Ignorance isn’t Bliss; Know the Facts

We’ve all played out the same scenario in our heads. We’re walking down the street, when a random person approaches us and asks: “Why does Israel kill innocent people?” We then give a lengthy logical reply that ultimately changes his/her opinion. I, like the majority of the people reading this blog, don’t really know the answer to that question. I think, act and advocate like I do, however, my answers are merely based off ‘facts’ and opinions I’ve heard in speeches or through friends. So, I have finally decided to get the facts straight. I am devoting my blog to explaining the most common Middle Eastern arguments. I will decipher these questions through reasoning/evidence based on facts, leaving the conclusion and opinions to you, the reader.

Lets start with the most heated debate of modern Middle-Eastern politics – the Israel Palestine feud. Specifically: Who was there first? Many argue when this conflict really began, some dating back to the times of Moses and the Bible. However, In the interest of sticking to the facts, I will discuss the more recent history. On that note, lets begin:

In 1917, during World War I, the British defeated the Ottoman Turkish forces, and controlled what was then called Ottoman Syria, todays Israel and Jordan. The League of Nations formally confirmed the British control, and Palestinian mandate of todays Israel, on the 24th of July in 1922. According to the Covenant of League of Nations, this territory was part of a Class A mandate, or, a colony that was “Formerly belonging to the Turkish Empire” that “have reached a stage of development where their existence as independent nations can be provisionally recognized subject to the rendering of administrative advice and assistance by a Mandatory until such time as they are able to stand alone” (Article 22, Covenant of League of Nations). In simpler terms: The British were entrusted tutelage over the previous residents of this area – the ‘Palestinians’. Seems pretty simple, right? Not quite. Before I let you draw a conclusion of whom Israel truly belongs to, there are two more important aspects that need to be understood: Who are the Palestinians? And whom was this British Mandate intended for?

When the Palestinian nation originated is an argument in itself. Some argue that it can be traced back to the 1834 Arab revolt in Palestine, while others argue that it emerged during the Mandatory Palestine period. Continuing the theme of discussing more recent history, I am going to focus on the latter opinion. During the Ottoman rule (1299-1923), there was no administrative or political entity called Palestine, according to the Ottoman government. Once Ottoman Syria came under British control, Palestinians were categorized as the people living in Palestine. In 1964 the Palestinian Libertarian Organization was created, which represented the Palestinians and controlled Palestinian Territory at the time. Facing criticism from the Intifada, PLO’s self-recognition of the State of Palestine, and Yasser Arafat’s alignment with notorious terrorist Saddam Hussein, the PLO agreed to sign the Oslo Accords in 1993, a set of agreements between the PLO and the government of Israel. One condition of this agreement was the creation of an interim Palestinian government – the Palestinian Authority. Today, the PA is the most recognized Palestinian government and represents the State Of Palestine – which is currently the West Bank and areas in Eastern Jerusalem. Now that we have a basic understanding of the Palestinians, lets return to our second question: Whom was the British Mandate intended for?

Prior to the British mandate for Palestine, the British made two eventually conflicting promises in regards to Palestine. On one hand, through the McMahon-Hussein Correspondence of 1915, the British promised Hussein bin Ali independence for an Arab country in exchange for support against the Ottoman Empire. On the other hand, through the Balfour declaration of 1917, the British promised to create a Jewish national home in Palestine. The outlines of these promises and what they really mean are still argued today. However, all that matters to us is what was actually agreed on and legislated in the British Mandate for Palestine.

In 1920, before the Covenant of the League of Nations was established, a series of treaties were ratified that signified the defeat of the Ottoman Empire. The most notable treaty regarding the Palestinian Territory was the Treaty of Sévres. In this treaty, the three principles of the British Balfour Declaration regarding Palestine were adapted. In Article 95 in the Treaty of Sévres it is written: “The Mandatory will be responsible for putting into effect the (Balfour Declaration)… in favour of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.” Yes, this is explicitly written in the Treaty Of Sévre, signed by France, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom. Furthermore, in 1920 the San Remo Conference was held, an international meeting between the Allied Powers, to determine the allocation of Class “A” League of Nations mandates for controlling former Ottoman ruled lands. It is recorded in the San Remo Resolution (1920) that there shall be an “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.” In simpler terms: the British intended the State of Palestine to be a national home for the Jewish people, free of any religious discrimination. Under British Mandate the residents of Palestine, majority being Jews and Arabs, lived side-by-side belligerently – Until 1948. On the 14th of May 1948 the British Mandate was terminated, and the establishment of the State of Israel was proclaimed. The rest is history.

About the Author
Zachary Porgess is an 18 year old Math Major at Yeshiva University. He is currently on the board of YU's Israel Club and was an avid High School Israeli-American Political advocate; he attended multiple Policy conferences and other Aipac sponsored events.