Last update September 16, 2013
In November, 1917, the world was at war. Armies manoeuvred and clashed in Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
In November, 1917, the British looked to end Ottoman control over Palestine. They attacked Jerusalem.
British conquest of Jerusalem would mean the end of more than 600 years of Muslim rule. That rule ended in 1917 when British troops took Jerusalem.
November, 1917 was also the month that British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour set into motion the fulfilment of a Biblical prophecy. That November, Lord Balfour gave to the Jewish Baron Rothschild a letter declaring that the British government looked with favour upon the establishment of a Jewish national homeland in Palestine.
In April, 1920, the war's winners met at the Italian resort, San Remo. They went there to decide how to deal with their winnings.
Great Britain, France, Italy, and Japan—with the United States attending as a neutral observer—discussed the map of the Middle East. They confirmed in writing Balfour’s commitment to the Jews.
So it was that the greatest powers in the world after World War One came to an international agreement. The Jewish homeland would be born.
The British had been busy during World War One (1914-18)—perhaps too busy. In 1915-16, they had promised Arabs that if they joined Britain against the Turk, they would be rewarded—with land. Then they promised the French that the two of them would divide up the Middle East between themselves (after they had won the war). Then, in November, 1917, they had promised the Jews a national homeland in Palestine.
After the War (1918) and after San Remo (1920), the newly-formed League of Nations held its own discussion of the Middle East (1920-23). The member-states of the League of Nations agreed to carve up the defeated Ottoman Empire. They also agreed: there would be a Jewish homeland in Palestine.
To that end, the nations decided that Britain and France should carry out the task of carving up Ottoman land. They were to address the nationalistic desires of both Arab and Jew. They were to create nations.
But Britain and France had a secret agreement. They wanted Ottoman land for themselves. Their objectivity was tainted.
Arabs were ambivalent about these non-Muslims. Some didn’t mind land being set aside for Jews so long as they got their own land. Others didn’t want non-Muslims in the Middle East.
In 1920 and 1921, Arabs rioted in Palestine. They were angry. The Jews were coming.
While Arabs rioted, the League of Nations assigned Mandates: France would create Lebanon and Syria. Britain would create the Jewish homeland.
Riots continued. Arabs were angry that 100 per cent of British Palestine would go to Jews. They didn’t care about the international agreements of Balfour-San Remo-League of Nations. They wanted 100 per cent of Palestine.
So the British made a change. Jews would no longer get 100 per cent.
Jews would have to share. They would get 22 per cent. Arabs would get 78 per cent.
The goal of this division was to appease Arab hostility. It seemed fair to give Arabs 78 per cent of the land Balfour-San Remo-League of Nations had committed to Jews.
It didn’t work. The Muslim cleric, Haj-Amin el-Husseini, began to organize Arabs to terrorize Jews. He rejected division. He wanted 100 per cent of the land, not 78 per cent.
In the 1920’s, pogroms in Europe began to drive perhaps 65,000 Jews to Palestine as refugees. Arabs hated that. They rioted repeatedly.
Fighting between Arab and Jew became aggressive. The British stalled their efforts for a Jewish homeland.
In 1939, World War Two began. el-Husseini turned to Hitler for help. Jews from Palestine volunteered to fight Hitler.
In 1945, the nations created the United Nations (UN). Its Founding Charter declared that it was committed to maintaining obligations from treaties and other sources of “international law.” That commitment meant that the new UN would honour all previously existing international agreements, especially those of the League of Nations. Those agreements included the commitment to create a Jewish homeland in Palestine.
So it was that the letter of Lord Balfour was confirmed by international agreement. The Balfour-San Remo-League of Nations-UN paper trail gave Israel a unique pedigree. Its ‘birth certificate’, dated 1947, had (arguably) more international agreements attached to it than any other nation.
In 1947, the Arab rejected that paper trail. Yes, the British and French had created Lebanon, Syria and Jordan for him. But that wasn’t enough.
He’d gotten only 78 per cent of Palestine. He wanted the other 22 per cent.
Mahmoud Abbas still wants it.
In a May, 2011 op-ed essay in The New York Times, Abbas said, “We go the United Nations now to the secure the right to the remaining 22 per cent”.
The Arab doesn’t want coexistence. He wants 100 per cent.