Palestine – Jews and Arabs, the Mandate and the Law
by David Singer
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The Levy Commission’s resurrection of the Mandate for Palestine as the legal title deed establishing Israel’s entitlement to claim sovereignty in the West Bank has come 48 years after the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) first tried to bury it…writes David Singer.
A member of the Levy Commission – Alan Baker – stated this week that the three Commissioners were:
“legal experts examining a legal situation and making legally oriented recommendations.”
Two short statements made by the PLO in 1964 and 1968 had attempted to negate the unanimous decision of the League of Nations in 1922 to grant the Mandate for Palestine to Great Britain to enable the Jewish people to reconstitute the Jewish National Home in any part of former Palestine.
Those statements also became the opening shots in an ongoing and concerted Arab campaign of misinformation and disinformation to denigrate and vilify the Jewish People’s entitlement to its own state in its ancient and biblical homeland. They provide potent evidence to explain why the conflict between Arabs and Jews still remains unresolved in 2012.
The first statement – in 1964 – appeared in Article 18 of the Palestinian National Covenant :
“The Balfour Declaration, the Mandate system and all that have been based upon them are considered fraud”
The second – in 1968 – followed the loss of the West Bank by Jordan to Israel in the 1967 Six Day War.
Article 18 was replaced by Article 20 in a revamped document – the Palestinian National Charter – to declare:
“The Balfour Declaration, the Mandate for Palestine and everything that has been based on them are deemed null and void.”
The change – from the “Mandate system” being “fraud” – to the “Mandate for Palestine” being “null and void” – was deliberate.
The “Mandate system “- in the form of the Mandates for Syria and Lebanon and Mesopotamia (Iraq) - had delivered self-determination for the Arabs and the creation of three sovereign Arab states. To continue to declare the Mandate system a “fraud” would undermine the sovereign integrity of those Arab states.
The Mandate for Palestine was solely targeted. It was no longer a “fraud” – it was “null and void”.
In one fell swoop the Arabs had dismissed as “null and void” not only the Balfour Declaration and the Mandate for Palestine – but also the resolutions of the San Remo Conference and the Treaty of Sevres in 1920, article 80 of the United Nations Charter in 1945 and Security Council resolution 242 in 1967.
Such double standards and hypocrisy seem to have escaped the international community or to have been deliberately overlooked by it.
The Arabs were perfectly entitled to ignore this body of international law if they wished - but they should have been forced to pay a high price for doing so in the form of suspension from membership of the United Nations and its other organs – until they acknowledged and agreed to accept the rule of law in the conduct of international relations between member states of the UN.
Instead – the international community pandered to the whim of these serial law-deniers for a variety of reasons – mainly oil, terrorism and geopolitical jockeying for influence in the Arab world.
Ignoring Israel’s legal rights under the Mandate at the United Nations has proved disastrous for the cause of peace in the Middle East – has led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Jews and Arabs – and has wreaked untold suffering and trauma on millions of others.
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in its 2004 decision on the legality of Israel‘s security barrier – gave an air of legal respectability to the irrelevance of the Mandate – referring to it only once in the following statement.
“Palestine was part of the Ottoman Empire. At the end of the First World War, a class A. Mandate for Palestine was entrusted to Great Britain by the League of Nations,pursuant to paragraph 4 of Article 22 of the Covenant, which provided that:
“Certain communities, formerly belonging to the Turkish Empire have reached a stage of development where their existence as independent nations can be provisionally recognized subject to the rendering of administrative advice and assistance by a Mandatory until such time as they are able to stand alone.’”
That this statement was demonstrably wrong was made clear by the following statement in the Palestine Royal Commission Report of 1937 – following its exhaustive consideration of the Mandate for Palestine:
“The Mandate is of a different type from the Mandate for Syria and the Lebanon and the draft Mandate for ‘Iraq. These latter, which were called for convenience “ A ” Mandates, accorded with the fourth paragraph of Article 22. Thus the Syrian Mandate provided that the government should be based on an organic law which should take into account the rights,interests and wishes of all the inhabitants,and that measures should be enacted ”to facilitate the progressive development of Syria and the Lebanon as independent States“. The corresponding sentences of the draft Mandate for ‘Iraq’ were the same. In compliance with them National Legislatures were established in due course on an elective basis.
Article I of the Palestine Mandate, on the other hand, vests “full powers of legislation and of administration“, within the limits of the Mandate, in the Mandatory.”
The Commission further asserted:
“Jews were admitted to be in Palestine by right. The little Jewish minority was to be helped to grow by immigration. To facilitate the establishment of the Jewish National Home was a binding international obligation on the Mandatory. “
It also made clear:
“The Mandate also imposed specific obligations towards the Arabs.Their civil and religious rights and their position as affected by immigration and land-settlement were not to be prejudiced.”
Notably absent in the Mandate was there any mention of the Arabs in Palestine having any political rights.
For the ICJ to summarily dismiss the Mandate and make the fundamental error it did in just one sentence – shows how successful the campaign begun by the Arabs 40 years earlier had become.
The ICJ decision has since been used as a whipping post at the United Nations to deny that Israel has any rights in international law to be and remain in the West Bank.
The Levy Committee has reversed that downward spiral and identified the Mandate for Palestine as the legal basis for any decisions taken by Israel aimed at resolving the allocation of sovereignty in the West Bank between Jews and Arabs.
Hopefully the nations of the world will now sit up and take notice.
David Singer is a Sydney Lawyer and Foundation Member of the International Analysts Network