It’s nearly impossible to think of Israel in the modern era and not consider its unbelievable origins. The creation of the Jewish state in what was known as, since around 135 A.D., the land of Palestine, should be considered one of the great marvels of world history. Almost two thousand years since the diaspora and…. poof! Here we are again. The marvels of such an occurrence baffles the mind and, to many millions, weighs heavily on the heart.
Of course, there are always two or three sides to any idea (I had a Jewish man tell me once that if you put two Jews in a room you’ll get three opinions, so I guess I haven’t even traversed the ideological edge to the other ethnic sides yet!) so my hope is to endeavor on providing, in really what is the inception of my writing on this rather humble online presence, a basic history and understanding of the Israeli-Arab conflict in what is now internationally known as the land of Israel.
Here we go…
Not your great great grandma’s Israel (but it WAS your great great grandma’s big sister’s Israel!)
What is this freaky looking thing above? No, you’re not viewing an online mind bender where if you look at it long enough it creates an alternate reality, only to be snapped back to normalcy once your eyes go uncrossed. Believe it or not at one point in time THIS was what we now call Israel, but then was referred to as a “national home for the Jewish people.” That’s right folks, a whopping 77% more land than what Israel currently holds, and that’s only if you include what to some is considered “occupied” territories (stay tuned on that one). Take out the West Bank and Gaza and, well, you get what you have today.
What the schmuck, you ask? Of course, that may be a pejorative you hurl at me after reading this but don’t worry, I have very thin skin and will take it personally. Regardless, this was at one point a reality blessed by the international community through the conduit of the now defunct League of Nations, which was the precursor of that bastion of tolerance, inclusivity, and love for the Jewish people we now know as the United Nations.
The Mandate for Palestine
There’s a lot of pre-1920 history we could go into here but the purpose of this article is not to recount the history of Zionism. I would encourage the reader to snuggle up with a good book on that subject when convenient. My concern here is the legal aspects to the founding of the modern nation-state of Israel itself, specifically how it exists and if their current claim to the land is farce or fact. So let’s get right to it.
That bizarre map you see above was the territory known as the “Mandate for Palestine.” That region was assigned to be governed by Great Britain at the San Remo Conference held in Sanremo, Italy, in April 19-26, 1920, when allied powers set out to determine the boundaries of the Middle Eastern countries they had gained hegemony over after World War I.
The text of the mandate was agreed to at the council of the League of Nations meeting in London on July 24, 1922, and came into full operation in September of 1923. The preamble to the resolution makes it abundantly clear who the area of Palestine (now 77% smaller than originally given) was given to:
Whereas the Principal Allied Powers have agreed, for the purpose of giving effect to the provisions of Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations, to entrust to a Mandatory selected by the said Powers the administration of the territory of Palestine, which formerly belonged to the Turkish Empire, within such boundaries as may be fixed by them; and
Whereas the Principal Allied Powers have also agreed that the Mandatory should be responsible for putting into effect the declaration originally made on November 2nd, 1917, by the Government of His Britannic Majesty, and adopted by the said Powers, in favour of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, it being clearly understood that nothing should be done which might 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; and
Whereas recognition has thereby been given to the historical connexion of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country;
Whereas the Principal Allied Powers have selected His Britannic Majesty as the Mandatory for Palestine…
Great Britain, France, and Italy, who were allied powers during the War to end all Wars, as well as representatives from other countries, set out to determine the boundaries of multiple middle eastern territories, most notable to us at present the Palestine Mandate to determine the boundaries of the national home for the Jewish people, originally expressed in the 1917 Balfour Declaration:
British Foreign Office, November 2, 1917
Dear Lord Rothschild,
I have much pleasure in conveying to you, on behalf of His Majesty’s Government, the following declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations which has been submitted to, and approved by, the Cabinet.
“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 this 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.”
I should be grateful if you would bring this declaration to the knowledge of the Zionist Federation.
Arthur James Balfour
Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
So how do we know that when Lord Balfour issued that declaration he originally had the region of Transjordan in mind as well for the national home of the Jewish people? The British told us, and they did so in a report to the League of Nations in 1937 titled “Report of the Palestine Royal Commission” which you can download a copy of the original report here.
The field in which the Jewish National Home was to be established was understood, at the time of the Balfour Declaration, to be the whole of historic Palestine, and the Zionists were seriously disappointed when Trans-Jordan was cut away from that field under Article 25. This was done, as has been seen, in accordance with the McMahon Pledge, which was antecedent to the Balfour Declaration.” -Chapter II, page 38
The Mandate for Palestine of July 24, 1922 indicated that Palestine went beyond the Jordan River in Article 25:
In the territories lying between the Jordan and the eastern boundary of Palestine as ultimately determined, the Mandatory shall be entitled, with the consent of the Council of the League of Nations, to postpone or withhold application of such provisions of this mandate as he may consider inapplicable to the existing local conditions, and to make such provision for the administration of the territories as he may consider suitable to those conditions, provided that no action shall be taken which is inconsistent with the provisions of Articles 15, 16 and 18.
Further proof can be found in the Palestine Royal Commission Report……
To clarify the boundary further, the Trans-Jordan Memorandum, issued on September 23, 1922, issued to cut away Transjordan from the Palestine Mandate, and give it a separate identity from Palestine, or, the national home for the Jewish people. The memorandum outlines the border of Transjordan and Palestine:
In pursuance of the provisions of this Article, His Majesty’s Government invite the Council to pass the following resolution : — “The following provisions of the Mandate for Palestine are not applicable to the territory known as Trans-Jordan, which comprises all territory lying to the east of a line drawn from a point two miles west of the town of Akaba on the Gulf of that name up the centre of the Wady Araba, Dead Sea and River Jordan to its junction with the River Yarmuk; thence up the centre of that river to the Syrian Frontier.” Memorandum, #2
By the way, that “McMahon Pledge” that the Mandate for Palestine obeyed, is pure fabrication, at least if you take the man that supposedly made that pledge at his word…… reference
With the League of Nations’ consent on 16 September 1922, the Mandate territory was formalised by the UK with the creation of two administrative areas, Palestine, under direct British rule, and autonomous Transjordan, under the rule of the Hashemite family from the Kingdom of Hejaz in present-day Saudi Arabia, in accordance with the McMahon Correspondence of 1915. Following the 1922 Transjordan memorandum, the area east of the Jordan river became exempt from the Mandate provisions concerning the Jewish National Home.