everyone already knows the “pitfall” on whether to give the hostile enemy the right to vote to kill jews or destroy Israel. The only “pitfall” is in the mind of israel as to whether it feels bound to give rights to hostile enemies in order to fully annex the land of the Jews.
    The arabs are never plagued by such “pitfalls” when they expel Jews, deny rights of Jews in the current mandate(jordan, gaza,PA west bank) or their other lands so why expect Jews to feel bound by one sided “law”?
    Why advise Jews to follow double standards that their enemies do not follow and even their so called allies do not follow?
    Why do you try to convince Jews that without doing what others dont do they will have no rights or soveriegnties?
    Why not instead convince Jews here that there is no reason to follow laws and rules which are not applied to others, especially their enemies?
    Why do you try to convince Jews that they have obligations that are not followed by others?
    did Jews have rights under the same GC when they were expelled by arabs as a result of the same conflicts? What have you done about this oversight of yours, dont you think that should be dealt with first before you try to swindle Jews into believing they should be the only fool circus dogs to follow rules?
    why not exhort the Jews to do to the arabs what they have done and continue to do to the Jews, doyou have special standards or double standards for Jews?
    Why do you not focus the Jews attention on the libels of illegality and illegitimacy of those who signed the relevant documents and guaranteed them, do you think Jews have no right of reasonable expectation of prior agreements?

    come now, stop the fibbing for your pets.

  9. One who argues out of both sides of his mouth sometimes advocating for San Remo when he believes it benefit the argument of Arab rights. In other occasions he argues that San Remo is not a good argument for Israel for asserting its rights to the land.

    So is this one playing devils advocate or just trying to be at best argumentative or something more nefarious than a hypocrite?

  10. @ bernard ross:
    I know you come here to make Jews jump through circus hoops like trained dogs.


    Actually, I am trying to show you, the people on this board, how to avoid a pitfall. However, if you are too paranoid to see it, that is your business.

  11. CuriousAmerican Said:

    You cannot pretty it up … so be like Jabotinsky and just admit it.

    I know you come here to make Jews jump through circus hoops like trained dogs. You exploit Jewish sincerity in taking you seriously to rub our faces in shit. Your “Legal, moral, historical”posts are the fig leaf covering your agenda which I have pointed out regularly for 2 years. Why do you always focus Jews here on discussions of arab interests? As you tout yourself as some sort of evangelical christian I am surprised that you show so little interest in the war of your pets agianst your so called christian “brothers” Dont you think it is odd that the BDS christians daily stalk the Jews and fund arab jew killing orgs while their recipient pets chop off christian heads in the ME and are doing similar in europe and the US?

    Do you wonder if a message is being sent to those BDS jew stalkers?

  12. CuriousAmerican Said:

    It is because of San Remo that they see Israel as a thief. They love to cite the parts about civil rights for the Arabs.

    they also honor kill,chop heads,suicide bomb, enslave schoolgirls…
    who cares what they see or believe… they dont care about what jews see or believe so why do you ask Jews do be concerned about their shariah thoughts?
    I see them as receivers of stolen property, I see them as training their toddlers in jew killing summer training camps, I see them as anti semitic jew killing inciting imams, i see them as holocaust deniers, I see them as lying taquiyya inciters to the genocide of jewish children, I see them as a worthless people of no value to the globe whose only reason to exist is to plague the Nobel prize winners who daily make advances in med, tech and science, I see them as defamers, libelers and dis respecters of the Jewish people and holy places, i see them as a people who deserve to experience all the same events that they wish on the Jews(and to take the euros and BDS christians on the same trip), I see them as a people who kept jews in dhimmitude for 1400 years, I see them as unrepentant for their foul and despicable deeds, I see them harassing jews in the jewish homeland……I see them a a people who are dangerous rabid dogs and lunatics who must be incarcerated and supervised, I see them as an emotionally and mentally sick cult who only seek intolerance and the murder of others…………..

    so, perhaps you can see why I dont care how they see things just like I would not care about how a rabid dog sees things when trying to kill my children.

    busses across the border of those without benefit of treaty with Israel; deposit them in the laps of their brothers to bring the added benefit of destabilizing their collectives and bringing chaos….. the only “pay to leave” should be investing in expanding and subsidizing criminal smuggling networks to europe to bring the price down from 10k, where 50% of them would pay to go, for the added benefit of bringing chaos to europe.

  13. CuriousAmerican Said:

    the British promised civil rights to the Arabs.

    the british as trustee with the Jews as beneficiary had no legal authority to make promises.
    CuriousAmerican Said:

    If you press San Remo to shut the Arabs up, they will bring up the civil rights (which included NATIONAL VOTING).

    the value of san remo is not in those clauses which have obviously been rendered dead, moot and irrelevant through the subsequent action, behavior and breaches of signatories, guarantors and arabs but rather that it clearly pricks the bubble of illegality and illegitimacy in law. Your “yeh but” argument relates to one of many relevant understandings and performances BUT the prime directive demonstrates the root of its legality. many agreements and treaties are not realized or breached in whole or in part. Sometimes those breached clauses are considered NOT to be a breach of entire agreement and sometimes they are. San remo has long been superseded by subsequent events and treaties.
    CuriousAmerican Said:

    We in the West see that as inconsequential but the Arab sees it as central.

    it matters not how they see things but whether they can enforce their visions. hence without enforcement there is no law. Remember that ALL the mandates were created by victors in a war who imposed their power on the regions and peoples. it is absurd to invest the victors declarations with a shroud of legal or moral imperative. Might made right, might continues to make right, this is the only principle the arabs use and therefore the question is why do you seek to have jews focus on dead legal clauses that are in the interests of those who breached those clauses?

  14. @ Salomon Benzimra:
    Shmuel, you may be right. But as long as San Remo is not brought forward, the Arabs and their supporters will continue to view Israel as a thief of Arab land.

    It is because of San Remo that they see Israel as a thief. They love to cite the parts about civil rights for the Arabs.

    Israel has so many good arguments in its favor, please avoid a weak San Remo.

    The Arabs have read San Remo too, and can cite it as well as you to their advantange.

    Avoid San Remo. Choose a better argument.

  15. Please … Jabotinsky nailed this.

    In 1920, the Holy Land was 90% Arab.

    There was no way that 90% would approve Jewish immigration.


    But Israel took the land by force – in the shape of protection of the British army – because apart from British force there is no way the Arabs would have stood still.

    Joshua took the land by force. Do you think you could do better?

    This is the problem.

    Israel is right, but Israel’s right depended on the negation of the Arab majority.

    We in the West see that as inconsequential but the Arab sees it as central.


    You and I see it as a redemption.

    The Arabs see it as an invasion.

    You cannot pretty it up … so be like Jabotinsky and just admit it.

  16. @ Salomon Benzimra:
    @ CuriousAmerican:There is a difference in having voting rights in a municipality (because they are not national rights) and voting rights in National elections. But that is not the only distinction. During the mandate, the British Civil Administration was in charge. Any voting rights that the residence had had to do with local matters. The residents could not run the Mandate. Besides San Remo predates the Mandate.

    Unfortunately – as Chaim Weizmann saw – the British promised civil rights to the Arabs.

    The Arabs had previously voted in Ottoman elections so to deny them a NATIONAL VOTE was to prejudice their civil rights.

    Weizmann wanted the British to absolutely state that Jewish rights are preeminent rather than to waffle out of both sides of its mouth.

    Israel has better arguments than San Remo.

    San Remo is flawed.

    If you press San Remo to shut the Arabs up, they will bring up the civil rights (which included NATIONAL VOTING).

  17. Governments of Israel after Ben Gurion had no national policies. They at times, follow party guidelines as long as that fit the “elite” interests and those of the governments members.
    There is no way they will address San Remo or the Judge Levi Report, etc.