Growing up in France, I often went to Italy for summer vacations and I even remember driving through San Remo in the 60s. Little did I know about the significance of such a small Italian town as it pertains to the history of Israel and the Jewish people.
San Remo is the location of a meeting that took place in 1920, just a couple of years after the end of the Great War of 1914-1918. What took place there was of seminal importance in the birth of the modern State of Israel, in some ways even more critical than the 1947 United Nations vote.
As we just finished celebrating Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel’s Independence Day), it is crucial to understand that this celebration stands firm on the foundation of an international decision and that the Jewish people didn’t usurp the hegemony of the Palestinians in the Holy Land.
A key document in the establishment of modern Israel was of course the Balfour Declaration of 1917. But the declaration was simply a political document that Lord Balfour had penned out of his desire to see Jewish people return to their homeland. It wasn’t even an internationally signed document and certainly had no legal clout. It was rather simple, yet it set the stage for history to be written as the bulk of it demonstrates: “His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of the object, 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”.
In a sense, the Balfour Declaration was a catalyst in the birth of modern Israel.
At the 1919 Paris Peace Conference, France, the United States, Great-Britain, Italy and Japan were faced with some major territorial decisions to make as the Ottoman Empire had just come to its end and its geographical boundaries were in need of being newly apportioned. The League of Nations was borne out of the Paris Peace Conference but the task of dividing the land remained unresolved as time ran out.
In the spring of 1920, the leaders of France, Great-Britain, Italy, Japan (and the United States as observers only), constituting the post World War I Supreme Council decided to meet in Villa Devachan is San Remo, Italy. What went on at that time was closely linked to the recent fall of the Ottoman Empire, that had occurred within a few years after the war. It was the follow-up to the Paris Conference. Already Turkey had been born and so were many Balkan and Middle East states. Several geographical areas that were originally Ottoman-ruled were put under the jurisdiction of France and Britain. Syria/Lebanon was under French authority while Jordan and Palestine ended up under British authority. Part of the San Remo Resolutionclearly stated the intentions to make Palestine a legal Jewish homeland (note the extreme similarities between Balfour and San Remo): The High Contracting Parties agree to entrust, by application of the provisions of Article 22, 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, 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.
To make a long story short, the San Remo Resolution created a legal precedent for Palestine to be restored as the national Jewish homeland.What took place in 1947 at the United Nations General Assembly was really a recognition or validation of the San Remo Resolution of 1920. Palestine back in the 20s and even in 1947 was nothing but the name give to Eretz Yisrael at a time when all Arabs had various respective countries to live in, but Jews were without a land.
I cannot help but think of the different outcome we would have witnessed if Israel had been reborn out of the San Remo Conference of 1920 instead of 1948. Israel’s right to self-determination was agreed upon 94 years ago and shouldn’t be put in question, yet G-d remains sovereign over all. Of course, much water has gone under that bridge since and history appears different today. But the reason why it appears different is because the agenda for Israel’s destruction has been pushed harder since the mid 60s. Palestine is no longer just the name of a geographical area to be restituted to the Jewish people but it has been made into a country with displaced people painted as the sole victims of the Middle East conflict.
What took place in San Remo in 1920 made Israel’s right to exist into an international legally binding and unavoidable documented fact. Additionally, the Bible is replete with references to the Land of Israel (never Palestine) being given to the Jewish people by God in places like Genesis 12:7, 13:15, 15:18, 17:7-8, 25:5-6, 26:3, 28:3-4 Exodus 2:24, Deuteronomy 1:8, 7:7-9, Leviticus 25:23, Psalm 89:30-37, Jeremiah 31:35-37 and Ezekiel 37:11-12 among many others.
Unfortunately, today when it comes to Israel and the Jewish people, fact-finding is the last thing that people are interested in!
Happy Birthday Yisrael! You are not 66, not even 94 but well over 3,000 years old.
Am Yisrael Chai!