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San Remo 1920, A Zionist Magna Carta – Part 2

April 4, 2020
Arthur Balfour in Group Photo Tel Aviv, 1925
This photo taken in 1925 shows Arthur Balfour (C), former British prime minister, and Chaim Weizmann (3rd-R), the then future first President of Israel, visiting Tel Aviv. — AFP

Last issue I reported the milestone decision from the international conference held in San Remo, Italy, April 25, 1920. Britain’s Foreign Secretary Lord Curzon described the San Remo conclusions as ‘the Magna Carta of the Zionists.’

The story of modern day Israel is traced back to Old Testament prophets Isaiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Amos, Micah and Zechariah. Jeremiah also had a vision of hope. He saw scattered Israel gathered and Judah returning to their land. (Jeremiah 23; 30-31, 33, 46-51)

Theodore Herzl founded the political form of Zionism with the specific goal the birth of a Jewish national home in Israel. He issued a pamphlet ‘The Jewish State’ in 1896. “Oppression and persecution cannot exterminate us. No nation on earth has survived such struggles and sufferings as we have gone through,” Herzl declared.

“The idea which I have developed in this pamphlet is a very old one: it is the restoration of the Jewish State … We are a people—one people,” Herzl said.

The expansive, corrupt and oppressive Ottoman Empire stood in fierce opposition.

Only the hand of God would deliver the Israel dream.

The open door came with the courage and audacity of the Australian 4th Light Horse at Beersheba, October 31, 1917.

A rabbi in Jerusalem told me he believed Australia suffered at Gallipoli but that defeat led the ANZACS into Israel and into divine destiny. The Lighthorse Beersheba victory opened the way to Jerusalem. It was as Moses parting the sea and bringing forth the plan of God.

The British War Cabinet ruled for ‘the establishment in Palestine (A name designated by the British military) of a national home for the Jewish people.’ This was the Balfour Declaration passed November 2, 1917, two days after Beersheba.

Interestingly the War Cabinet was debating the Balfour issue even as the Lighthorse went into action. That historic victory, some say, swung the debate.

“The Anzac victory in Beersheba is symbolic of how Australia’s history has been entwined with Israeli history even before the Israeli state was established in 1948,” wrote Sharyn Mittelman, for the Australian/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council. (Anzac charge at Beersheba, just as relevant today, Sharyn Mittelman, November 2, 2017. aijac.org.au)

Miitelman continued: “According to official war historian H.S. Gullett, Australians in particular, out of all the allied forces, were welcomed with special affection by Jewish residents of the areas which later became British Mandate Palestine and then Israel.”

“Historians have recorded how General Allenby had given each of his soldiers a Bible, and he was often found on his knees looking for direction from above,” said Benjamin Glatt. (Comment: Balfour’s Real Victory came at Beersheba, Benjamin Glatt, Jerusalem Post, October 30, 2017)

Dr. Joshua Teitelbaum wrote a detailed report ‘Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People: From the San Remo Conference (1920) to the Netanyahu-Abbas Talks.’ (JCPA, September-October, 2010). He quoted from the British Peel Commission Report of 1937:

“The fact that the Balfour Declaration was issued in order to enlist Jewish support for the Allies and the fact that this support was forthcoming are not sufficiently appreciated in Palestine. The Arabs do not appear to realize in the first place that the present position of the Arab world as a whole is mainly due to the great sacrifices made by the Allied and Associated Powers in the War and, secondly, that, insofar as the Balfour Declaration helped to bring about the Allies’ victory, it helped to bring about the emancipation of all the Arab countries from Turkish rule. If the Turks and their German allies had won the War, it is improbable that all the Arab countries, except Palestine, would now have become or be about to become independent states.”

He observed: “The historical connection of the Jews to the Land of Israel was clear to the international community, as manifested in the League of Nations mandate which recognized the ‘historic connection of the Jewish people with Palestine’ and their right to reconstitute ‘their national home in that country.’”

Apart from Israel other nations emerged after the demise of the Ottoman Empire…. Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Yemen.

The British Zionist leader Chaim Weizman spoke of the breakthrough made by the Balfour Declaration. “There is a British proverb about the camel and the tent,” he said. “At first the camel sticks one leg in the tent, and eventually it slips inside. This must be our policy.”

Jewish intellectual Arthur Koestler described the Balfour Declaration as ‘one of the most improbably documents of all time.’

Jewish National Fund CEO Dan Springer led a delegation of Australians to Israel to acknowledge the historic victory by the Australian and New Zealand Lighthouse.

It is an incredible historical coincidence that the British War Cabinet’s decision, which became known as the Balfour Declaration, was made in the same hour that the Light Horse Charge took place,” Springer said.

“This mission really has been a part of a unique event to bring together Australia and Israel,” Springer said.

When the milestone decisions made by the British War Cabinet, the confirmation achieved at San Remo and then confirmed by the League of Nations the Lighthorse contribution can never be underestimated.

Maybe it was a David verses Goliath moment which continues its impact today.

David Ben Gurion issued the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel in Tel Aviv on 5 Iyar, 5708 (14th May, 1948)

It begins: “The Land of Israel was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped. Here they first attained to statehood, created cultural values of national and universal significance and gave to the world the eternal Book of Books.”

Interestingly the Declaration closes by saying: “We trust in the rock of Israel…” The day after this declaration was made was a sabbath. David Ben Gurion agreed to the terminology ‘rock of Israel’ to connect with biblical history and tradition.

It is an interesting choice of phrase when we read Jeremiah. “‘The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The Lord Our Righteous Savior.’” (Jeremiah 23: 5.6)

When the Balfour Declaration was confirmed at San Remo (1920) Israel received a legally binding right to exist.

God moves in mysterious ways.

Ron Ross

Ron Ross worked as a newsman in Jerusalem, broadcasting Middle East reports internationally. He is the Middle East correspondent for Vision Christian Radio and a popular speaker.

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