The Mandate For Palestine - Still Relevant Nearly A Century Later
by Eli E. Hertz
Successive Israeli governments have failed to recognize the supreme importance of the “Mandate for Palestine” [24 July, 1922]. The Mandate, a historical League of Nations (the forerunner to the United Nations) document, laid down the Jewish legal right to settle anywhere in western Palestine, the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, an entitlement unaltered in international law.
Jewish leadership in Israel and the diaspora has done practically nothing effective with the best political weapon they will ever have. We simply cannot afford to ignore the valid rights granted to the Jewish people under the Mandate for Palestine. Justice is on our side; we must not let it slip away.
Israelis and friends of the Jewish State alike are accustomed to the never-ending scorn that the United Nations heaps on Israel, the Middle East’s only free democracy; never mind its desire for peace with all of its Arab neighbors. It may seem unfathomable then, that the very same institution was ultimately responsible for its creation.
The roots of the “Mandate for Palestine”– a legally binding document published by the League of Nations, the forerunner of the United Nations – can be traced back to both the founding of modern Zionism in 1897 by Theodor Herzl, and the Balfour Declaration of November 1917.
After witnessing the spread of anti-Semitism around the world, Theodor Herzl felt compelled to create a political movement with the goal of establishing a Jewish National Home in historic Palestine, and assembled the first Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland in August 1897. During World War I, Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour simply expressed Great Britain’s view with favor and sympathy for “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”
In contrast, the Mandate is the multilateral binding agreement which laid down the Jewish legal right to settle anywhere in the geographical area called Palestine, the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, an entitlement unaltered in international law.
The Mandate was not an innocent vision briefly embraced by the international community. The entire League of Nations – 51 countries – unanimously declared on July 24th, 1922: “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.”
Washington went a step further: In September of that year, President Warren Harding signed the Lodge-Fish Joint Resolution, which had passed both Houses of Congress without dissent and read, “Favors the establishment in Palestine of a National Home for the Jewish people.”
The Mandate clearly differentiates between political rights referring to Jewish self-determination as an emerging polity – and civil and religious rights, referring to guarantees of equal personal freedoms to non-Jewish residents as individuals and within select communities. Not once are Arabs as a people mentioned in the Mandate for Palestine. Nowhere in the document is there any granting of political rights to the Arab population.
Article 5 of the Mandate clearly states that "The Mandatory [Great Britain] shall be responsible for seeing that no Palestine territory shall be ceded or leased to, or in any way placed under the control of the Government of any foreign power." The territory of Palestine was exclusively assigned for the Jewish National Home.
Article 6 states that “the Administration of Palestine, while ensuring that the rights and position of other sections of the population are not prejudiced, shall facilitate Jewish immigration under suitable conditions and shall encourage, in co-operation with the Jewish agency referred to in Article 4, close settlement by Jews on the land, including State lands and waste lands not required for public purposes.”
Accordingly, article 6 clearly states that the creation of Jewish settlements is not only permissible, but actually encouraged. Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria (i.e., the West Bank) are perfectly legal. The use of the phrase “Occupied Palestinian Territories” is a disingenuous term that misleads the international community, while encouraging Palestinian Arabs, with the right to use all measures to attack Israel, including the use of terrorism.
The Mandate was subsequently protected by Article 80 of the United Nations Charter that recognizes the continued validity of the rights granted to all states or peoples, or already existing international instruments including those adopted by the League of Nations. The International Court of Justice has consistently recognized that the Mandate survived the demise of the League of Nations.
Legal arguments aside, it is worth noting that the Arabs never established a Palestinian state when the UN in 1947 recommended to partition Palestine, and to establish a “Jewish” state and an “Arab” state – not a Palestinian state. Additionally, the Arab countries never recognized or established a Palestinian state during the two decades prior to the Six-Day War when the West Bank was under Jordanian control and the Gaza Strip was under Egyptian control. Nor did the Palestinian Arabs clamor for autonomy, independence, or self-determination during those years.
It is important to point out that political rights to self-determination as a polity for Arabs were guaranteed by the same League of Nations in four other mandates – in Lebanon and Syria [The French Mandate], Iraq, and later Trans-Jordan [The British Mandate].
Any attempt to negate the Jewish people’s rights to Palestine, and to deny them access and control in the area designated for the Jewish people by the League of Nations, is in serious conflict with the Mandate’s legal framework
Eli E. Hertz