July 24, 2022 marks 100 years since the League of Nations adopted the Mandate for Palestine. The sole purpose of the mandate was to empower Great Britain to create a Jewish state in the entire area from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, from Lebanon in the north to the Red Sea in the south.
As the preamble of the mandate clearly stated: “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Allied Powers have also agreed that the Mandatory should be responsible for putting into effect the declaration originally made on November 2nd, 1917, by the Government of His Britannic Majesty, and adopted by the said Powers, in favor of the establishment in Palestine of a national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.”
While it referred to contemporary decisions made by the Allied powers during and after World War I, the preamble added that the establishment of the Jewish state was not an arbitrary act by the international community that allocated a random piece of land to the Jewish people. Rather, the preamble emphasized that the goal was a reflection of the historic connection of the Jewish people to that specific piece of land and the recreation of a national homeland that had once existed.
“Whereas recognition has thereby been given to the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country,” it said.
For the Palestinian Authority, the Balfour Declaration—referred to in the preamble as the “declaration originally made on November 2nd, 1917, by the Government of His Britannic Majesty”—is the root of all evil.
It stated: “His Majesty’s Government view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”
On official P.A. TV on Nov. 1, 2017, Palestinian historian Abd Al-Ghani Salameh acknowledged that at the time “there was nothing called a Palestinian people.”
Salameh said: “Before the Balfour Promise when the Ottoman rule ended (1517-1917), Palestine’s political borders as we know them today did not exist, and there was nothing called a Palestinian people with a political identity as we know today since Palestine’s lines of administrative division stretched from east to west and included Jordan and southern Lebanon, and like all peoples of the region [the Palestinians] were liberated from the Turkish rule and immediately moved to colonial rule, without forming a Palestinian people’s political identity.” (emphasis added)
Nonetheless, as Palestinian Media Watch has already reported, soon after the centennial of the Balfour Declaration, the Palestinians decided to sue Great Britain, demanding that it take responsibility for issuing the Declaration that “destroyed the life of an entire Palestinian people” and for alleged “crimes” of British soldiers against the Palestinian people during the Mandate period. The case Palestinian Journalists Syndicate v. The British Government was filed in a P.A. court in Nablus. Not surprisingly, the court found in favor of the plaintiffs.
Building on their success in their own courts, the Palestinians are now taking the issue to British courts.
Official P.A. daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida reported on May 23, “The Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate held a meeting yesterday [May 22, 2022] with the legal team supervising the submission of a lawsuit against the British government for its responsibility for the consequences of issuing ‘the Balfour Declaration.’”
“Lawyer Ben Emmerson briefed the syndicate on the legal proceedings that his team has been supervising for more than a year, which deal with submitting a lawsuit at a British court against the British government so that it will apologize for ‘the Balfour Declaration,’” it added.
The chairperson of the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate Nasser Abu Bakr said: “The legal team explained in detail that it is important to forcibly extract a ruling condemning ‘the Balfour Declaration from a British court. … The goal of this effort is to hold Britain responsible for our people’s tragedy, out of an assumption that all the decisions that were based on the Balfour Declaration starting with the establishment of the occupation state and uprooting of the Palestinian people are invalid and constitute a crime that has continued to this very day.”
From a legal point of view, while diplomatically important, the Balfour Declaration was nothing more than a statement of British policy.
In the aftermath of World War I, the Allied powers met to discuss the future of the territories that had been held by the Ottoman Empire for 400 years. As regards “Palestine,” the allies resolved in San Remo on April 25, 1920, “The Mandatory will be responsible for putting into effect the declaration originally made on the [2nd] November 1917, by the British Government and adopted by the other Allied Powers, in favor of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”
The decisions taken by the Allies in San Remo formed the basis for a number of mandates. Indeed, two years later, alongside the Mandate for Palestine, the League of Nations also adopted the Mandate for Syria and the Mandate for Lebanon. Together with the Mandate for Palestine, it was these instruments that provided the international legitimacy to create Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.
Since it was the League of Nations, eventually replaced by the United Nations, that was mainly responsible for Israel’s eventual creation, the question must be asked: Are the Palestinians going to sue the United Nations?
Whatever the Palestinians decide to do, the truth remains that July 24, 1922 was probably one of the most important dates in the history of the Jewish people. On that day, the international community openly recognized the connection of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel and decided to end 2,000 years of Jewish exile. On that day, the international community gave legitimacy to the reconstitution of the Jewish national homeland.
IDF Lt. Col. (res) Maurice Hirsch is director of Legal Strategies at Palestinian Media Watch.
This article was originally published by Palestinian Media Watch.