Barry Shaw

The Consequences of San Remo – 100 Years Later

Recounting the 100th anniversary of the San Remo Conference. April 25, 1920.

San Remo hosted world leaders to decide the future of Palestine, Syria and Mesopotamia.

Syria and Mesopotamia (Iraq) were to be given to the Hashemites, as was Transjordan.

It also codified the Jewish People’s rights to the Land of Israel into international law according to the terms and policy of the Balfour Declaration, namely that “His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people,” and that Britain “will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object.”

This event was celebrated in Jewish communities worldwide and treated as if it was a Jewish national holiday.

The Arabs, of course, objected. Feisal and Abdullah saw themselves as HaShemite rulers of the Middle East until the House of Saud engaged them in fierce battles during this time of history.

As is usual in the Arab world, both hated each other but were united against allowing Jews to gain any ascendency in the Middle East.

For them all, it was a stain on the Arab tradition of conquest to allow a non-Arab, non-Muslim, presence to take hold in the region.

The 400-year-old non-Arab Ottoman Empire had been accepted with silence by the impoverished local Arabs in the barren district of Palestine in deference to the Islamic rulers of Constantinople.

Not long after the San Remo Conference, Britain began to view their geopolitical interests in the Middle East differently.

The British realized, prompted by the Americans, that the Arabs had something valuable under their feet. Oil. This greasy liquid would be necessary for Britain’s motorized and industrialized future prosperity.

The Suez Canal, built by the French in 1800, was also an asset for Britain. It acted as a vital trade artery to India.

Post San Remo the British became aware that they could ill-afford to upset the Arabs. If they did their future self-interests would be gravely impaired.

The British went back on their obligations to the Jews. They went as far as to close off pre-state Palestine to Jewish immigration during the critical and tragic period of World War Two.

Had the British lived up to their word, the Holocaust may not have happened. Hitler wanted to expel Europe’s Jews, but no one was prepared to take them, and British had effectively locked them out of what had been promised to be the National Home of the Jewish People.

Had these Jews been allowed to enter their future state, Israel today would have been celebrating the 72th anniversary of a nation, not with nine million Jews, but a Jewish State with twenty million Jews.

That is the bitter-sweet legacy of Western cynical, confused, and deadly policies post San Remo.

Barry Shaw, Israel Institute for Strategic Studies.


About the Author
Barry Shaw is the Senior Associate for Public Diplomacy at the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies. He is also the author of ‘Fighting Hamas, BDS and Anti-Semitism,' '1917. From Palestine to the Land of Israel, 'BDS for IDIOTS,' and his latest work 'A Tale of Love and Destiny,' the dramatic life of a Jewish heroine.
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