Jack Cohen


Reading the book about the tortuous path to “The Balfour Declaration” written by Jonathan Schneer, one is struck by the duplicity of the British, who made contradictory promises to the Zionists, the Arabs, the French and even tried to make a separate peace with the Turks. At any rate, PM David Lloyd George, who was always one of my heroes, comes out looking less than a statesman. But, then I re-evaluated the situation and realized that that was expediency. He was prepared to double deal and double-cross as long as it got him what he wanted, namely a way to win WWI war as soon as possible, in order to reduce the terrible toll of lives lost in the trenches. What happened after the war to the Zionists and Arabs was of very secondary importance to him, it was just a question of which gambit in the east would help to win the war on the western front. So he made promises to both the Jews and the Arabs to get their temporary support.

Israel and its politicians are often accused of being less than honest, but in my opinion they show little consideration for expedience. For example, Israel has never made its case for the Jewish claim to the West Bank, what is oftern mistakenly called “Palestinian Land.” There are two meanings for “illegal settlements” and Israel never tries to clarify this. As far as the Palestinians are concerned all Jewish settlements on the West Bank of the River Jordan are “illegal,” and their supporters state this as if it is accepted dogma. But, in fact Israel has an excellent claim under international law, based on the San Remo Treaty of 1922 that carved up the Ottoman Empire after WWI, and the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine to Britain in 1922, which incorporated the Balfour Declaration into international law for the establishment of a “homeland” for the Jewish people in Palestine, and nothing more, no Arab State and certainly no “Palestinian State.” In fact, Britain intended to keep the land for itself as part of its Empire, but was unable to do so. Events change and affect the situation, but the law remains unchanged. Even the UN Partition Plan of 1948 that projected Jewish and Arab States in Palestine, did not supersede the San Remo Treaty because the Arabs rejected that Plan. Israel was recognized independently after that rejection but without agreed borders.

Acoording to Israeli law the only “illegal” settlements are those not approved by the Israeli Government. In other words it is a matter of State policy when and where settlements are build on this “disputed” territory. If someone comes along and starts to build an outpost without any Israeli Government approval, that is considered “illegal” under Israeli law. But, those settlements that were approved and established by the Israeli Government are legal under Israeli and international law. It was the establishment of an Arab State by the British on the East Bank of the River Jordan that was illegal. So we should call Jordan “the East Bank.” Fortunately the Hashemite dynasty in Jordan that was put in place by the British has remained “friendly” towards Israel and this has resulted in its continuation and stability. But, the Hashemites were established there only thru the colonial and imperialistic interference of the British. Jordan is a completely artificial State, with a majority of Palestinians. It would be an expedient policy for the Israeli Government to stake its claim to Jordanian territory, but agree to negotiate a further peace treaty with Jordan for the transfer of the rest of the Palestinian people from the West Bank to the East Bank.

One reason why there is so much conflict in the Middle East is because the British and French unilaterally divided the area into states of their own making, including Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. The Arabs don’t need any excuse to kill each other as one can see in Syria. But, it would be expedient for Israel to provide arms (secretly) to the Syrian Free Army, even if they are Sunni, so that they can overthrow the yoke of the Assad Alawite dynasty. Let Syria be split into three regions (Sunni, Alawi and Kurd) and then let Iraq be split similarly (Sunni, Shia, Kurd). Yes, let us interfere in Arab politics for our own expedience.

About the Author
Jack Cohen was born in London and has a PhD in Chemistry from Cambridge University. He moved to the US and worked at the National Cancer Inst. and then Georgetown Medical School. In 1996, he Moved to Israel and became Chief Scientist of the Sheba Medical Center. He retired in 2001 and worked as a Visiting Professor at Hebrew University Medical School for 5 years.