Have you ever heard of the San Remo conference? If you have, do you know much about it? I know I didn’t.
Saturday, April 25th, 2020 marks a very special date. It is the 100th anniversary of the San Remo conference and subsequent resolution. On this day, after great deliberation, the Supreme Council of the Allied Powers adopted a 500-word resolution which would change the political landscape of the Middle East forever. They mandated that a piece of territory should be established as a homeland for the Jews in a small area called Palestine.
Many people credit the Balfour Declaration of 1917, or the UN partition vote of 1947 for the birth of the state of Israel. As Chaim Weizman said however, “One can say the Israeli state was born on the 25th of April, 1920 in San Remo.”
On April 19th, 1920, Great Britain, France, Italy, Japan, and the U.S. met in San Remo, Italy to decide what to do with the territory of the now defeated Ottoman Empire that had crumbled during World War 1. The result of the seven-day conference was three mandates.
The first two mandates created what we now know as Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.
The third mandate called to establish Palestine as a homeland for the Jewish people. The territory was to include all of what is known today as Israel, the Gaza Strip, Sinai Peninsula, the Golan Heights, and Jordan. Great Britain was given the mandate to establish the territory and govern the area and people.
Two years later, the League of Nations (precursor to the UN), composed of 51 members, approved the mandate. The body unanimously declared:
“Whereas recognition has been given to the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country.”
The Balfour Declaration that was published in 1917 was thought of by many to be only a letter of intent and not a binding document. However, it became the basis for the San Remo Conference, which resulted in the mandate for Palestine – an undisputed legal document under international law.
Even though the area east of the Jordan River was originally meant to be part of the new territory, the British quickly transferred it to the Hashemite Dynasty, and Jordan as we know it today was born.
Unfortunately, the new state of Palestine did not exactly flourish as a national homeland for the Jewish people under British rule. In the nearly thirty years that passed between 1920 and the birth of Israel in 1948, six million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust.
Does this mean that if the San Remo resolution has been enacted fully, and the British had taken their mandate seriously, the Holocaust could have been prevented? It seems entirely possible.
The original mandate for the Jewish state that was published in San Remo called for a much larger territory than what Israel retains today. First, the area east of the Jordan River became what we know as Jordan today, compliments of the British. Then, when Israel became a state in 1948, the Arabs were not satisfied with 96% of the territory of the Ottoman Empire they obtained starting at San Remo and therefore went to war against the tiny Jewish state. When the smoke cleared, the fledgling state of Israel began with very slim borders. Then, in 1967, Israel miraculously liberated the West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip, Sinai Peninsula, and Golan Heights in a war of self defense.
Since then, the world has slowly been pressuring Israel to chip away at its land, piece by piece. Since the war of 1967, Israel has given away more than 90% of the land that they held after the liberation. This was all done in a desperate attempt for peace with their Arab neighbors, who will never be satisfied unless the Jewish state gives up 100% of their land and drowns itself in the Mediterranean Sea. Even today, the world is still pressuring Israel to allow the Arabs to establish yet another state in East Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria. San Remo never meant for the Arabs to have any of this territory, let alone Gaza, the Sinai, or even Jordan!
This week Israel marked Holocaust Remembrance Day and the 100-year anniversary of the San Remo conference. If San Remo had been fully implemented as its creators envisioned that it would, it’s hard not to think about how many Jewish lives could have been saved in the Holocaust.
Next week, Israel will celebrate their 72nd anniversary of independence as a sovereign, Jewish nation. They are in the same land that God promised to Abraham four thousand years ago. That is something to celebrate.
In the end, you can try to place the credit for Israel’s establishment on Balfour, San Remo, or the UN vote of 1947. But we know the truth. God’s mandate for the land of Israel can never be obliterated by anyone. That’s where we stand.