Category Archives: Documents on the Palestine Question

Israelis rattled by search for truth about the Nakba: First “truth commission” in Israel

Israelis rattled by search for truth about the Nakba
14 December 2014

‘truth commission’ avoids issue of reconciliation as veteran Israeli fighters due to confess to 1948 war crimesMiddle East Eye – 9 December 2014

The first-ever “truth commission” in Israel, to be held on Wednesday, will feature confessions from veteran Israeli fighters of the 1948 war who are expected to admit to perpetrating war crimes as hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were expelled from their homes.

The commission is the culmination of more than decade of antagonistic confrontations between a small group of activists called Zochrot, the Hebrew word for Remembering, and the Israeli authorities as well as much of the Jewish public.

Founded in 2002, Zochrot is dedicated to educating Israeli Jews about what Palestinians call the Nakba, Arabic for catastrophe, referring to Israel’s creation on the ruins of their homeland more than six decades ago. The group also campaigns for the right of return for Palestinian refugees to Israel, probably the biggest taboo in Israeli society.

The commission, which has no official standing, could be the first of several such events around Israel, to investigate atrocities and war crimes committed in different localities, said Liat Rosenberg, Zochrot’s director.

“We have looked to other such commissions around the world as models, most obviously in South Africa,” she said. “But unlike the one there, ours does not include the element of reconciliation because the conflict here has yet to be resolved.

“We cannot talk about reconciliation when the Nakba is ongoing. We are still in a situation where there is apartheid, constant violations of human rights and 70 percent of the Palestinian community are refugees.”

The commission is likely to provoke outrage from the Israeli government, which passed the so-called Nakba Law in 2011 to try to make it harder to commemorate Palestinian suffering. The impact of the law is being widely felt. Just last month, the culture ministry vowed to block a government grant to a Tel Aviv cultural centre that hosted a Zochrot film festival on the Nakba.
Names kept secret

Rosenberg said Israeli veteran fighters and Palestinian witnesses participating in the truth commission had asked for their names to be kept secret until the hearings for fear that friends and family would put pressure on them to withdraw.

The commission is being held in the city of Beersheva, a once-Bedouin town that was ethnically cleansed in 1948 and is today the largest Jewish city in the Negev region in southern Israel.

Zochrot said it had chosen the city to host the first event event because forced expulsions of Bedouin from the Negev had taken place not only in 1948, but had continued on a large scale, out of view of observers, for many years afterwards.

The commission is the latest project by Zochrot that discredits a traditional Israeli narrative that some 750,000 Palestinians left under orders from Arab leaders and that Israel’s army acted only in self-defence. Such beliefs have fed into the common assumption from the Israeli public that Israel’s army is the “most moral in the world”.

“This is not just about researching the truth,” said Rosenberg. “The truth of the Nakba is to a large degree known, but the task is to expose the truth to the Israeli Jewish public – both so that it is forced to take responsibility for what happened and so there can be accountability.”

The commission is the direct result of a project launched by Zochrot two years ago to create an alternative archive of the Nakba, based on filmed testimonies from Palestinian refugees and Israeli veterans. Activists fear that, as the generation of refugees and fighters dies off, they will take their secrets to the grave.

Israeli military archives relating to the 1948 war began being opened to academics in the late 1980s. This led to a group of so-called “new historians” overturning the traditional accounts of that period and unearthing written evidence of massacres and ethnic cleansing operations for the first time.
Archives closed

However, historians have reported in recent years that the Israeli authorities have become more reluctant to open files and many of the more controversial episodes of the 1948 war are still unclear.

Rosenberg hopes the commission will begin to fill some of the gaps.

According to Rosenberg, three Israeli fighters and three Palestinian witnesses will testify before a panel of six commissioners. The commissioners will then question them further about events and make follow up recommendations.

The hearings are due to be streamed online.

One veteran of the fighting in the Negev, Amnon Neumann, has already gone on record in testimony that can be seen in Zochrot’s film archive.

He has said the Bedouin in the Negev – contrary to popular Israeli perception – put up almost no resistance to advancing Jewish forces because they lacked “a military capacity” and “had no weapons”. Nonetheless, he said, the Israeli army terrified the Bedouin villagers out of their homes by shooting either at them, or above their heads.

“We drove them out. Women and children went to Gaza. … By the morning there was nobody there. We burnt their houses,” Neumann said.

When villagers tried to sneak back to tend crops or vineyards under the cover of night, he recounted, the soldiers opened fire. “We would shoot and kill them. This was part of the horrible things we did.”

In other filmed testimony, Mordechai Bar-On, an officer in 1948 with the Givati Brigade, confirmed that orders were to shoot “infiltrators” – a reference to refugees who tried to return to their villages. “Even if there were women and children. I remember I told myself that we would do it. … There was an order to kill, not even catch them,” Bar-On said.

For the most part, the Israeli veterans are coming forward now out of a feeling of guilt.

“At that time I did not see anything wrong with what we were doing,” Neumann said. “If I was told to do things that I do not want to mention [here], I did them with no doubts at all. … Not now. It is already 50, 60 years that I am filled with regret.”

But challenges remain, and despite veterans coming forward, piecing together events can still be difficult.

Rosenberg said many of those giving filmed testimony, including Neumann, have been reluctant to go into details of the war crimes they participated in. It is now hoped that the questioning by the commissioners will encourage participants to be even more forthcoming.
Put on trucks to Gaza

The commission will also move beyond the 1948 period and examine expulsions in the semi-desert Negev region, comprising nearly two-thirds of Israel’s landmass, for the 12 years following the war.

Isolated from the rest of the new state of Israel, the Negev was largely unmonitored as the Israeli military carried out expulsions of Bedouin throughout the 1950s, said Raneen Jeries, a Zochrot organiser.

More than 2,000 Palestinian inhabitants of al-Majdal, which later became the Jewish city of Ashkelon, were put on trucks and shipped to Gaza nearly two years after the war ended, according to Nur Masalha, a Palestinian historian and expert on Israeli “transfer” policies.

Jeries said the legacy of the events of 1948 was being felt to this day, with policies of expulsion continuing in the Negev and the occupied territories.

Haaretz reporter Amira Hass revealed three months ago that the Israeli military was planning to forcibly relocate for a second time the Jahalin tribe. The tribe was driven out of the Negev in 1948 and fled to the safety of the West Bank, then under Jordanian control. However, Israel occupied the land after the 1967 war, and it seems that Israeli authorities now want to expel some 12,500 Jahalin tribes people, this time to a site near Jericho.

Zochrot had been successful in forcing Israelis to recognise the Nakba and a darker side to the 1948 war, said Neve Gordon, a politics professor at Ben Gurion University in Beersheva, where the truth commission is to be held.

“A decade ago, if I mentioned the Nakba in a class of 150 students, hardly any of them would have known what I meant. Now 80 or 90 per cent would know,” Gordon told MEE.

Gordon also attributed the change both to Zochrot’s activities and statements by Arab legislators representing Israel’s large Palestinian minority, comprising a fifth of the total population.
Law against commemoration

But as the issue of the Nakba has become more visible in Israel, sensitivity about it has only grown. Ahead of Nakba Day last May, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lashed out at the Palestinian Authority for commemorating the day, saying: “They are standing silent to mark the tragedy of the establishment of Israel, the state of the Jewish people.”

Palestinians were educating their children with “endless propaganda” calling for the disappearance of Israel, he said.

Economy Minister Naftali Bennett went further, saying: “We need not tolerate Israeli Arabs who promote Nakba Day.”

The government has backed up its rhetoric with legislation, passing a Nakba Law in 2011 that denies public funds to institutions and organisations that commemorate the Palestinians’ dispossession. The measure is partly seen as a reaction to Zochrot’s growing success.

The original legislation, which would have criminalised any commemoration of the Nakba – making many of Zochrot’s activities illegal – was water-downed after Israel came under strong international pressure.

In Zochrot’s early years, its main efforts were directed at escorting Israeli Jews and Palestinian refugees to some of the more than 500 Palestinian villages that Israel destroyed during and after the 1948 war. The villages were razed to prevent refugees from returning home.

The remnants of most of the villages are now barely traceable, hidden under forests planted by a charity called the Jewish National Fund or lost within gated communities in which only Jews can live.

Zochrot has continued such visits, placing signposts to remind the new Jewish inhabitants that their communities are built on the ruins of Palestinian homes, often belonging to neighbours living a short distance away. A large proportion of Israel’s Palestinian minority were internally displaced by the 1948 war and live close to their original homes but are barred from returning.
Backlash on campuses

Eitan Bronstein, who founded Zochrot, said the current challenge was how to change Israeli Jews’ perception of the Nakba.

“They now recognise the word but what does it mean to them? Many, it seems, think it is simply a negative label Palestinians have attached to Israel’s establishment. We have an Independence Day that they call their Nakba,” Bronstein said.

“We need to educate them about the events of the Nakba, what occurred and our responsibility for it. They have to stop thinking of it as just propaganda against Israel.”

The right wing, including the government of Benjamin Netanyahu, has grown increasingly rattled by Zochrot’s agenda-setting programme of events.

The popularity of a far-right youth movement, Im Tirtzu, has grown rapidly on Israeli university campuses over the past few years, in part as a backlash to commemorations of the Nakba by Zochrot and Palestinian students.

Last month, when Zochrot held its second Nakba and Right of Return Film Festival in Tel Aviv, the culture minister, Limor Livnat, immediately threatened to pull a government grant worth more than $450,000 from the cinema that hosted it.

“The state cannot bear the cost of funding of an entity that encourages debate over what the Palestinians call ‘the right of return’,” Livnat said in a statement. She was reported to have based her decision on her reading of the Nakba Law.

“The antagonism towards Zochrot and the idea of the Nakba is part of the educational process,” said Bronstein. “It is a necessary phase Israel needs to pass through if we are to get to a point of reconciliation.”
Unfazed by threats

Bronstein and others have faced angry opposition from the Israeli public and police as they have tried to stage Nakba commemorations – most notably in Tel Aviv in 2012, when they were surrounded by riot police for four hours. Three Zochrot activists were arrested.

Yet Zochrot’s organisers, whose members include both Jewish and Palestinian citizens, seem largely unfazed by the threats and hostility their group generates.

Last year Zochrot arranged a conference that for the first time examined not just the principle of the right of return but practical ways to implement it.

This year the group launched a phone app, called iNakba, in three languages, which provides users with detailed maps and information on the destroyed villages.

Jeries said it had had thousands of downloads, giving Israelis for the first time the chance to peel away the subsequent layers of construction and forestation to see what was destroyed, often on their doorstep.

Tagged as: Bedouin, destroyed villages, Nakba
– See more at:

Memorandum by Lord Balfour Respecting Syria, Palestine and Mesopotamia, 1919

Memorandum by Mr. Balfour (Paris) Respecting Syria, Palestine and Mesopotamia, 1919 (1)

In 1915 we promised the Arabs independence; and the promise was unqualified, except in respect of certain territorial reservations. In 1918 the promise was by implication repeated; for no other interpretation can, I think, be placed by any unbiased reader on the phrases in the declaration about a ‘National Government’ and ‘an Administration deriving its authority from the initiative and free choice of the native population’.


“Now where the covenant of 1919 is in contradiction with the Agreement of 1916 [Sykes-Picot] it is presumably the Covenant which must be held to represent our policy. We are seemingly committed, therefore, to the view that the whole area we are considering already consists of an independent nation or nations; and that all we have to do, after having got rid of the Turk, is to supply every independent nation with one, but not more than one, suitable mandatory.

Without further considering whether the political picture drawn by the Covenant correponds with anything to be found in the realms of fact, let us ask on what principle these mandatories are to be selected by the Allied and Associated Powers.

On this point the Covenant speaks as follows: 

“The wishes of these communities (i.e. the independent nations) must be a principal consideration in the selection of a mandatory.”

The sentiment is unimpeachable; but how it is to be carried into effect ? To simplify the argument, let us assume that two of the ‘independent nations’ for which mandatories have to be provided are Syria and Palestine ? Take Syria first. Do we mean, in the case of Syria, to consult principally the wishes of the inhabitants ? We mean nothing of the kind. According to the universally accepted view there are only three possible mandatories – England, America, and France. Are we going ‘chiefly to consider the wishes of the inhabitants’ in deciding which of  these is to be selected ? We are going to do nothing of the kind. England has refused. America will refuse. So that, whatever the inhabitants may wish, it is France they will certainly have. They may freely choose; but it is Hobson’s choice after all.

The contradiction between the letter of the Covenant and the policy of the Allies is even more flagrant in the case of the ‘independent nation’ of Palestine than in that of the ‘independent nation’ of Syria. For in Palestine we do not propose even to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country, though the American Commission has been going through the form of asking what they are. The four Great Powers are committed to Zionism. And Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-lng traditions, in present needs, in future hopes, of far profounder import than the desires and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land.

In my opinion that is right.


If Zionism is to influence the Jewish problem throughout the world Palestine must be made available for the largest number of Jewish immigrants. It is therefore eminently desirable that it should obtain the command of the water-power which naturally belongs to it, whether by extending its borders to the north, or by treaty with the mandatory of Syria, to whom the southward flowing waters of Hamon could not in any event be of much value.

For the same reasons Palestine should extend into the lands lying east of the Jordan. It should not, however, be allowed to include the Hedjaz Railway, which is too distinctly bound up with exclusively Arab interests…

1 Reprinted in Walid Khalidi, “From Haven to Conquest: Readings in Zionism and the Palestine Problem Until 1948”, The Institute for Palestine Studies, Washington 1987, pp. 201-211

Meeting of Justice Brandeis and Mr. Frankfurter with Balfour in Paris, 1919

An Interview(1) in Mr. Balfour’s Apartment, 23 Rue Nitot, Paris, on June 24th, 1919, at 4:45 p.m.

Present    Mr. Balfour, Mr. Justice Brandeis, Lord Eustace Percy and Mr. Frankfurter(2)

Mr. Balfour expressed great satisfaction that Justice Brandeis came to Europe. He said the Jewish problem (of which the Palestinian question is only a fragment but an essential part) is to his mind as perplexing a question as any that confronts the statesmanship of Europe. He is exceedingly distressed by it and harassed by its difficulties. Mr. Balfour rehearsed summarily the pressure on Jews in Eastern Europe and said that the problem was, of course, complicated by the extraordinary phenomenon that Jews now are not only participating in revolutionary movements but are actually, to a large degree, leaders in such movements. He stated that a well informed person told him only the other day that Lenin also on his mother’s side was a Jew.

Justice Brandeis stated that he had every reason to believe that this is not so and that Lenin on both sides is an upper class Russian. He continued to say that after all this is a minor matter, that all that Mr. Balfour said was quite so. He believes every Jew is potentially an intellectual and an idealist and the problem is one of direction of those qualities. He narrated his own

approach to Zionism, that he came to it wholly as an American, for his whole life had been free from Jewish contacts or traditions. As an American he was confronted with the disposition of the vast number of Jews, particularly Russian Jews, that were pouring into the United States year by year. It was then that by chance a pamphlet on Zionism came his way and led him to the study of the Jewish problem and to the conviction that Zionism was the answer. The very same men, with the same qualities that are now enlisted in revolutionary movements would find (and in the United States do find) constructive channels for expression and make positive contributions to civilisation.

Mr. Balfour interrupted to express his agreement, adding: ‘Of course, these are the reasons that make you and me such ardent Zionists’.

The justice continued that for the realisation of the Zionist programme three conditions were essential:

First that Palestine should be the Jewish homeland and not merely that there be a Jewish homeland in Palestine. That, he assumed, is the commitment of the Balfour Declaration and wilb of course, be confirmed by the Peace Conference.

Secondly, there must be economic elbow room for a Jewish Palestine; self sufficiency for a healthy social life. That meant adequate boundaries, not merely a small garden within Palestine. On the North that meant the control of the waters and he assumed that Great Britain was urging the northern boundary necessary for the control of the waters. That was a question substantially between England and France and, of course, must be determined by the Peace Conference. The southern and eastern boundaries, he assumed, raised internal British questions.

Mr. Balfour assented that that was so as to the southern boundary but questioned as to the eastern boundary.

The justice added that, of course, the interests of the Hedjaz were involved, but after all, the disposition of questions between the Arabs and the Zionists was, in effect, an internal British problem. He urged on the east the Trans-Jordan line for there the land is largely unoccupied and settlement could be made without conflict with the Arabs much more easily than in the more settled portions of the North.

Mr. Balfour pointed out that in the East there is the Hedjaz railroad which can rightly be called a Mohammedan railroad.

The justice replied that there is land right up to the railroad and Mr. Balfour stated that he thought that Feisul would agree to having an eastern boundary of Palestine go up to the Hedjaz railroad.

Thirdly, the justice urged that the future Jewish Palestine must have control of the land and the natural resources which are at the heart of a sound economic life. It was essential that the values which are being and will be created because of the cessation of Turkish rule and due to British occupation and Jewish settlement should go to the State and not into private hands.

Mr. Balfour expressed entire agreement with the three conditions which the justice laid down. He then proceeded to point out the difficulties which confronted England. He narrated at length the Syrian situation and the appointment of the Inter-Allied Commission which finally terminated in the present American Commission. Feisul3 was a comrade in arms with the British; he undoubtedly was of military help and by sheer force of events the British and the Arabs find themselves together in Syria. Feisul interpreted British action and British words as, in effect, a promise either of Arab independence or of Arab rule under British protection. On the other hand, are the old interests of France in Syria and the Prime Minister has given (and in Mr. Balfour’s opinion, rightly given) definite word that under no circumstances will Great Britain remain in Syria. It would involve a quarrel with France which would not be healed. But Feisul prefers Great Britain to France, (at least, so he says), and all advices indicate that French rule in Syria will meet
with the greatest opposition and even bloodshed on the part of the populace.

The situation is further complicated by an agreement made early in November [1918] by the British and French, and brought to the President’s attention, telling the people of the East that their wishes would be consulted in the disposition of their future. One day in the Council of Four, when the Syrian matter was under dispute, the President suggested the despatch of a Commission to find out what the people really wanted. It began with Syria but the field of enquiry was extended over the whole East. Mr. Balfour wrote a memorandum to the Prime Minister, and he believed it went to the President, pointing out that Palestine should be excluded from the terms of reference because the Powers had committed themselves to the Zionist programme, which inevitably excluded numerical self-determination. Palestine presented a unique situation. We are dealing not with the wishes of an existing community but are consciously seeking to re-constitute a new community and definitely building for a numerical majority in the future. He has great difficulty in seeing how the President can possibly reconcile his adherence to Zionism with any doctrine of self-determination and he asked the Justice how he thinks the President will do it. The justice replied that Mr. Balfour had already indicated the solution and pointed out that the whole conception of Zionism as a Jewish homeland, was a definite building up for the future as the means of dealing with a world problem and not merely with the disposition of all [an] existing community. Mr. Balfour stated he supposed that  would be the President’s line. He continued to point out the great difficulties that are now besetting Great Britain in the East, namely, the ferment in the whole Eastern world, the Mohammedan restlessness, the new Arabic imperialism (sic) and the relations with the French. Then there is also the Sykes-Picot Agreement;4 that is dead, but its ruins still encumber the earth. He was anxious that the justice should know these difficulties for they all bear upon the Palestinian situation. He expressed the greatest satisfaction that the justice was going to the East to study the problem at first hand.

The justice hoped that while he was away at least nothing would be done which would embarrass the fulfilment of the three conditions which he laid down as essential to the realisation of the Zionist programme.

Mr. Balfour then stated that he understood justice Brandeis’ request that no decision be taken as to the boundaries and the extent of control over the land in any way counter to his views until his return in about four or five weeks. He thought it was perfectly safe to give him the assurance that no decision will be taken on those matters during that time to embarrass the aims which the justice indicated.

Mr. Balfour stated that he would be either in Paris or in London when the justice returned and he hoped that he will report to him at once upon his return on the questions as they appear to him from a study on the spot.

No statesman could have been more sympathetic than Mr. Balfour was with the underlying philosophy and aims of Zionism as they were stated by Mr. justice Brandeis, nor more eager that the necessary conditions should be secured at the hands of the Peace Conference and of Great Britain to assure the realisation of the Zionist programme.


1 From E.L. Woodward and Rohan Butler, eds. Documents on British Foreign Policy, 1919-1939, 1st Series, Vol. IV (London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1952), pp. 1276-78. The interview was recorded in a memorandum by Mr. Frankfurter. [Reprinted in Walid Khalidi, “From Haven to Conquest: Readings in Zionism and the Palestine Problem Until 1948”, The Institute for Palestine Studies, Washington 1987, pp. 195-199]

2 Felix Frankfurter (1882-1925), Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, later Associate justice, Supreme Court of U.S. 1939-62, and President Wilson’s Consultant at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919. Lord Eustace Percy (1887-1958), British diplomat, later Conservative Member of Parliament, 1921-37.

3 Faisal I (1885-1933) was the third son of The Sharif Hussein of Mecca and the leader of the Arab Revolt during World War I. After the War, he was proclaimed King of Syria by a Syrian national congress (March 1920) but was deposed by the French (July 1920). He then became King of Iraq until his death.
4  The Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916 had arranged that the Fertile Crescent would be divided into four areas, two to be directly administered by France and Britain respectively, while the other two would be administered by Arab Governments under the guidance of each of the two Western Powers.

The Templers: German settlers who left their mark on Palestine

The Templers: German settlers who left their mark on Palestine

In the late 19th Century a group of German Christians called the Templers settled in the Holy Land on a religious mission. What began with success though ended three generations later, destroyed by the rise of Nazism and the war.

By Raffi Berg BBC News, Jerusalem
• They risked their lives to stop Sars
• The mystery of the vanishing gun inventor
• From Buckingham Palace to an Indian ‘slum’
• Is NY mayor the world’s most powerful?

Kurt Eppinger’s community of German Christians arrived in the Holy Land to carry out a messianic plan – but after less than a century its members were sent into exile, the vision of their founding fathers brought to an abrupt and unhappy end.

The Germans were no longer welcome in what had been first a part of the Ottoman Empire, then British Mandate Palestine and would soon become Israel.

“On 3 September 1939, we were listening to the BBC and my father said: ‘War has been declared’ – and the next minute there was a knock at the door and a policeman came and took my father and all the men in the colony away.”

Aged 14 at the time, Kurt was part of a Christian group called the Templers. He lived in a settlement in Jerusalem – the district still known as the German Colony today.

Who were the Templers?

• Breakaway movement founded in Ludwigsburg, Germany, in 1861 by clergyman Christoph Hoffmann
• Name derived from scriptural concept of Christians as temples embodying God on Earth
• Established Templer communities in the Holy Land hoping to hasten Second Coming of Christ
• Seven Templer colonies founded across Palestine from 1869-1906
• Reconstituted in Germany and Australia as Temple Society
• No connection with Knights Templar

By the late 1940s though, the entire Templer community of seven settlements across Palestine had been deported, never to return.

They had landed two generations earlier, led by Christoph Hoffmann, a Protestant theologian from Ludwigsburg in Wuerttemberg, who believed the Second Coming of Christ could be hastened by building a spiritual Kingdom of God in the Holy Land.

Kurt’s grandfather, Christian, was among several dozen people who joined Hoffmann in relocating from Germany to Haifa in Palestine in 1869.

Hoffmann had split from the Lutheran Evangelical Church in 1861, taking his cue from New Testament concepts of Christians as “temples” embodying God’s spirit, and as a community acting together to build God’s “temple” among mankind.

But building a community in what was then a neglected land was an immensely difficult endeavour. Much of the ground was swamp, malaria was rife and infant mortality was high.

“The Templers saw ‘Zion’ [Biblical synonym for Jerusalem and the Holy Land] as their second homeland,” says David Kroyanker, author of The German Colony and Emek Refaim Street. “But it was like being on the moon – they came from a very developed country to nowhere.”

In fact, the Templers arrived in Palestine more than a decade before the first large-scale immigration of Jewish Zionists, who fled there to escape destitution and pogroms in Russia – and in many ways they served as a model for the Jewish pioneers.

“Testimony. Christian Eppinger of Kornwestheim was instructed in the local Mission School for the Orient from 1 January 1859 until now and is to leave for Palestine during the month of March to work there for the spreading of the Gospel. This testifies. Kirschenhardthof 14 February 1860. Christoph Hoffmann, Principal of the Mission School” (Picture shows Christian and Babette Eppinger)
Initially the Templers concentrated on farming – draining the swamps, planting fields, vineyards and orchards, and employing modern working techniques unfamiliar to Palestine (they were the first to market “Jaffa Oranges” – produce from their Sarona settlement near Jaffa).

They operated steam-powered oil presses and flour mills, opened the country’s first hotels and European-style pharmacies, and manufactured essential commodities such as soap and cement – and beer.

In his book The Settlements of the Wuerttemberg Templers in Palestine 1868-18, Prof Alex Carmel of Haifa University observes how the Templers “soon gained a reputation for their skills and their diligence. They built exemplary colonies and pretty houses surrounded by flower gardens – a piece of their homeland in the heart of Palestine”.

Symbols of their fervent religious beliefs are still evident in the Jerusalem neighbourhood where the Templers began to settle in 1873. They named the district Emek Refaim (Valley of Refaim) after a place in the Bible, and verses from the Scriptures, inscribed in Gothic lettering, survive on the lintels of their former homes.

Most of the buildings, with their distinctive red-tiled roofs and green shutters, are intact (protected by a preservation order) and lend the district a continental elegance which has helped make it one of Jerusalem’s most expensive areas.

“In the first years of Jewish immigration, in Palestine the know-how in terms of agricultural and industrial modernisation was in the hands of the Germans,” notes Jakob Eisler, a Templer historian in Stuttgart.

A Biblical verse on the lintel of a former Templer house in the German Colony, which reads: “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. Isaiah 60, 1”

“Although they were few in number, they had a very big impact on the whole of society, and especially on the Jews who came there,” he says.

“Without the help of the Templers it would have been much more complicated for the Jewish settlers to establish so much.

“If you compare the modernity of Jewish colonies in the 1880s and ’90s with the German colonies at that time, the Germans are leading.”

While Palestine was worlds apart from Germany, the Templers remained fiercely patriotic, proudly retaining their German citizenship and even their Swabian dialect.

When the German Kaiser Wilhelm II visited Jerusalem in 1898, the Templers turned out in their finest attire to cheer him, and their colony of Wilhelma, near Jaffa, was named in honour of King Wilhelm II of Wuerttemberg.

With the advent of World War I, many Templers went to fight for Germany, dying on the battlefields of Europe and in Palestine, which was eventually conquered by the British.

A memorial to 24 of their WWI dead stands in the Templers’ well-tended cemetery, tucked away behind two large green gates on Emek Refaim street.

Germany’s defeat was disastrous for the Templers. Their German loyalties meant they were now considered enemy aliens by the British, and in 1918 850 of them – most of their population – were sent to internment camps in Egypt and their properties and livestock seized.

The visit of the Kaiser was an important event for the Templers in 1898
It would be another three years before they were all allowed back to rebuild their now dilapidated settlements. The returnees displayed the same drive as their predecessors half a century before but there was no longer such close collaboration between the Templers and Palestine’s Jewish immigrants.

“In the 1920s the Jews didn’t need any Germans for modernisation because the British were there, so the British Mandate authority was building the roads and planning the expansion of the cities and doing all those things which in the Ottoman time no-one was caring for,” notes Dr Eisler.

“In the Mandate time Jews came to the land and were competing with the Germans so a lot of the Germans no longer saw themselves as helping development but rather they saw their own future under threat.”

After WWI, hundreds of Templers were expelled to Egypt, where they lived in internment camps
Nevertheless, relations between Templers and the Jewish community remained good, and despite increasing violence between Jews and Arabs in Palestine, life for the Templers was peaceful.

Rosemarie Hahn, who was born in the Jerusalem colony in 1928, recalls the period with a deep sense of nostalgia.

“I have only happy memories,” she says, her German accent, like Kurt’s, still discernible. “For us as children it was like living in our own homeland – we didn’t know anything else. We were friends with everybody – my best friends in kindergarten were a Jewish girl and an Arab girl. English, Jewish, Arab, Armenian – everybody was accepted into our school.

“But that changed after 1934. My Jewish friend was taken out of school, and my brother had a Jewish friend who never came back – because of the politics.”

Rosemarie Hahn (circled near front) went to a Templer school in the German Colony in Jerusalem. Ludwig Buchhalter (circled, back row), head of the Nazi party in Jerusalem, was a teacher there
By this time, the Nazi party had risen to power in Germany and the ripples had spread to expatriate communities, including in Palestine. A branch was established in Haifa by Templer Karl Ruff in 1933, and other Templer colonies followed, including Jerusalem.

While National Socialism caught the imagination of many of the younger, less religious Templers, it met resistance from the older generation.

“The older Templers were afraid that the Fuehrer would overtake Jesus ideologically,” says Mr Kroyanker.

“Many of the young people were easily influenced by Nazism – there were many young Templers who studied in Germany at the time… and when they came back they were very excited about Nazism.

“At the beginning there was some sort of disagreement between the older generation and the newer generation, and in the end the newer generation won the battle.”

In Jerusalem, a teacher at one of the Templer schools, Ludwig Buchhalter, became the local party chief and led efforts to ensure Nazism permeated all aspects of German life there.

The Nazi party gained a foothold in Templer communities across Palestine (Ludwig Buchhalter circled)
The British Boy Scouts and Girl Guides which operated in the German Colony were replaced by the Hitler Youth and League of German Maidens. Workers joined the Nazi Labour Organisation and party members greeted each other in the street with “Heil Hitler” and a Nazi salute.

Under pressure from Buchhalter, some Germans boycotted Jewish businesses in Jerusalem (while Jews did the same in return).

David Kroyanker tells of a macabre turn of events when, in 1978, a box containing a uniform, dagger and other Nazi artefacts was discovered hidden in the roof-space of a house belonging to an 82-year-old Holocaust survivor in Emek Refaim.

Buchhalter’s house – now the site of a luxury apartment block – on Emmanuel Noah Street served as the Nazi party headquarters and Buchhalter himself drove with swastika pennants attached to his car. He later recalled how he once forgot to remove them while driving through a Jewish area and was stoned and shot at.

The extent to which the Templers as a whole adopted Nazism is a matter of historical debate. While some were enthusiastic followers, others were less committed, and among others still there was defiance and resistance.

“You can find dozens of those who were really active and you can find those who were going with the stream and others who were afraid not to go into the party, exactly as you could find in Germany,” says Dr Eisler.

Figures vary, but according to Heidemarie Wawrzyn, whose book Nazis in the Holy Land 1933-1948 is due to be published next week, about 75% of Germans in Palestine who belonged to the Nazi party, or were in some way associated with it, were Templers.

She says more than 42% of all Templers participated in Nazi activities in Palestine.

Curiously, Nazi chief Adolf Eichmann, architect of the Final Solution, cultivated a legend that he was born in the Templer colony of Sarona just north of Jaffa – though this was untrue.

As war loomed in Europe, once again the position of the Templers in Palestine became insecure.

In August 1939, all eligible Germans in Palestine received call-up papers from Germany, and by the end of the month some 249 had left to join the Wehrmacht.

As a child I couldn’t understand why we were being deported, but as it turned out, it was a blessing in disguise”

On 3 September 1939, when Britain (along with France) declared war on Germany, all Germans in Palestine were, for the second time, classed as enemy aliens and four Templer settlements were sealed off and turned into internment camps.

Men of military age, including the fathers of Kurt and Rosemarie, were sent to a prison near Acre, while their families were ordered into the camps.

For the next two years at least, the Templers were allowed to function as agricultural communities behind barbed wire and under guard, but it was the beginning of the end.

In July 1941, more than 500 were deported to Australia, while between 1941 and 1944 400 more were repatriated to Germany by train as part of three exchanges with the Nazis for Jews held in ghettos and camps.

A few hundred Templers remained in Palestine after the war but there was no chance of rebuilding their former communities. A Jewish insurgency was under way to force out the British and in 1946 the assassination by Jewish militants of the former Templer mayor of Sarona, Gotthilf Wagner, sent shockwaves through the depleted community.

Contemporary reports say Wagner was targeted because he had been a prominent Nazi. Sieger Hahn, Wagner’s foster son, says Wagner was killed because he was an “obstacle” to the purchase of land from the Germans.

With the killing of two more Templers by members of the Haganah (Jewish fighting force) in 1948, the British authorities evacuated almost all the remaining members to an internment camp in Cyprus.

The last group of about 20-30 elderly and infirm people was given shelter in the Sisters of St Charles Borromeo convent in Jerusalem, but in 1949 some of them too were ordered to leave the country – now the State of Israel – accused of having belonged to the Nazi party. The last Templers left in April 1950.

Some of the last group of Templers, ordered out of the new State of Israel in 1949
The movement was reconstituted as the Temple Society in Germany and Australia, and in 1962 it was paid 54m Deutsch Marks by Israel for the loss of its properties – the equivalent of about $100m (£65m) in today’s money. Of this, Ludgwig Buchhalter, who died in Germany in 2006 aged 96, reportedly received $60,000, the equivalent of currently just under $500,000.

Both Kurt and Rosemarie, who still belong to the Temple Society in Victoria, are sanguine about the past and are not interested in recrimination.

“As a child I couldn’t understand why we were being deported,” says Kurt, “but as it turned out, it was a blessing in disguise.

“After the Second World War, there was no future for us in Palestine. Australia gave us the opportunity to start again.”

Archive images in the slideshow courtesy of David Kroyanker, Mona Halaby, Central Zionist Archive, Horst Blaich, Alfred Blaich Family Archive – Australia and Alfred Klink. Contemporary images by Noam Sharon. All images subject to copyright.

The Balfour Declaration (excerpts from the entry in th Encyclopaedia Judaica)

Excerpts from the Encyclopaedia Judaica, Second Edition, Volume 3

Entry: Balfour Declaration [by Isaiah Friedman]

“The Declaration was a deliberate act of the British cabinet and part of the its general foreign policy. It was a national policy in the sense that it represented the views of the three British political parties. It had acquired international status since the principal Allies – Russia, France, Italy, and the United States – had given it their prior approval.”

“[Chaim Weizmann’s] scientific achievements early in [World War I] enabled him to render important services to the British government which brought him to the notice of David Lloyd George, minister of munitions. The latter’s personal admiration for Weizmann proved invaluable to the cause of Zionism when Lloyd George was serving as prime minister. Weizmann had met Arthur James Balfour for the first time in Manchester, in 1905. British statesmen, public men, and officials listened readily to Weizmann because he was able to show that he could influence Jewish opinion and that Zionism was advantageous to Britain.”

“C.P. Scott, the celebrated editor of the Manchester Guardian, was one of the leading public men whom Weizmann converted to Zionism. It was Scott who cemented Weizmann’s relationship with Lloyd George and introduced him to Herbert Samuel, then president of the Local Government Board, at that time the only Jewish member of the cabinet. Like Weizmann, Samuel realized that Turkey’s entry into the war on November 5, 1914, opened up great possibilities. He went furter than Weizmann and envisaged that, with the probable disintegration of the Ottoman Empire, the foundation of a Jewish state in Palestine could be laid.  He confided his views first to Sir Edward Grey, the foreign minister, and found him favourably disposed towards the idea.”

“[Herbert Samuel] advocated the annexation of Palestine to the British Empire, as only under British rule would Jewish colonization prosper and immigration be encouraged, so that in course of time when the Jews would become a majority they would be conceded ‘such a degree of self-government as the conditions of that day may justify.’”

“Weizmann and Nahum Sokolow, a member of the World Zionist Executive who arrived in England in December 1914, pursued their activity in a low key, and it was only in 1916 that a collection of essays, edited by Harry Sacher, entitled Zionism and the Jewish Future, was published with the intention of enlightening public opinion on the essence of Zionism.”

“If the British government’s interest in Zionism persisted, it was not in order to establish a claim to Palestine, as was manifested a year later, but in order to win over American Jewry, whose influence was thought to be considerable in the press, in finance, and in politics…It was Horace Kallen, a professor at the University of Wisconsin and an ardent Zionist, who first put to the Foreign Office (November 1915) an alternative method of winning over the American Jews to the Entente: should the Allies issue a statement similar to German promises in favor of Jewish national rights in Palestine, it would, he was convinced, counter German moves and elicit pro-British and pro-French sympathies among the Jewish masses.”

“In America, [Lucien Wolf] conceded, Zionism had captured Jewish opinion, and in view of the forthcoming American Jewish Congress he thought it important that ‘in any bid for Jewish sympathies…very serious account must be taken of the Zionist movement…This is the moment for the Allies to declare their policy in regard to Palestine.’ On March 3, 1916, he suggested a formula as a basis for a public pronouncement.”

“Should the British government give concrete assurances on the Palestine question, [Eduard Suarès, a prominent businessman and head of the Jewish community in Alexandria,] told Sir Henry McMahon, the High Commissioner in Egypt, it would ‘convert the indifference, if not hostility of American and other Jews into enthusiastic support.’ Suarès’ scheme followed the familiar Zionist pattern but what made an impact on the Foreign Office, and particularly oin Grey, was the allusion to the prospect of a German protectorate in Palestine.”

“On Mach 11, 1916, Lord Crewe, who was deputizing for Grey, drafted a cable to the British ambassadors in Paris and Petrograd asking them to sound out the French and the Russian governments about making a joint declaration with regard to Palestine which would satisfy Jewish aspirations. He quoted Wolf’s formula but suggested instead a scheme which he thought would be far more attractive to the majority of Jews. It consisted of creating conditions which would Jewish settlers in Palestine to grow strong enough to cope with the Arab population.”

“[T]he broader aim of Lloyd George’s policy [of supporting Zionism] was to forestall the possibility of Turco-German predominance in Palestine. Herein lay the raison d’être of the alliance with British Zionism…The resounding defeat of Serbia by the German army and Bulgaria’s adherence to the Central Powers virtually opened the road from Hamburg to Baghdad. A German foothold on the eastern bank of the Suez Canal would have placed British imperial communications in grave jeopardy. In these circumstances destruction of the Ottoman Empire became an unavoidable necessity. It was also essential that Palestina come under sole British control. Samuel’s thesis, expounded in his memoranda of January and March 1915, was now fully vindicated.

However, British strategic requirements clashed with the principle of non-annexation enunciated by President Wilson and upheld by the Provisional Government in Russia. It constituted the most serious threat to British war aims.  Henceforth, one of the greatest dilemmas of British diplomacy was how to achieve its desiderata without giving offense to its allies.  This could be done only by marriage with the principle of self-determination. It was here the importance of Zionism, as far as Palestine was concerned, came in.  It provided a cloak under which Britain could appear free from any annexationist taint.  The anti-Turkish crusade was essentially negative in nature, and as such could hardly commend itself to American and Russian opinion, but, when clothed in the ideological garb of struggle for the liberation of small nationalities, it acquired a different aspect.”

“The first step, wh8ich was to lead to a compact with Zionism, was taken by Sir Mark Sykes, a leading expert on the East and a signatory to the Agreement with his French opposite, François-Georges Picot. His conversion to Zionism was of particular importance…His crucial meeting with the Zionist leaders, which included Rabbi Moses Gaster, Lord Rothschild, Herbert Samuel, Harry Sacher, as well as Sokolow and Weizmann, took place on February 7, 1917.  He heard from them what he had expected. The common denominator in the spectrum of their views was the desire for a British protectorate of Palestine. This played directly into his hands…Sykes paved the way for Sokolow’s visit to the Vatican. On May 1, he was received by Cardinal Gasparri, the papal secretary of state, who reassured him that the Zionists need fear no opposition from the Church….Pope Benedict xv expressed himself in even warmed terms. ‘The return of the Jews to Palestine is a miraculous event. It is providential; God has willed it…I believe that we shall be good neighbors.’ Sokolow’s success did not go unnoticed by the Italian government and on May 8, Di Martino, the secretary-general of the Foreign Ministry, handed Sokolow an official declaration of sympathy with Zionist aspirations. Nor did the French government remain a passive onlooker…[T]he secretary-general of the French Foreign Ministry gave Sokolow a letter which for the Zionists constituted a political victory of the highest order. The Italian and French declarations enabled the British to follow suit.”

“Another factor that told strongly in the Zionists’ favor was the situation in Russia. Since April there were growing indications that Russia was drifting out of the war. Particularly disturbing was the demand by the Council of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies for the early conclusion of peace…[T]he conclusion of peace would have transformed the whole strategic situation and the moral effect would have been devastating. Propaganda therefore was badly needed but the British were handicapped in getting their message through. Anglophobia was deep-seated under the czarist regime. Nor did the March Revolution improve the situation…This helps explain why the Zionists were persona gratae at the Foreign Office. In return for meeting their wishes, they could produce in Russia and elsewhere an army of voluntary propagnadists, all the more effective since they had the obvious advantage of being citizens of their respective countries. Russian Jews disliked the war. It was not of their choosing and they had nothing to gain from its continuation. Both for political and economic reasons they were inclined more towards Germany than to England, but recognition of their rights in Palestine might make all the difference. Not only would it immunize them against German-inspired pacifist propaganda but their influence in the press and public life could be brought to bear. The military campaign in Palestine would be presented as an act of liberation and Britain’s presence there linked to the principle of self-determination.”

“After the March Revolution the position of Russian Jews, 5,000,000 strong, was transformed. The abolition of civic disablities released tremendous sources of vitality which became manifest in all fields of cultural and political activity. Although they comprised only four percent of the total population, their influence far exceeded their numerical strength. The most influential party in post-revolutionary Russia was the Zionist party.  Its rise was spectacular.  The number of enrolled members, which before the war amount to 25,000, rose steeply in the spring of 1917 to 140,000. By the beginning of 1918 there were 1,200 registered local Zionist societies all over the country with 300,000 active members…British Military Intelligence estimated [at the time] that ‘great mass of the 6,000,000 Jews in Russia have been more or less in sympathy with the Zionist cause.’”

“In the United States, too, the Zionist movement had made much headway…One of its greatest assets was Woodrow Wilson, the president of the United States, who had come to believe that the Zionist program would help solve the Jewish question.”

“International complexities apart, there was another difficulty that hindered Balfour from issuing an official statement. Aware of the strong opposition to Zionism among influential Jews, he was wary of antagonizing them. It was not before the controversy was resolved in the Zionists’ favor at a meeting of the Board of Deputies [of British Jews] on June 17 and the dissolution of the Conjoint Foreign Committee that the British government could move freely on the road to a public declaration.”

“By June [1917] it became clear that a public statement by the British government could not longer be delayed. For some time the German press, ranging from the Conservative Reichsbote to the liberal Frankfurter Zeitung, had been urging the Reich government to show a more accommodating attitude to the Zionist movement. On June 12 Weizmann called on Sir Ronald Graham, the under-secretary of state for foreign affairs, and told him that he had received some disquieting information. For Zionism to fall under German influence would have been a serious blow to his efforts to anchor the movement firmly to Britain…He insisted that it was essential for the British government to counter German moves and give public expression of its sympathy and support.  On June 19, Balfour invited Lord Rothschild and Weizmann to submit a draft proposal for a declaration of support.”

Weizmann proposed transfer of one million Palestinians

Nahum Barnea

Yediot Aharonot, 25 May 1993


President Hayim Weizmann proposed a transfer of a million Arabs from Palestine to Iraq to settle Polish Jews in their place


In February 1941, Dr. Hayim Weizmann [who became later the first President of the State of Israel] visited the then USSR Ambassador in London, Ivan Meiski. The meeting was secret. The World War II was then in its first stages. While Britain was fighting for its very life, the USSR was neutral, being true to the cynical agreement it had signed with Nazi Germany [in 1939] [1] Meiski described the meeting in his personal diary. Two years afterwards, when he returned to Moscow, the diary was taken from him and filed away in the archive of the Foreign Ministry of the USSR. But documents, like old soldiers, never die.


At the end of April 1993, in an official ceremony, the agreement for mutual opening of archives was signed between Israel and Russia. Among the fossilized documents given to the Israeli researchers accordingly was Meiski’s diary. “Lately”, writes the Ambassador, “an unexpected visitor came to me: a well-known Zionist leader, Dr. Weizmann. He is a tall man, not young by now, elegantly dressed, with a very white skin and almost bald. He wears a triangular  beard and talks slowly. ‘In Palestine’, he told me, ‘there is a problem: where to export the oranges. Therefore, I am asking you whether a barter of Palestinian oranges for Russian furs can be arranged. The furs will then be sold, through Jewish firms, in the U.S.’ I told him that the [Soviet] answer to this proposal will not be positive. The USSR is not importing any fruit from abroad. So it indeed happened. Moscow refused.


“The conversation continued on what the world Jews can expect. Weizmann was very pessimistic. According to him, the number of Jews in the entire world is about 17 million.  10-11 million of them live under reasonable conditions: they are not faced by a prospect of immediate extermination. As far as the Soviet Jews are concerned, Weizmann said: ‘I am not worried about them, they are not faced by any danger. They will be assimilated completely in the Russian society within 20-30 years if the existing regime will continue to exist.’ How will they be assimilated, I asked. ‘Don’t you know that Soviet Jews enjoy all the rights of a national minority, just like Armenians, Georgians, Ukrainans and all the other minorities?’ ‘I know it well’, said Weizmann, ‘When I speak about assimilation I mean that the Jews will become a part of the Russian society. I may not like it, but I can live with it. What is disturbing me is the fate of 6-7 million Jews in Germany, Czechoslovakia, Austria, the Balkan states, and particularly Poland. What will be their fate? Where will they go?’ Weizmann sighed deeply and added: ‘If Germany will win the war, all those Jews will be exterminated. I don’t believe that Germany will win the war. But even if England will win, what will happen then?’


“At this point Weizmann began to express his apprehensions.’The English hate the Jews…(2) English officials are being trained in countries like Nigeria, Sudan, Rhodesia and so on. In such countries, if only a few roads are made, a few laws enacted, missionary activities are encouraged here and there, some medical help is being offered, everything becomes simple and quiet. Those who are ruled don’t cause problems. The English conqueror likes this situation and gets used to it.  But what is happening in Palestine? There,’ said Weizmann with great emotion, ‘grave problems exist. While Arabs behave like docile guinea pigs, the Jews cause the English officials to despair. They are never content with anything, they always ask questions and demand answers. Then the Englishman gets angry, and tends to look on the Jews as on a nuisance. The worst thing is that the English official feels that the Jews are looking on him and thinking: You think yourself clever? We are more clever than you.’


“Therefore, Weizmann raised the following question, with a great worry: ‘What will be the benefit which the Jews will get from an English victory? The answer to this question cannot be encouraging.’   The sole plan for saving Jews of Central Europe, and especially of the Polish Jews is, according to Weizmann, ‘a transfer of a million of Arabs from Palestine, and the settling of 4-5 million Jews from Poland an other countries in their stead. But it can be assumed that the English will not agree to this plan. If so, what next?’


“I expressed my astonishment. How Weizmann can intend to bring 5 million Jews to an area in which now only one million Arabs are living? ‘Don’t you worry’, smiled Weizmann. ‘The Arabs are often called ’the sons of the desert.’  It is, however, more correct to call them ‘the fathers of the desert’. An Arab is primitive and lazy by nature, and therefore he is able to make a desert from any blooming garden. If only you will give me the area, I will be able to settle 5 million Jews in the place of a single Arab.’ Weizmann sadly nodded with his head, and ended, ‘The only question is how the area can be obtained.” (3)


Translation and notes by Prof. Israel Shahak:


(1)  It should be recalled that Stalin, although formally neutral, was at that time an ally of Hitler

(2) The indicated omission is in Barnea’s text

(3) I have no doubt that the recorded conversation represented an attempt by Weizmann, which for whatever reason was not followed up, to make an alliance with Hitler and Stalin against Britain.

British [Churchill] White Paper of June 1922

The tension which has prevailed from time to time in Palestine is mainly due to apprehensions, which are entertained both by sections of the Arab and by sections of the Jewish population. These apprehensions, so far as the Arabs are concerned are partly based upon exaggerated interpretations of the meaning of the [Balfour] Declaration favouring the establishment of a Jewish National Home in Palestine, made on behalf of His Majesty's Government on 2nd November, 1917…Phrases have been used such as that Palestine is to become "as Jewish as England is English." His Majesty's Government regard any such expectation as impracticable and have no such aim in view. Nor have they at any time contemplated, as appears to be feared by the Arab delegation, the disappearance or the subordination of the Arabic population, language, or culture in Palestine… It is also necessary to point out that the Zionist Commission in Palestine, now termed the Palestine Zionist Executive, has not desired to possess, and does not possess, any share in the general administration of the country.

British [Churchill] White Paper of June 1922

The Secretary of State for the Colonies has given renewed consideration to the existing political situation in Palestine, with a very earnest desire to arrive at a settlement of the outstanding questions which have given rise to uncertainty and unrest among certain sections of the population. After consultation with the High Commissioner for Palestine [Sir Herbert Samuel] the following statement has been drawn up. It summarizes the essential parts of the correspondence that has already taken place between the Secretary of State and a delegation from the Moslem Christian Society of Palestine, which has been for some time in England, and it states the further conclusions which have since been reached.

The tension which has prevailed from time to time in Palestine is mainly due to apprehensions, which are entertained both by sections of the Arab and by sections of the Jewish population. These apprehensions, so far as the Arabs are concerned are partly based upon exaggerated interpretations of the meaning of the [Balfour] Declaration favouring the establishment of a Jewish National Home in Palestine, made on behalf of His Majesty's Government on 2nd November, 1917.

Unauthorized statements have been made to the effect that the purpose in view is to create a wholly Jewish Palestine. Phrases have been used such as that Palestine is to become "as Jewish as England is English." His Majesty's Government regard any such expectation as impracticable and have no such aim in view. Nor have they at any time contemplated, as appears to be feared by the Arab delegation, the disappearance or the subordination of the Arabic population, language, or culture in Palestine. They would draw attention to the fact that the terms of the Declaration referred to do not contemplate that Palestine as a whole should be converted into a Jewish National Home, but that such a Home should be founded `in Palestine.' In this connection it has been observed with satisfaction that at a meeting of the Zionist Congress, the supreme governing body of the Zionist Organization, held at Carlsbad in September, 1921, a resolution was passed expressing as the official statement of Zionist aims "the determination of the Jewish people to live with the Arab people on terms of unity and mutual respect, and together with them to make the common home into a flourishing community, the upbuilding of which may assure to each of its peoples an undisturbed national development."

It is also necessary to point out that the Zionist Commission in Palestine, now termed the Palestine Zionist Executive, has not desired to possess, and does not possess, any share in the general administration of the country. Nor does the special position assigned to the Zionist Organization in Article IV of the Draft Mandate for Palestine imply any such functions. That special position relates to the measures to be taken in Palestine affecting the Jewish population, and contemplates that the organization may assist in the general development of the country, but does not entitle it to share in any degree in its government.

Further, it is contemplated that the status of all citizens of Palestine in the eyes of the law shall be Palestinian, and it has never been intended that they, or any section of them, should possess any other juridical status. So far as the Jewish population of Palestine are concerned it appears that some among them are apprehensive that His Majesty's Government may depart from the policy embodied in the Declaration of 1917. It is necessary, therefore, once more to affirm that these fears are unfounded, and that that Declaration, re affirmed by the Conference of the Principle Allied Powers at San Remo and again in the Treaty of Sevres, is not susceptible of change.

During the last two or three generations the Jews have recreated in Palestine a community, now numbering 80,000, of whom about one fourth are farmers or workers upon the land. This community has its own political organs; an elected assembly for the direction of its domestic concerns; elected councils in the towns; and an organization for the control of its schools. It has its elected Chief Rabbinate and Rabbinical Council for the direction of its religious affairs. Its business is conducted in Hebrew as a vernacular language, and a Hebrew Press serves its needs. It has its distinctive intellectual life and displays considerable economic activity. This community, then, with its town and country population, its political, religious, and social organizations, its own language, its own customs, its own life, has in fact "national" characteristics. When it is asked what is meant by the development of the Jewish National Home in Palestine, it may be answered that it is not the imposition of a Jewish nationality upon the inhabitants of Palestine as a whole, but the further development of the existing Jewish community, with the assistance of Jews in other parts of the world, in order that it may become a centre in which the Jewish people as a whole may take, on grounds of religion and race, an interest and a pride. But in order that this community should have the best prospect of free development and provide a full opportunity for the Jewish people to display its capacities, it is essential that it should know that it is in Palestine as of right and not on the sufferance. That is the reason why it is necessary that the existence of a Jewish National Home in Palestine should be internationally guaranteed, and that it should be formally recognized to rest upon ancient historic connection.

This, then, is the interpretation which His Majesty's Government place upon the Declaration of 1917, and, so understood, the Secretary of State is of opinion that it does not contain or imply anything which need cause either alarm to the Arab population of Palestine or disappointment to the Jews.

For the fulfilment of this policy it is necessary that the Jewish community in Palestine should be able to increase its numbers by immigration. This immigration cannot be so great in volume as to exceed whatever may be the economic capacity of the country at the time to absorb new arrivals. It is essential to ensure that the immigrants should not be a burden upon the people of Palestine as a whole, and that they should not deprive any section of the present population of their employment. Hitherto the immigration has fulfilled these conditions. The number of immigrants since the British occupation has been about 25,000.

It is necessary also to ensure that persons who are politically undesirable be excluded from Palestine, and every precaution has been and will be taken by the Administration to that end.

It is intended that a special committee should be established in Palestine, consisting entirely of members of the new Legislative Council elected by the people, to confer with the administration upon matters relating to the regulation of immigration. Should any difference of opinion arise between this committee and the Administration, the matter will be referred to His Majesty's Government, who will give it special consideration. In addition, under Article 81 of the draft Palestine Order in Council, any religious community or considerable section of the population of Palestine will have a general right to appeal, through the High Commissioner and the Secretary of State, to the League of Nations on any matter on which they may consider that the terms of the Mandate are not being fulfilled by the Government of Palestine.

With reference to the Constitution which it is now intended to establish in Palestine, the draft of which has already been published, it is desirable to make certain points clear. In the first place, it is not the case, as has been represented by the Arab Delegation, that during the war His Majesty's Government gave an undertaking that an independent national government should be at once established in Palestine. This representation mainly rests upon a letter dated the 24th October, 1915, from Sir Henry McMahon, then His Majesty's High Commissioner in Egypt, to the Sharif of Mecca, now King Hussein of the Kingdom of the Hejaz. That letter is quoted as conveying the promise to the Sherif of Mecca to recognise and support the independence of the Arabs within the territories proposed by him. But this promise was given subject to a reservation made in the same letter, which excluded from its scope, among other territories, the portions of Syria lying to the west of the District of Damascus. This reservation has always been regarded by His Majesty's Government as covering the vilayet of Beirut and the independent Sanjak of Jerusalem. The whole of Palestine west of the Jordan was thus excluded from Sir. Henry McMahon's pledge.

Nevertheless, it is the intention of His Majesty's overnment to foster the establishment of a full measure of self government in Palestine. But they are of the opinion that, in the special circumstances of that country, this should be accomplished by gradual stages and not suddenly. The first step was taken when, on the institution of a Civil Administration, the nominated Advisory Council, which now exists, was established. It was stated at the time by the High Commissioner that this was the first step in the development of self governing institutions, and it is now proposed to take a second step by the establishment of a Legislative Council containing a large proportion of members elected on a wide franchise. It was proposed in the published draft that three of the members of this Council should be non official persons nominated by the High Commissioner, but representations having been made in opposition to this provision, based on cogent considerations, the Secretary of State is prepared to omit it. The legislative Council would then consist of the High Commissioner as President and twelve elected and ten official members. The Secretary of State is of the opinion that before a further measure of self government is extended to Palestine and the Assembly placed in control over the Executive, it would be wise to allow some time to elapse. During this period the institutions of the country will have become well established; its financial credit will be based on firm foundations, and the Palestinian officials will have been enabled to gain experience of sound methods of government. After a few years the situation will be again reviewed, and if the experience of the working of the constitution now to be established so warranted, a larger share of authority would then be extended to the elected representatives of the people.

The Secretary of State would point out that already the present administration has transferred to a Supreme Council elected by the Moslem community of Palestine the entire control of Moslem Religious endowments (Waqfs), and of the Moslem religious Courts. To this Council the Administration has also voluntarily restored considerable revenues derived from ancient endowments which have been sequestrated by the Turkish Government. The Education Department is also advised by a committee representative of all sections of the population, and the Department of Commerce and Industry has the benefit of the co operation of the Chambers of Commerce which have been established in the principal centres. It is the intention of the Administration to associate in an increased degree similar representative committees with the various Deparments of the Government.

The Secretary of State believes that a policy upon these lines, coupled with the maintenance of the fullest religious liberty in Palestine and with scrupulous regard for the rights of each community with reference to its Holy Places, cannot but commend itself to the various sections of the population, and that upon this basis may be built up that a spirit of cooperation upon which the future progress and prosperity of the Holy Land must largely depend.

Analysis of the Balfour Declaration

Analysis of the Balfour Declaration *


* From J[oseph] M[ary] N[age1] Jeffries, Palestine: The Reality (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1939), chap. xi. Reprinted by permission of Longmans, Green & Co. Limited. Equally published in From Haven to Conquest: Readings in Zionism and the Palestine Problem Until 1948, edited by Walid Khalidi, The Institute for Palestine Studies, Washington, D.C., (1987), pp. 173-188

** British author and journalist (1880-1960); his works include Front Everywhere (London: Hutchinson & Co., 1935) and London and Better (London: Hutchinson & Co., 1936)

There is a great deal which has to be said now concerning the Declaration which, like water seeking its source, came to the Zionist leaders on that 2nd of November in 1917. But the first thing of all to be said of the Balfour Declaration is that it was a pronouncement which was weighed to the last penny-weight before it was issued. There are but sixty-seven words in it, and each of these, save perhaps the Government’s title and a few innocent conjunctions, was considered at length before it was passed into the text.

This too memorable document is not so much a sentence of English as a verbal mosaic. Drafts for it travelled back and forth, within England or over the Ocean, to be scrutinized by some two score draftsmen half co-operating, half competing with one another, who erased phrase or adopted that after much thought. At long last, out of the store of their rejections and of their acceptances the final miscellany was chosen, ratified and fixed. There never has been a proclamation longer prepared, more carefully produced, more consciously worded.

Commentators of all views agree upon this. In his Zionism Mr. Leonard Stein says, “The Balfour Declaration was by no means a casual gesture. It was issued after prolonged deliberations as a considered statement of policy.” In Temperley’s History of the Peace Conference of Paris, it is stated that “before the British Government gave the Declaration to the world, it had been closely examined in all its bearings and implications, and subjected to repeated change and amendment.” M. Nahum Sokolov ((1861-1936), a Polish-born Jewish writer and Zionist leader) in his History of Zionism, another fundamental work? writes that “every idea born in London was tested by the Zionist Organization in America, and every suggestion in America received the most careful attention in London.” “The Balfour Declaration was in process of making for nearly two years,” writes Mr. Wise, who indeed was in a position to know. “Its authorship was not solitary but collective.” Mr. Lloyd George himself, speaking in Wales in 1930, assured his hearers, in curious terms, that the Declaration “was prepared after much consideration, not merely of its policy but of its actual wording.”

So there is one point upon which there is no doubt. Whatever is to be found in the Balfour Declaration was put into it deliberately. There are no accidents in that text. If there is any vagueness in it this is an intentional vagueness. If it is vague, the admiral is vague who orders his destroyers to emit a smokescreen.

It is most important to have this established before more is said, for the reason that for some time past the controversy concerning Palestine, in so far as the Declaration is concerned, has been given a false turn. A secondary apologia has been evolved, which by-passes the bona fides of Lord Balfour’s pronouncement to concentrate upon its terminology. It is described as “uncertainly phrased,” or as “containing implications not foreseen when it was written,” or as “not so definite as was thought;” or contrariwise it is said that “too much has been read into it.”

Behind this apologia often enough there may have lain a good intention. The Balfour Declaration, alas! has been made by a series of our Governments the pedestal of British policy in Palestine. Because of this a number of persons have reasoned that the Declaration must be accepted as it stands, “with all its imperfections.” Scrutiny of it might reveal that it was written in bad faith. But to expose bad faith in the Declaration would be the same as exposing it in the conduct of the country itself, since one Government of Great Britain published it and subsequent Governments have confirmed it. The people who have shrunk from scrutinizing it may not have put their thoughts to themselves as starkly as that, but it was thus they did think in their heart’s recesses. Therefore, as they conceived, the only course which lay open to them, if the country’s honour was to be saved, was to assume that the loosely made great show of ridding out what it meant, with a little deprecatory criticism thrown in.

In this way they could escape perhaps having to acknowledge that this nationally issued and nationally endorsed document was nothing but a calmly planned piece of deception. That is why for years past we have heard statesmen, publicists and politicians, and members of the public too, assert that the authors of the Declaration either did not mean what they appear to say in it, or did not succeed in saying in it what they meant. Other apologists have given their own interested versions of its meaning. In this order were the explanations of Mr. Winston Churchill, as intricate and as lasting as worm-casts in the sand.

Behind excuses and shifts of the kind there may lie, in this way, something of good intention. But it is an intention deplorably translated into practice, and I am not going to follow the example thus set. Since the Balfour Declaration was without excuse, I see no reason to excuse it. There is no pleasure in taking such a course, (as I have said before now): there is no relish in exposing one’s country or in exposing at least the men who spoke in her name. But the world of 1939 has no room for displays of patriotic cowardice. Nor is there any sort of advantage in them. We want an England which can confess her sins, and thereafter take her place at the head of the nations in the strength of her cleared conscience.

With this borne in mind, let us return to the Declaration. It reached the general public on the 9th of November, when Lord Balfour’s letter was reproduced in the newspapers. It was given forth, of course, under the guise of an entirely British communication embodying an entirely British conception. Everyone concerned was made the victim of this false pretence. The British people were given to believe that it was an unadulterated product of their own Government. To the mass of Jews it was presented as a guarantee sprung of nothing but the conscience of the Cabinet  and thereby it served to allure them towards political Zionism. As for the Arabs, when it was proclaimed eventually upon their soil (which was not till much later), to them too a text in which Zionists of all nationalities had collaborated was announced as the voice of Britain. They were told that it was a pledge made to the Zionists: they were not told that the Zionists had written most of it. They were asked to respect it on the ground that it was given to the world by the British Government out of its native magnanimity, after the said Government had extended its profound, solitary and single-minded consideration of the  problem of Palestine.

Let me be quite clear about this. The onus of deception does not lie upon the Government of 1917 because before issuing its Declaration it consulted the Zionists. As far as the mere form of the proposed pronouncement went (leaving aside other considerations), the Zionists could have been asked quite reasonably to submit their ideas upon the species of “support and encouragement” for which they hoped. The Government could have examined whatever the Zionists submitted, and have consulted further with them, till both had agreed upon a final text. Had this text been published for what it was, an agreement between the two parties which the British Government was willing to sponsor, then the form of the Declaration would have been blameless. The form would have been honest, even if the policy was indefensible.

When however the bipartite Declaration  and to call it bipartite even is to swell the Governmental share in its drafting  was given out as the composition of His Majesty’s Government alone, a plain deception was committed. In subsequent years too these synthetic ipsissima verba have been paraded with unyielding obstinacy to the Arabs as a sacred obligation of Great Britain to the Jews, even after it had been disclosed that all the time various Zionists had themselves framed the obligation to themselves. This makes later Governments partakers in the deception of the 1917 Cabinet, a deception only mitigated by culpable ignorance in the case of certain members of these Governments.

The Zionists themselves are in a better position in the matter than their British collaborators are. To do them justice, it was they who made known the real conditions under which the Declaration was composed. They did so after an interval which I cannot give exactly, since I have not read all Zionist publications and writings that ever were. But the Zionist Organization certainly had divulged its share in the Declaration within four years of its publication, and for all I know this may have been divulged earlier. I shall not say that the motives of the Zionist Organization were of the first rank. Everything seemed to be going swimmingly for their cause then and some members or other of the Organization staff could not resist gathering kudos in the eyes of the mass of Zionist supporters by disclosing the important part which their body behind the scenes had taken in the Declaration. Still, their statement was a frank one.

And now to analyse the text of the Declaration. “His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people … “ This first clause is often printed with the words “national home” with capital initials. But in the original copy, as reproduced in The Times, Lord Balfour used the discreeter apparel of what printers call “lower-case” letters for his protégé. Neither he nor his colleagues can claim the invention of this title, which has been imagined by Leon Pinsker in Odessa thirty-five years before. Pinsker himself did not intend it to apply to Palestine. He said, “We must not attach ourselves to the place where our political life was once violently interrupted” (stein), though he did his best ho establish colonies there as elsewhere. But Balfour and his ‘colleagues adopted the title from the Zionist programmes and drafts, and made use of its ambiguity. For most people in 1917 “National Home,” with or without capitals, was a new phrase. Naturally no one could give it a meaning, for it had no established meaning, and was put into practice in Palestine without one.

But in a formal document announcing the support of the British Government for this institution, it was indicated by all rules of statesmanship that ere committing itself to such support, the Government should define for the nation what exactly it was supporting. Not to do so was to pledge (without touching on the right to give a pledge) the aid of Great Britain for no one could say what. The same culpable lack of definition was to be found in the preamble, wherein the Declaration was described as “a declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist  aspirations,” but no clue was supplied of these desires. What were Jewish Zionist aspirations? They were not identified. How could a British Government guarantee its sympathy to an enigma?

The truth of course is that these unfathomable phrases were employed just because they were unfathomable and could be interpreted to pleasure. They had the air of promising Government support of what the Zionists wanted in Palestine, a Jewish State, to be reached through a fictitious condominium of Jew and Arab. This was the meaning which the Zionists who helped to draw up the Declaration accepted in the end, and this was the meaning Zionists and Jews in general were given to understand the Declaration would hold. They were disappointed no doubt that they did not receive full ruling rights immediately. But they were confident that they could engender conditions in Palestine involving a more rapid finish for the transition period than might be expected. The Government on its part did mean to give as much of the Zionists’ sense to the Declaration as was safe, from the very start. As the margin of safety grew, as its own hold on the land became stronger, as a menial prosperity enticed the mass of Arabs, and the opposition of the remainder had been measured and met, then the Government would increase its support of the Zionist establishment in widening degrees, till the Jewish State at last arose.

On the other hand, the Government kept a way of retreat open in case some formidable opposition, in Britain or outside, might make headway against official alliance with political Zionism. In that event, the Declaration was phrased so that it could be explained away as nothing but an expression of unengaged, friendly interest in the Zionist movement. If it came to that, what did “view with favour” amount to as a gage of support? Pretty little. It could be taken to signify no more than that the Government would cast a benign eye upon the “national home,” pleased if the Zionist plans worked out, regretful but quite unimplicated if they failed.

To sum up: the paths of the Government and of Zionism had crossed: the Government had liked the wanderer’s look: the pair had dallied, and then they had agreed to walk on together. So far so good. But if trouble arose on the way before home was reached, well, the path which the Government had crossed the Government, in a manner of speaking, could cross again. The final drafting of the Declaration was a great play of wits, in fact. The opposition to the previous drafts had brought it home to the Government that it must be more careful. So in the final draft, while still conceding everything to the Zionists in its own intent, the Government achieved a wording which would allow it an exit, if needs were, from any definite obligation of any kind. In this the Governmental drafters outwitted the Zionist drafters, who thought that they had the Government securely tied up. The Government was anxious for these ties, which it had invited, but it preferred now to draft so that even they could be slipped in the last resort. All first-class chicanery, but how far fitting in a Declaration by Great Britain is another matter.

In the succeeding clause the same dubious skilfulness prevails as in the first. The Government “will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object.” What is to be understood of this facilitation? To “facilitate” may signify to lend a hand, actively, but also it may just as well signify to put no hand in the way, passively. The sentence in fact is composed upon the same lines as its predecessor, that is, it covers the private intention of giving active help, provides a public screen of passive interest, and in the last resort contains a way out. As in the preceding sentence the situation of the Zionist drafters was that they considered that the nucleus of their special intentions was contained in the words used.

However, it is not till we reach the third and final clause of the Balfour Declaration that its character is quite revealed, “… it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may 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.”

The first part of this clause is the supposed “safeguard” of the Arabs of Palestine which protects them from Zionist encroachment. As far as protection goes, I am reminded of the experience of a relative. When about to land from a ship in a lonely corner of some docks in a distant country, he was warned to take very little money with him and, above all, “to beware of the police.” A similar warning applies to this “protective” clause.

At first sight it does not seem so craftily phrased as the earlier clauses. The will-to-deceive in it is so patent; the description of the Arabs as the “non-Jewish communities in Palestine” is so obviously slippery. At the time the Declaration was issued the population of Palestine was in the neighbourhood of 670,000. Of these the Jews numbered some 60,000. These are broad figures, but reasonable: there is no accurate census to quote: in an interim report to the League of Nations drawn up by the military administration the Jewish total was put at 55,000; in a note of the 1920 Government it was put at 65,000.

Deductions can be made from the pre-War Jewish population. Estimates of this vary from the caution of the official Shaw Report, which says it must have been at least 60,000, to the futuristic 100,000 of Mr. Bentwich (a British Jew, became Attorney-General in the British Mandate Government of Palestine, 1918-31). Mr. Stein says well over 80,000, and quotes Ruppin’s 1916 estimate of nearly 85,000. Accepting this last estimate, and allowing for a fall of 25,000 during the War, which tallies with the figures of those lost by death or exile (Arab wartime losses being infinitely greater actually and proportionately), a 60,000 total for 1918-19 is a fair assumption.

Therefore we have Palestine with 91 per cent of its people Arab and 9 per cent Jew at the time of the Declaration. It was an Arab population with a dash of Jew. Half of the Jews were recent arrivals.

Before this unpalatable reality, what did the framers of the Balfour Declaration do? By an altogether abject subterfuge, under colour of protecting Arab interests, they set out to conceal the fact that the Arabs to all intents constituted the population of the country. It called them the “non-Jewish communities in Palestine!” It called the multitude the non-few; it called the 670,000 the non-60,000; out of a hundred it called the 91 the non-9. You might just as well call the British people “the non-Continental communities in Great Britain.” It would be as suitable to define the mass of working men as “the non-idling communities in the world,” or the healthy as the “non-bedridden elements amongst sleepers,” or the sane as “the non-lunatic section of thinkers” or the grass of the countryside as “the non-dandelion portion of the pastures.”

But of course there is more than mere preposterous nomenclature in the use of the phrase “non-Jewish communities in Palestine” to describe the Arabs. It is fraudulent. It was done in order to conceal the true ratio between Arabs and Jews, and thereby to make easier the supersession of the former. It was as though in some declaration Highlanders and Lowlanders had been defined as “the existing non-Irish communities in Scotland” in order that the Irish colonies might be deemed the essential elements of the population north of the Tweed. The Scots themselves thus would appear to be nothing but sporadic groups dotted about the Caledonian soil. Upon which, dispossessive action against the Scots could be attempted more easily. It was a pity indeed that Lord Balfour was not forced to try in Scotland what he and his Zionist friends carried through in Palestine: one airily disingenuous statesman the less would have been left in power.

Just now it was stated that at first sight this phrase seemed not so crafty, because it was too manifestly deceitful. But on second examination it is perceived to be adroit in its mean way. It plays upon general ignorance. What in 1917 did the war-worn British public, what did the deluded Jews of Russia, what did any general body of people outside the Near East know about the composition of the population of Palestine? Nothing.

It was upon this, then, that the drafters of the Declaration played. They concealed the Arabs’ very name and called them “existing communities in Palestine,” as though they were packets of monks who had strayed into the country and here and there had got a foothold in it. The qualification “existing” provides the finishing touch. The impression given is that these Arabs have just managed to survive, that an explorer has returned and reported to Lord Balfour that he has discovered non-Jews existing in the hills.

Consequently the average citizen, when he read the Declaration, concluded, if he gave the matter any further thought at all, that proper steps would be taken under its terms to safeguard the occasional remnants of other races than the Jews who might be found in the Holy Land. This was what it was intended he should conclude. As for any odd individuals who in the thick of war might have sufficient interest to question the phraseology employed, for them what may have been thought a neat reply had been prepared. “Community is the correct word to use since the population of Palestine is divided into the Moslem, Christian and Jewish communities.” The Druses and Samaritans might have been added for effect: otherwise there is no more to say about this equivocation. It is enough to write it down to expose it. Words are wasted on it.

But the Declaration was not issued merely to falsify the status of the Arabs. It was also to offer them a spurious guarantee, in the phrase “it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which shall prejudice the civil and religious rights” of the aforesaid so-called “communities.” That their religious rights should not be prejudiced, indeed, was satisfactory, though there was not very much in that. Happily, it could be taken for granted. Wherever Britain rules religious rights are preserved.

The crux arrives with “civil rights.” What are “civil rights”? All turns on this point. If civil rights remain undefined it is only a mockery to guarantee them. To guarantee anything, and at the same time not to let anyone know what it is, that is Alice in Wonderland legislation. “I guarantee your civil rights,” said the White Queen to Alice in Palestine-land. “Oh, thank you!” said Alice, “what are they, please?” “I’m sure I can’t tell you, my dear,” said the White Queen, “but I’ll guarantee very hard.”

If only the Declaration had been as innocent as the text of Alice in Wonderland. Its nonsense is deceptive nonsense, written with vicious intention. The Arabs were guaranteed civil rights, again because to the unalert ear it sounded as though they were being assured a man’s normal rights, the freedom to choose the government of his country which every decent man should enjoy, the common political rights of a democratic regime.

But in fact the Arabs were not assured these at all. The effect, and the aim, of the clause actually was to withdraw from the Arabs (fighting or suffering for us at the time under promise of independence) those very rights of independence for which they had contracted; to say nothing of their natural title to them. By sleight of tongue civil rights were substituted for political rights. If civil rights meant anything, which was uncertain and would take long legal proof (which was never offered) they meant most likely civic or borough rights, or such rights as a foreign householder can exercise in a country of which he is not a citizen. But this was untested theory. As practice went, “civil rights” was an expression which was left without any interpretation, and so had no existence as a surety or guarantee at all.

When in Jerusalem, once I asked a High Commissioner himself what were civil rights, and the answer of the High Commissioner was that “Well, they would be very difficult to define.” Which is precisely why they were guaranteed to the Arabs. It was a triumph of draftsmanship, of course, to take everything away from them in terms which appeared to safeguard them. A skilful ruse of the drafters, if a knavish one.

There can be no doubt that the authors of this particular “guarantee” were the Zionists themselves, and that the phrase was introduced from America. The clause “it being clearly understood” and what follows has enough of a turn of its own to arouse attention. It is not automatic phraseology: it is no oft employed cliche. If it were to be found in some previous document relating to the question, then obviously it was transferred from there into the Balfour Declaration.

It is so to be found, and it was transferred. When the September version of the Declaration was dropped because of the Magnus-Montagu opposition, the Cabinet or the Zionist camarilla in it gave its own attention to finding a substitute. But this attention, as before, consisted largely in picking and choosing amidst the Zionist’s suggestions. Baulked of the open mastership of Palestine which the September version would have given them, and driven to pay lip-homage to the Arabs, the Zionists, on one side of the Atlantic or the other, evidently offered a suitable formula drawn from the manifesto of the Jewish organizations of the United States, of the 2nd of October, 1916, a year or so before.

In this manifesto the said organizations, inter alia, had demanded full rights for the Jews wherever they lived. The manifesto went on to define these, and the definition was thus worded: “it being understood that the phrase ‘full rights’ is deemed to include civil, religious and political rights.”

There most certainly is the source, the rough copy of the celebrated Balfour guarantee. The identity of words is not to be dismissed as a mere coincidence. The juxtaposition of “it being understood that” and of the table of rights which follows points unmistakably to reproduction.

Observe, though, what a difference occurred in the new use of the formula. In the United States the Zionist drafters had employed the formula to define their own rights. In the Balfour Declaration they had to employ it to define, for safeguarding purposes, their own rights, but also, so to speak, to undefine the Arabs’ rights. They conceded therefore to the Arabs the notorious “civil rights:” for themselves they dropped this word “civil” altogether. They had seen from the beginning that it had no value, since in the manifesto they had taken care to demand religious and political rights in addition to civil rights. In the Balfour Declaration they took the same care.

But they improved the phraseology in the  Balfour Declaration.” Not only was “civil” jettisoned, but with great agility the cardinal word “political” was shuffled from “rights” on to “status.” To have granted in the same clause only civil rights to the Arabs but to the Jews political rights would have been too glaring a contrast. It might have drawn attention even from the indifferent eyes of 1917. Therefore, for the Jews their “rights” were left apparently unclarified but really expanded in principle through the removal of the constricting adjective while “political status” was brought in as something of another order peculiar to the Jews, and to do the work of a definite guarantee.

Let me halt for a space to explain why it was essential to have such a guarantee. Without it when Palestine became a Jewish State all Jews might be conceived as belonging to it. This might occur even during the preliminary stage, during the illusory period when Jew and Arab running in harness were building up a new Palestine together (or whatever mixed metaphor best describes this atrocious mixed metaphor of policy). Antisemitism spreads easily, and an agitation might arise in any country to dispatch Jewish citizens to Palestine, or if not to expel them, to catalogue them as aliens, citizens of Palestine, and to deprive them of the vote.

The insertion of the guarantee is further proof, besides, of the character of the regime intended under the Declaration in the Holy Land. If the “National Home” was to be something innocuous, a mere “national home from home” with a modicum of establishment receiving a stream of visitors, an institution without any political status, then there was no need to guarantee hosts or guests against losing their overseas or overland political status in their place of origin. If “National Home” meant a State or quasi-State, there was every need for the guarantee.

The “guarantee” clause of the Declaration, then, with its deceptive text by which the Arabs were to be deprived of their citizenship, sprang undoubtedly from Zionist brains, though it was adopted of course by Balfour and the others and issued by him as though the British Cabinet had thought it out. Considering the joint authorship of the Declaration, this perhaps might have been expected. Its British drafters were mostly guided by expediency: the Zionist drafters were doctrinaires. The British thought it necessary to shut their eyes to Arab rights; the Zionists were convinced or convinced themselves that the Arabs had no rights as men, save those the Turks might have conceded them.

Mr. de Haas, the American drafter, proclaims their attitude very clearly. “We draw a distinction,” says he, “between Jewish rights and Arab claims. Whether the Palestinian population in 1914 possessed any tangible political rights is for those versed in Turkish law to say. In practice we know that such rights did not exist, even though the young Turks had created a paper Parliament. Djemal Pasha ruled in Palestine with an iron hand, as every Turk had done before him, though he too may have indulged [sic] the people in paper rights. The term ‘Political rights‘ [Mr. de Haas’ own capital and italics] does not appear in the Balfour Declaration. The phrase used is civil rights, and as we have made abundantly clear every word of that document was weighed by more than a score of authorities.

From one of the principal drafters of the Declaration, who scissored its terms, this statement clinches the matter. Under the Declaration the Arabs were to get no political rights, whether they had them in principle or not. According to the Zionists’ thesis, of which Mr. de Haas is such a notable exponent, they did not hold any in practice and it was very unlikely that they held any in theory.

A couple of pages later in his work, Mr. de Haas has the air of recoiling momentarily from this thesis, or else of having forgotten in the heat of writing that he had just developed it. He says, in passing, of the Arab case, “The Arab case, apart from the rights which inhere from living in a country … “, But having mentioned this natural dower thus fugitively he does not allude to it again.

Mr. de Haas is not alone in this attitude, nor is it the attitude alone of the Zionists of the United States. The same point of view prevails amidst British Zionists: it must so prevail, since to recognize that the Arabs have political rights is to recognize that the “National Home” cannot be imposed upon them. As an example of British Zionist opinion I may quote from Mr. Herbert Sidebotham, amongst Gentiles the most assiduous apologist of the cause. His role in Manchester has been mentioned already. He is an absolute apostle of Zionism, and I think he might be described not too maliciously as the inside-out Paul of the movement.
It is very significant to see the effect which his gospel has upon him. Here is a man, very properly admired by his colleagues in journalism, and to be read with respect when he comments on other topics. But when he turns to the defence of Zionism and starts to justify its behaviour, he propounds the most extravagant theories as though they were founded in reason and matured in experience. This is no unusual phenomenon. A blind spot of madness seems to form in the outlook of everyone who succumbs to the Zionist germ.

Mr. Sidebotham differs from Mr. de Haas in that he concentrates on the status of Palestine rather than on the status of its inhabitants. But he reaches a similar result. He deprives the Arabs of any birthright. I quote from a memorandum of his, somewhat hurriedly entitled British Policy and the Palestine Mandate: Our Proud Privilege. This begins “We are in Palestine by a conjunction, made by the accidents of war and not designed, between the oldest national idea in the world’s history and certain political and moral interests peculiar to Great Britain.” (I cannot refrain from italicizing the final phrase. Could anyone?)

At the close of his first chapter Mr. Sidebotham writes: “Palestine, in fact, had no separate national or geographic existence apart from that which the classic history of the Jews had given it, and this disappeared with Jewish independence. In assigning Palestine therefore as a national home, Mr. Balfour was not giving away anything that belonged to some-one else. It was a ghost of the past which two thousand years had not succeeded in laying and which could assume an actual physical existence only through the Jews. To the Christian, Palestine was the Holy Land … To others Palestine might indifferently be regarded as an appendage of Egypt or a part of Syria or Arabia. Only to Jews could Palestine be a country by itself … ” Or again, “Palestine as a country did not exist before the Balfour promise. To the Turk it was a part of the vilayet of Beirut, to the Arab it was the southern part of Syria.”

I fancy that it is a just description of the line of argument in the above quotation to say that it is pleasantly extravagant. It has a side to it which is so fantastic that it is almost entertaining. Palestine, declares Mr. Sidebotham, is not a country unless the Jews occupy it. Only their presence can make it one.

There is no reason on earth why Palestine should be a country. It is too small, its boundaries are artificial in the main, there is nothing to distinguish it from the territory just to the north, its sacred character has not the slightest national quality. The little province is in fact nothing but a section of Syria. Its existence for centuries has been provincial. Mr. Sidebotham recognizes this. In the eyes of the Arabs it is, he says, no more than “a part of Arabia,” or is “only the southern part of Syria.”

It is now that he becomes odd. Because Palestine is only a part of Arab territory he would take it from the Arabs’ ownership. No doubt he allows that the Arabs have a right to a country somewhere, but to the parts of this country their right vanishes. If the Jews come along and propose to turn part of an Arab country into a whole Jewish country, then the Arabs lose that part automatically. As an entity the part is untenable. But by argument on these lines we might get so far as to find our claim to the whole of England unsound, if we lay claim to it as part of the inheritance of the British race, as part of the British Commonwealth. For that is the way in which the Arabs lay claim to Palestine, on the ground that it is part of the inheritance of the Arab race, part of the Arab commonwealth or nexus of lands in Arab occupation.

To return to the general issue, the situation laid down for the Arabs of Palestine by typical Zionist writers is that these Arabs are political slaves, persons not having the right of ownership of their place of birth, a place indeed which in their hands politically would not exist.

Let us go back to the Declaration. After it had been published an event occurred which is closely attached to this particular question of national prerogatives, and may serve to close the discussion of it. The Zionist leaders approached the chief Allied Governments with a request for pronouncements of encouragement and support similar to that which Great Britain had given them.

A deception awaited them. From the French, on the 9th of February, 1918, they received a note which was no more than adequate. Mr. Sacher, or any other of the Political Committee, would have turned out something much more attractive. It ran:

M. Sokolov représentant des organisations sionistes, a été reçu ce matin au Ministère des Affaires Etrangères par M. Stephen Pichon, qui a été heureux de lui confirmer que l’entente est complète entre les Gouvernements français et britannique en ce qui concerne la question d’un établissement juif en Palestine.

Not really a satisfactory statement, it will be seen. The French evaded giving the Zionists any direct guarantee. They confined themselves to saying that they were in agreement with the British Government’s policy. This left the onus of the policy upon the British, and the Quai d’Orsay spokesmen gave no pledge at all that they would continue in agreement with it as it developed. Moreover, the French note was sent with a covering letter in which M. Sokolov was complimented upon the “dévouement avec lequel vous poursuivez la réalisation des voeux de vos co-religionnaires“. A very back-handed compliment. It discounted the whole nationalist and not religious platform which the devoted M. Sokolov was straining to construct.

But it was when Italy was approached that this best-laid scheme really went agley. Here is the Italian pronouncement, given in London on the 9th of May, 1918, to M. Sokolov by the Marchese Imperiali, the Italian Ambassador, “by order of Baron Sonnino :”

In relazione alle domande che gli sono state rivolte il Governo di Sua Maest? ? lieto di confirmare le precendenti dichiarazioni gi? fatte a mezzo dei suoi rappresentani a Washington, l’Aja e Salonicco, di essere cio? disposto ad adoperarsi con piacere per facilitare lo stabilirsi in Palestina di un centro nazionale ebraico, nell’intesa pero’ che non ne venga nessun pregiudizio allo stato giuridico e politico delle gia esistenti comunit? religiose ed ai diritti civili e politici che gli israeliti gi? godono in ogni altro paese.

[In connection with the requests which have been made to it His Majesty’s Government is happy to confirm the previous statements made through its representatives in Washington, The Hague and Salonica, that is to say that it is prepared to take steps with pleasure in order to facilitate the foundation in Palestine of a Jewish national centre, on the understanding however that no prejudice shall arise through it to the legal and political status of existing religious communities and to the civil and political rights already enjoyed by Israelites in any other country].

The Italian Government in its pronouncement put in the missing words which made all the difference. Since the petitioners who had asked for a declaration had caused the Palestine population to be divided into “communities,” the Consulta took care to signify that this division was a religious one. It spiked the guns of Lord Balfour and Dr. Weizmann who had used the religious idea to make the division into communities, but thereon had treated the communities as national divisions.

More important and more meaningful still was the insertion of the words “legal and political status.” The Italian Government guaranteed that the National Home should not prejudice those very fundamental rights of the Arabs which the Balfour Declaration deliberately had excised. With entire politeness it indicated that it was not deceived by the terms of the Balfour document, and that it would not be party to the suppression of native rights.

It is impossible not to admire the neatness of he rebuke; the hoisting of the political Zionists with their own petard by rejecting their claims under guise of confirming them ? just as they had drafted for the Arabs; the elegant assumption that Lord Balfour had intended a genuine guarantee and that Italy would make it more to his mind by making it watertight.

This Italian guarantee was given, need it be said, long before the days of Facism, by the old Italian Kingdom, democratic and liberal, so that it cannot be ascribed to rivalry or spite or other such motive. It puts Italy in a strong position at present, it is simply an example of how honesty can indeed be the best policy. Not surprisingly, it has been kept rather quiet. The version of it with which Mrs. Andrews credits M. Sokolov in her The Holy Land Under Mandate is not exact. Mrs. Andrews quotes Italy as safeguarding only the “civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities or the legal or political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.” The Italian Declaration is turned thus into another Balfour Declaration. The true version, given by M. Sokolov, in the original Italian just cited, is very different and stands to this day, with formidable implications attached to it upon which it is unnecessary to dilate.

Chaim Weizmann on the “abnormality” of Jewish existence″OpenDocument

U.N. General Assembly Doc. A/364/Add.2,  A/PV.21,  8 July 1947


Held at the Y.M.C.A. Building, Jerusalem,, Tuesday, 8 July 1947, at 9 a.m.

 Dr. Weizmann, public hearing of representatives of the Jewish Agency.

[…] "The nations of the world realized, particularly the British, American, French and Italians, that a great deal of the trouble, worry and persecution which has beset the Jews throughout their history is due to the abnormal position of the Jews in the world. What is the abnormal position of the Jews in the world? What is it characterized by? It is characterized by one thing: I think this word from what I can see from reports, has been used here quite often. I used this word for the first time in speaking before the Royal Commission. It is the "Homelessness" of the Jewish people. To that I must add a comment. I do not mean the "homelessness" of individual Jews. There are groups of Jews in the world who have very comfortable homes the American Jews, the Jews in a great many of the Western and North-western countries, the Jews in Sweden, Denmark, France, and also there was in Germany-but as a collectivity, as an ethnic group, they are homeless. They are and they are not. They are a people and they lack the props of a people. They are a disembodied ghost. There they are with a great many typical characteristics, many strong characteristics which have not disappeared throughout centuries, thousands of years of martyrdom and wandering, and at the same time they lack the props which characterize every nation. We ask today: "What are Poles? What are French? What are Swiss?" When that is asked everyone points to a country, to certain institutions, to parliamentary institutions, and the man in the street will know exactly what it is. He has a passport. If you ask what a Jew is, well, he is a man who has to offer a long explanation for his existence. And, any person who has to offer an explanation as to what he is always suspect, and from suspicion there is only one step to hatred or contempt. I am trying to put it as lightly as 1 can. I do not want to describe it as the tragedy which it really is. This has rendered the position of the Jews in the world abnormal and, as a very logical consequence of this abnormal position, their relation to the outside world is abnormal."

The Hogarth Message”OpenDocument



The following are the terms of the message which [British] Commander Hogarth was instructed to deliver to King Husain when he visited Jedda in January, 1918:

"(1) The Entente Powers are determined that the Arab race shall be given full opportunity of once again forming a nation in the world. This can only be achieved by the Arabs themselves uniting, and Great Britain and her Allies will pursue a policy with this ultimate unity in view.

"(2) So far as Palestine is concerned we are determined that no people shall be subject to another, but

      (a) In view of the fact that there are in Palestine shrines, Wakfs and Holy places, sacred in some cases to Moslems alone, to Jews alone, to Christians alone, and in others to two or all three, and inasmuch as these places are of interest to vast masses of people outside Palestine and Arabia, there must be a special regime to deal with these places approved of-by the world.

      (b) As regards the Mosque of Omar it shall be considered as a Moslem concern alone and shall not be subjected directly or indirectly to any non-Moslem authority.

"(3) Since the Jewish opinion of the world is in favour of a return of Jews to Palestine and inasmuch as this opinion must remain a constant factor, and further as His Majesty’s Government view with favour the realisation of this aspiration, His Majesty’s Government are determined that in so far as is compatible with the freedom of the existing population both economic and political, no obstacle should be put in the way of the realisation of this ideal.

In this connexion the friendship of world Jewry to the Arab cause is equivalent to support in all States where Jews have a political influence. The leaders of the movement are determined to bring about the success of Zionism by friendship and co-operation with the Arabs, and such an offer is not one to be lightly thrown aside,"

The McMahon-Husain Correspondence in 1915-1916

Report of a Committee



Sir Henry McMahon



The Sharif of Mecca

IN 1915 AND 1916


March 16, 1939


Presented by the Secretary of State for the Colonies
to Parliament by Command of His Majesty
March 1939






The Lord Chancellor has listened with interest to the statements made at the first meeting of the Committee by the various Arab members of the Committee, explaining the views held by the Arabs in general in regard to the proper interpretation of the so-called "McMahon-Husain" Correspondence; and he has since read with equal interest the memorandum by Mr. Antonius communicated to him at the same meeting.

2. Owing to the short space of time available for the preparation of the present memorandum, it may be found that there are points made in the Arab statements or in Mr. Antonius’ memorandum which have not been specifically covered; but it is hoped that this memorandum will nevertheless serve to explain on general lines the views held by His Majesty’s Government about the correspondence now under discussion.

3. As the members of the Committee are aware, all Governments of the United Kingdom from 1915 onwards have held firmly to the opinion not only that Sir Henry McMahon intended by his correspondence with the Sharif of Mecca in 1915 and 1916, and especially by his letter of October 24th, 1915, to leave the territory now known as Palestine outside the area of Arab independence, but also that the Correspondence in question could not then and cannot now be read as having any other meaning.

4. In order, however, to understand the attitude of His Majesty’s Government it is necessary to take into account not only the words of the Correspondence itself, but all the surrounding circumstances.

5. For a start and above all, it is imperative to remember the unique position which Palestine held then, as now, as the Holy Land not only of the Moslems, but also of the Christians and the Jews, and as a country in which all European and American countries were deeply interested. It was more important for the Christians and the Jews even than for the Moslems, since for members of the first two religions it was the principal, and in fact the only, Holy Land, whereas for Moslems it was second in importance to the Hejaz. It is no exaggeration to say that for Christians, and also for Jews, Palestine is as important as are Mecca and Medina for Moslems.

6. Moreover, Palestine could not be considered even in 1915 as exclusively Arab territory. It is realised that one of the Arab spokesmen has stated that, on the contrary, it was, unlike the coastal regions further to the north, unmistakeably " purely Arab ", and that this is a factor which must be taken into account in assessing the surrounding circumstances. But it must be remembered that apart from any Jewish population there may have been it was filled with Christian churches, schools and institutes of all kinds, while thousands of Christian pilgrims and tourists went there every year. These institutions were scattered over the land. Some towns, such as Bethlehem, were almost purely Christian. In fact, in 1912 there were only 300 Moslems out of 11,000 inhabitants. In Nazareth, out of 15,000 inhabitants 10,000 were of different Christian religions”Greeks, Latins, Maronites and Protestants. The great majority of these Christians were no doubt Arabs by race, but even so a large residue of foreign Christians and foreign Christian interests remained.

7. Great Britain clearly had no right and no authority in 1915 to say that if the Allies succeeded in wresting from the Ottoman Empire a land of such importance to the Christian world they would hand it over to the rule of another independent Moslem Power without first obtaining every kind of guarantee whereby the Christian and Jewish Holy Places should be protected and free access to them allowed, at least as fully and freely as in Ottoman times.

8. It is therefore inconceivable that Sir Henry McMahon should have intended to give the Sharif an unconditional promise that Palestine was to be included in, the area of Arab independence. The fact that the question of guarantees was not even mentioned makes it clear beyond all doubt that Sir Henry McMahon never supposed for a moment that his letter would be read as including Palestine in this area; and it is surely reasonable to believe that the Sharif of Mecca, who showed such legitimate concern for the Moslem Holy Places of the Hejaz, must have understood the strength of Christian sentiment on this point, and realised that no British official could possibly undertake to assign Palestine to another Moslem State without making the most express reservations with regard to-the Christian Holy Places.

9. Another highly important factor was the rapidly growing port of Haifa. This port and other ports on the Palestinian coast were very important from the British point of view, having regard to the great interests of Great Britain in the Suez Canal. It must have been apparent to any informed observer that in the event of a victory for the Allied Powers Great Britain would require guarantees precluding the use of Palestinian territory, and particularly of such ports as that of Haifa, for future attacks on Egyptian territory.

10. As regards the interests of France, it is common knowledge that in 1915 France laid claim to the eventual exercise, if not of actual sovereignty, at any rate of a considerable degree of influence, over wide and to some extent undefined areas in the Middle East; and the existence of these claims must have been known to the Sharif of Mecca, as the result of information received from Arab nationalists in Syria with whom he had been in communication, if from no other source, even before the first mention of French interests in the Correspondence.

11. Having regard to these considerations it is in this case again inconceivable that Sir Henry McMahon should have omitted all specific mention of French and British interests in what is now called Palestine unless he had regarded Palestine as automatically and obviously excluded from the area in which he was promising the Arabs independence; and it is almost as difficult to understand how any reader of the letter who was acquainted with the general political situation in the Middle East could have supposed, at any rate without further and most precise enquiry, that Palestine was intended to be included in that area.

12. The general position in 1915 must also be borne in mind. The Turks were in control of both Syria and Palestine and had not been beaten. Great Britain had France and Russia for her main Allies, but she also had to consider a number of other countries in Europe, particularly, Italy. She could not give a pledge to the Sharif which might involve her in serious difficulties at the end of the War with the most important countries in Europe.

13. To turn now to the actual words of the "McMahon Pledge" in the letter of October 24th, 1915, these must be read in the light of certain discussions which took place between the British High Commissioner in Cairo and Muhammad Sharif al-Faruqi concurrently with parts of the McMahon-Husain Correspondence.

14. Al-Faruqi may not have been an accredited representative either of the Sharif of Mecca or of the leaders of the Arab nationalist movement in Damascus, none of whom may have been aware until later of the tenour of his discussions with the High Commissioner in the autumn of 1915. But he was unquestionably well informed as to the views and aspirations of the Arab leaders and no Arab would be likely to deny, either then or now, that he was putting their claims at their lowest when he said (as he did) that the Arabs would fight for "the districts of Aleppo, Hama and Homs and Damascus", that by "districts" he must have meant the surroundings of these towns in the widest possible sense and that he cannot possibly have meant that the Arabs would fail to fight for any part of the Mediterranean hinterland from the Cilician border to the Gulf of Aqaba. This point is important because the phrase subsequently used in Sir Henry McMahon’s letter was adapted from al-Faruqi’s own words.

15. It was furthermore al-Faruqi who expressed the opinion that the Arabs might accept a general reservation by Great Britain of the areas in which she was not free to act without detriment to her allies, and although His Majesty’s Government do not wish to lay too much stress on this, seeing al-Faruqi was not a plenipotentiary, the point is germane to a consideration of what Sir Henry McMahon had in mind when giving the pledge.

16. All these considerations must be remembered when any attempt is made to attach a special and specific meaning to certain words in the correspondence of 1915 and 1916. The correspondence between Sir Henry McMahon and the Sharif may appear at this date to be far from clear in its meaning. But the circumstances summarised above, as well as all the numerous anxieties pressing upon any official in Sir Henry McMahon’s position at that time, and the position in Arabia, are all relevant to a consideration of the text. This is true above all if the meaning of the pledge is considered in the broad light of the probable intentions of the two parties; but it is also true if it is considered in the narrower light of the actual legal interpretation of the words of the pledge, for in such a case as this, where the language used has given rise to controversy and speculation, it is legitimate to take all the surrounding circumstances into account when attempting to reach a decision as to what the words could and should have been taken to mean.

17. In the light, then, of all these surrounding circumstances, the case of His Majesty’s Government rests on two main points:

    (1) a specific, geographical, reservation with regard to the areas in which Great Britain could promise the Arabs independence:

      (2) a general reservation with regard to the same area.

18. As regards (i), the view of His Majesty’s Government has always been that the phrase " portions of Syria lying to the west of the districts of Damascus, Kama, Homs and Aleppo " embraced all that portion of Syria (including what is now called Palestine) lying to the west of inter alia the administrative area known as the "Vilayet of Syria".

19. It is true that there were no Vilayets of Homs or Hama, but it is also true that both Damascus and Aleppo were the capitals of Vilayets, and the reference to Damascus should alone have sufficed to establish Sir Henry McMahon’s meaning. The additional mention of Homs and Hama was evidently made because al-Faruqi had mentioned them and to ensure that the intervening territory of which they were the most important towns should not be excluded from the area consigned to Arab rule. Obviously no reference was intended to non-existent Vilayets.

20. It is also true that the official Turkish name for the Vilayet of which Damascus was the capital was "Vilayet of Syria", but there should have been no misunderstanding of this phrase, especially as the writer of the letter had already found it necessary to use "Syria" (even though there was a Vilayet of that name) in order to describe comprehensively a vague geographical area evidently including the Vilayets of Syria and Beirut, the independent Sanjaq of Jerusalem, the Province of the Lebanon, and part of the Vilayet of Aleppo.

21. It may be worth adding at this point that the phrase "districts of Damascus, etc." would hardly have been desired by the Sharif to be taken to mean small areas immediately surrounding the towns in question (as one of the Arab spokesmen argued, if the Lord Chancellor has correctly understood him, at the first meeting) since if this had been the case the territory in which the Arabs would have been denied independence would have been brought much further east than on a more liberal interpretation of the phrase. The non-Arab territory would in fact have reached eastwards almost to the outskirts of Damascus and the other towns, and have covered substantial portions of Transjordan and considerable sections of the Hejaz Railway.

22. Nor is it denied that in one sense there was no territory east of the Vilayet of Aleppo and that if the letter of October 24th, 1915, was to be interpreted by the Sharif on the lines suggested by His Majesty’s Government the area of Arab independence would not reach the Mediterranean, although the fact that it would not do so was not mentioned in the letter.

23. As regards the first point, it must be remembered that Sir Henry McMahon was not attempting to define with any great accuracy the eastward limits of the territory which he was excluding from the area of Arab independence, and he clearly used a phrase to define in a general way a stretch of territory lying along the Mediterranean coast some of which might lie outside, and some of which might lie inside, the "districts of Damascus, Homs, Hama and Aleppo", but all of which lay to the west or in the western parts of those districts.

24. As regards the second point, the Lord Chancellor does not feel that it is possible to base any conclusions on the fact that the exclusion of access to the Mediterranean for the Arab area of independence was not specifically mentioned by Sir Henry McMahon. If the areas which he defined as lying outside that area were so situated that access to the Mediterranean was denied there was no necessity to say so in so many words.

25. The Lord Chancellor has taken note of the argument based upon the fact that in his letter of December I4th, 1915, Sir Henry McMahon only referred to the possible exclusion from the area of Arab independence of the two Vilayets of Aleppo and Beirut, and these two only, without any mention of the Sanjaq of Jerusalem or of other areas. But it seems clear that in referring to these two Vilayets, Sir Henry McMahon was merely replying to a point raised by the Sharif in his letter of November 5th, 1915, and it does not seem possible to draw any particular conclusion from this circumstance.

26. This no doubt leads to another point made by one of the Arab spokesmen: that seeing how much importance the Sharif attached throughout the correspondence to the Vilayets of Aleppo and Beirut, and to the Vilayets of Mesopotamia, the Sharif would unquestionably have referred in even stronger terms to Palestine (or the Sanjaq of Jerusalem) had he had the slightest suspicion that it was being excluded from the area of Arab independence. This may well be the case, but surely the opposite conclusion can equally well be drawn, that the Sharif understood and accepted the fact that because of its special position as a country interesting all the world Palestine was a territory which had to be reserved for special treatment.

27. The same considerations apply to the fact that in his letter of January 1st, 1916, the Sharif referred to "the northern parts and their coasts". It is possible in this case again to conclude that Palestine was accepted by him as lying outside the area of Arab independence. But in any case, the words "northern parts" or "northern coasts" could legitimately be taken by the reader of a letter written in the Hejaz as meaning the whole Mediterranean coast.

28. The foregoing arguments with regard to the specific reservation are offered in order to show that in regard to each point of criticism it is possible to find a probable reason for what: Sir Henry McMahon had in mind. But the Lord Chancellor would not for a moment wish to suggest that this passage in the letter which Sir Henry McMahon sent on October 24th, 1915, on the instructions of His Majesty’s Government was clear or well-expressed, or that any of the other territorial references (on either side) were clear or well-expressed, or that it is upon such arguments that His Majesty’s Government rely in the presentation of their case.

29. The best explanation which His Majesty’s Government can give as to what was meant by the phrase "districts of Damascus etc." in the letter of October 24th, 1915, is that the phrase was borrowed from al-Faruqi and used in the same wide and general sense as that in which he himself used it, i.e. as one which covered the Syrian hinterland southwards to the Gulf of ‘Aqaba.

30. But although His Majesty’s Government consider that the specific reservation should have sufficed to exclude Palestine, they attach less importance to this point than to the general reservation.

31. The wording of the general reservation is, in view of His Majesty’s Government, perfectly clear. It limits the area to which Sir Henry McMahon’s pledge was to apply to:

    "… those portions of the territories therein (i.e. in the area claimed by the Sharif) in which Great Britain is free to act without detriment to the interests of her ally, France."

In other words, the pledge did not extend to any territory in which Great Britain was not free to act without regard to French interests on the date on which the letter was despatched, i.e. on October 24th, 1915.

32. It must also be made clear, since the point has been raised by the Arab members of the committee, that, in the opinion of the Lord Chancellor, any subsequent developments which may at later dates have modified the extent of the area in which Great Britain was free to act without detriment to French interests are irrelevant to a consideration of the extent of the area to which the pledge applied on October 24th, 1915 and has continued to apply ever since.

33. Now, if there is anything which is certain in this controversy it is that Great Britain was not free in October, 1915, to act in Palestine without regard to French interests. It may be perfectly true that under the influence of Lord Kitchener and others His Majesty’s Government before and after the outbreak of the war were anxious to restrict the French claims on the Levant coast if they could find a legitimate means of doing so. But there is a great difference between desiring an object and attaining it. It can be stated as a fact that at the time of the Correspondence France claimed the Mediterranean littoral as far south as the Egyptian border and as far east as Damascus, and it was not until the Spring of 1916 that these extreme claims were modified as the result of discussions culminating in the so-called "Sykes-Picot" Agreement.

34. As has been stated, the Sharif must have realised the possibility and even the extreme probability of the existence of a French claim to Palestine, even if he did not know of it for a fact, and in view of the circumstances, and of the extensive British and religious interest in Palestine, the wording of the "McMahon pledge" ought surely to have suggested to him and to any other reader of the letter that Palestine was excluded from, or, to say the least, not clearly included in, the area of Arab independence.

35. There are some further points which must be noted in connexion with the Correspondence. In paragraph 2 of the Sharif’s letter of November 5th, 1915, and in the fourth paragraph of Sir Henry McMahon’s reply of December 14th, 1915, it is made clear that many important details regarding the territorial situation were left over for a later settlement.

36. Furthermore, in his letter of January 1st, 1916, the Sharif agrees to leave for future consideration the French occupation of "Beirut and its coasts". Whatever may have been meant by this phrase – and it might well be argued that the " coasts" of Beirut extended as far as the Egyptian border?it clearly excluded the coasts of Palestine as far south as the limits of the Vilayet of Beirut, i.e. as far south as a point just north of Jaffa. This in itself amounted to a provisional acceptance of a reservation of nearly half of Palestine.

37. The "Sykes-Picot" Agreement of May, 1916, has already been mentioned, as has also the fact that the claims of France at the beginning of the War extended over the whole of Palestine, as well as to Damascus and Aleppo. In this connexion it must be remembered that Sir Mark Sykes was definitely sympathetic towards the Arab cause and he must clearly have negotiated the agreement in the belief that the reservations in the pledge of October 24th, 1915, justified his concluding an agreement in the form which it eventually assumed. His Majesty’s Government have no doubt that he was right.

38. Moreover, Sir Mark Sykes secured a great concession from the French negotiators as regards the Sanjaqs of Hama, Damascus and Aleppo, which, as a result of what al-Faruqi had said at a slightly earlier period, His Majesty’s Government had reason to suppose were vital to the Arabs. It was an exceedingly difficult task to obtain this concession from the French Government and it was genuinely believed at the time that the arrangements would (to quote from an official report of the period) "adjust the fundamental divergencies of Arabs and French regarding Syria."

39. In the agreement Palestine was admittedly to be international. The Sharif of Mecca was, however, to be consulted, and the form of government was to be agreed upon with (amongst others) his representatives. These points are generally overlooked, but if they are taken into account it is difficult to see how the agreement can fairly be represented as a breach of faith with the Sharif. Moreover, as has already been emphasized, His Majesty’s Government were not, in 1915, in a position to give the sovereignty of Palestine to the Arab people. They had to consult their Allies and other countries having interests in that territory just as they are now obliged to consult the members of the League of Nations.

40. The form of the promise given to the Sharif assumes particular importance in connexion with the "Sykes-Picot" Agreement. It is apt to be forgotten by the Arabs. It was to the effect that Great Britain was prepared "to recognise and support the independence of the Arabs" and "when the situation admits Great Britain will give to the Arabs her advice, and will assist them to establish what may appear to be the most suitable forms of government in those various territories".

41. His Majesty’s Government maintain that Great Britain has substantially carried out these promises?in the face of great difficulties. They may regret that she. could not carry them more fully into effect; but she never gave, and the Sharif could not have thought she was giving, a promise of such a kind as might involve her in war with any of her allies in order to fulfil His Arab aspirations in every part of the territory which the Sharif had claimed.

42. The Balfour Declaration is a subject of frequent complaint, but it cannot be supposed that Mr. Balfour would have made it had he thought that Palestine had been included in the promise given in Sir Henry McMahon’s letter of October 24th, 1915. It should, however, be observed that the grievance as regards which the Arabs complain is dependent very largely on the view which is taken as to the meaning of, and the implications said to be derived from, the Declaration. It is not within the scope of this memoradum to express an opinion as to the validity of the Zionist view on this matter; but it must be remembered that the Declaration expressly safeguards the civil and religious rights of the Arabs, and this qualification is one of great importance and should have a far-reaching effect on policy.

43. It is hoped that these explanations will convince the Arab members of the Committee that Sir Henry McMahon never had any intention of including Palestine in the area of Arab independence; and furthermore that he never had any reason to suppose that his intention was not perfectly clear to the Sharif. But whether this hope is realised or not, His Majesty’s Government must make it clear that they repudiate very strongly any suggestion of breach of faith on the part of their predecessors or of themselves.

44. In conclusion, the Lord Chancellor would remind the Committee that what matters today is the existing state of affairs. The Mandate was given to Great Britain with the approval of some fifty-two nations from all parts of the world, and its existence as an obligation incumbent upon His Majesty’s Government, which His Majesty’s Government cannot themselves alter, is a fact which cannot be ignored. Cannot all concerned recognise the reality of these facts and work together to make a fair settlement in the existing circumstances?

House of Lords, February 24th, 1939.

Security Council Resolution on Palestine Vetoed by the U.S.


Security Council Resolutions on Palestine Vetoed by the U.S.

In 1972, the U.S. used its veto power for the first time in the Security Council on the issue of Rhodesia. The second U.S. veto was also cast in 1972 to shield Israel from condemnation after an attack on Syria and Lebanon in flagrant violation of international law and the Charter of the United Nations. Since 1972, the U.S. has cast 35 vetoes regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict. Of those, 23 vetoes relate to the Palestinian issue, particularly the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem. The first of these vetoes was cast on 24 July 1973.

Such vetoes have served to protect Israel from Security Council action and to disassociate the Security Council from the situation in the Middle East, thus preventing it from discharging its responsibilities under the U.N. Charter in this regard. These vetoes have also aimed at de-legitimizing Palestinian attempts to seek redress from the Security Council following Israeli violations of international law, and most recently, of the agreements reached by the Palestinian Liberation Organization and the Government of Israel within the framework of the Middle East peace process. The following is a summary record of the 23 Security Council draft resolutions regarding Palestine that were vetoed by the U.S.

(Please note that the first set of paragraphs in each summary represents the important parts of the preamble of the draft resolution and the second set of paragraph represents the important parts of the operative part of the draft resolution.) 

1. S/10974 of 24 July 1973 (13 in favor, U.S. veto, China did not participate)


Emphasizing further that all Members of the U. N. are committed to respect the resolutions of the Security Council in accordance with the provision of the Charter,


Reaffirming resolution 242 (1967) of 22 November 1967,


Conscious that the rights of Palestinians have to be safeguarded,


Deeply regrets that the Secretary-General was unable to report any significant progress by him or by his Special Representative in carrying out the terms of resolution 242 (1967), and that nearly six years after its adoption a just and lasting peace in the Middle East has still not been achieved;


Strongly deplores Israel’s continuing occupation of the territories occupied as a result of the 1967 conflict, contrary to the principles of the Charter;


Expresses serious concern at Israel’s lack of cooperation with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General;


Expresses its conviction that a just and peaceful solution of the problem of the Middle East can be achieved only on the basis of respect for national sovereignty, territorial integrity, the rights of all states in the area and for the rights and legitimate aspirations of the Palestinians;


Declares that in the occupied territories no changes which may obstruct a peaceful and final settlement or which may adversely affect the political and other fundamental rights of all the inhabitants in these territories should be introduced or recognized.  

2. S/11940 of 23 January 1976 (9 in favor, U.S. veto, 3 abstentions ? Italy, Sweden, UK, China and Libya did not participate in vote)


Having heard the representatives of parties concerned, including the Palestine Liberation Organization, representative of the Palestinian people,


Convinced that the question of Palestine is the core of the conflict in the Middle East,


Expressing its concern over the continuing deterioration of the situation in the Middle East, and deeply deploring Israel’s persistence in it’s occupation of Arab territories and it’s refusal to implement the relevant United Nations resolutions,


Reaffirming further the principle of inadmissibility of acquisition of territories by the threat of force,


Affirms: (a) That the Palestinian people should be enabled to exercise it’s inalienable national right of self-determination, including the right to establish an independent state in Palestine in accordance with the Charter of the U.N.;


(b) The right of Palestinian refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors to do so and the right of those choosing not to return to receive compensation for their property;


(c) That Israel should withdraw from all the Arab territories occupied since June 1967;


(d) That appropriate arrangements should be established to guarantee, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of all States in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries.

3. S/12022 of 24 March 1976 (14 in favor, U.S. veto)


Deeply concerned further at the measures taken by Israeli authorities leading to the present grave situation, including measures aimed at changing the physical, cultural, demographic and religious character of the occupied territories and, in particular, the City of Jerusalem, the establishment of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories and other violations of the human rights of the inhabitants of those territories,


Recalling and reaffirming the resolutions of the General Assembly and the Security Council calling upon Israel to rescind all measures already taken and to desist from taking any further action which would alter the status of the City of Jerusalem and the character of the occupied Arab territories,


Deplores Israel’s failure to put a stop to actions and policies tending to change the status of the City of Jerusalem and to rescind measures already taken to that effect;


Calls on Israel, pending the speedy termination of its occupation, to refrain from all measures against the Arab inhabitants of the occupied territories;


Calls on Israel to respect and uphold the inviolability of the Holy Places which are under its occupation and to desist from the expropriation of or encroachment upon Arab lands and property or the establishment of Israeli settlements thereon in the occupied Arab territories and to desist from all actions and policies designed to change the legal status of the City of Jerusalem and rescind all such measures already taken to that effect.

4. S/12119 of 29 June 1976 (10 in favor, U.S. veto, 4 abstentions ? France, Italy, Sweden, UK)

Having considered the item entitled "The question of the exercise by the Palestinian people of its inalienable rights",

Deeply concerned that no just solution to the problem of Palestine has been achieved, and that this problem therefore continues to aggravate the Arab-Israeli conflict, of which it is the core, and to endanger international peace and security,

Affirms the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination, including the right of return and the right of national independence and sovereignty in Palestine, in accordance with the Charter of the U.N.

5. S/13911 of 28 April 1980 (10 in favor, U.S. veto, 4 abstentions ? France, Norway, Portugal, UK)


Having considered the report of the Committee on the Exercise of Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People,


Having heard the representatives of the parties concerned, including the Palestine Liberation Organization,


Expressing its concern over the continuing deterioration of the situation in the Middle East, and deeply deploring Israel’s persistence in its occupation of Palestinian and other Arab territories, including Jerusalem, and its refusal to implement the relevant U. N. resolutions,


Affirms: (a) That the Palestinian people, in accordance to the Charter of the U.N., should be enabled to exercise its inalienable national right of self-determination, including the right to establish an independent State in Palestine;


(b) The right of Palestinian refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors to do so, and the right of those choosing not to return to receive equitable compensation for their property;


Reaffirms that Israel should withdraw from all the Arab territories occupied since June 1967, including Jerusalem;


Decides that appropriate arrangements should be established to guarantee, in accordance with the Charter of the U.N., the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of all States in the area, including the sovereign independent State of Palestine, and the right to the right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries.

6. S/14943 of 1 April 1982 (13 in favor, U.S. veto, 1 abstention – Zaire)


Denounces measures imposed on the Palestinian population such as the dismissal of elected mayors by Israeli authorities, as well as the violation of the liberties and rights of the inhabitants of the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip which followed the measures taken by Israel with regard to the Golan Heights, and which could only damage the prospects of peace;


Calls upon Israel, the occupying Power, to rescind its decision disbanding the elected municipal council of El Bireh and its decision to remove from their posts the Mayors of Nablus and Ramallah; Reaffirms that all the provisions of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 12 August 1949 continue to apply in full to all of the occupied territories;


Calls upon Israel to cease forthwith all measures applied in the West Bank, including Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and the Syrian Golan Heights, which contravene the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

7. S/14985 of 2 April 1982 (14 in favor, U.S. veto)


Having considered the letter of the Permanent Representative of Morocco, dated 12 April 1982, conveying the request of His Majesty King Hassan II of Morocco, Chairman of the Al-Quds Committee,


Bearing in mind the unique status of Jerusalem and, in particular, the need for protection and preservation of the spiritual and religious dimension of the Holy Places in the City,


Recalling its relevant resolutions pertaining to the status and character of the Holy City of Jerusalem,


Deeply concerned over the sacrilegious acts perpetrated against the sanctity of Al-Haram Al-Sharif in Jerusalem on 11 April 1982 and the criminal acts of shooting worshippers, particularly inside the sanctuary of the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque,


Affirming once more that the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in the Time of War of 12 August 1949 is applicable to all territories occupied by Israel since 1967, including Jerusalem,


Condemns in the strongest terms these appalling acts of sacrilege perpetrated within the precincts of Al-Harem Al-Sharif;


Deplores any act or encouragement of destruction or profanation of the Holy Places, religious buildings and sites in Jerusalem as tending to disturb world peace;


Calls upon Israel, the occupying Power, to observe and apply scrupulously the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention and the principles of international law governing military occupation and to refrain from causing any hindrance to the discharge of the established functions of the Higher Islamic Council in Jerusalem.

8. S/15185 of 8 June 1982 (14 in favor, U.S. veto)

Recalling its resolutions 508 (1982) and 509 (1982);


Also taking note of the two positive replies to the Secretary-General of the Government of Lebanon and the Palestine Liberation Organization contained in document S/15178,


Condemns the non-compliance with resolutions 508 (1982) and 509 (1982) by Israel;


Urges the parties to comply strictly with the regulations attached to the Hague Convention of 1907;


Reiterates its demand that Israel withdraw all its military forces forthwith and unconditionally to the internationally recognized boundaries of Lebanon.

9. S/15255 of 25 June 1982 (14 in favor, U.S. veto)


Recalling its resolutions 508 (1982) and 509 (1982),


Recalling also 512 (1982), which, inter alia, calls upon all parties to the conflict to respect the rights of the civilian populations,


Seriously concerned at the constant deterioration of the situation in Lebanon,


Profoundly apprehensive of the dangers of the extensions of the within Beirut, its capital,


Demands once again that all the parties comply strictly with the provisions of paragraph 1 of resolution 508;


Demands the immediate withdrawal of Israeli forces, engaged round Beirut, to a distance of x kilometers and the simultaneous withdrawal of the Palestinian armed forces from West Beirut, which shall retire to positions to be determined;


Further requests the Secretary-General to make proposals to the Security Council, in consultation with the Government of Lebanon and with its agreement, for the installation of a U.N. force to take up positions beside the Lebanese interposition force;


Requests the Secretary-General, as an immediate measure, to station U.N. military observers, by agreement with the Government of Lebanon, with the instructions to supervise the cease-fire and disengagement in West Beirut and round Beirut.

10. S/15347/Rev.1 of 6 August 1982 (11 in favor, U.S. veto, 3 abstentions ? Togo, UK, Zaire)


Deeply indignant at the refusal of Israel to comply with the decisions of the Security Council aimed at terminating the bloodshed in Beirut,


Strongly condemns Israel for not implementing resolutions 516 (1982) and 517 (1982); Demands that Israel immediately implement these resolutions fully;


Decides that, in order to carry out the above-mentioned decisions of the Security Council, all the States Members of the U.N. should refrain from supplying Israel with any weapons and from providing it with any military aid until the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from all Lebanese territory.

11. S/15895 of 1 August 1983 (13 in favor, U.S. veto, 1 abstention – Zaire)


Affirming that the situation in the occupied Arab territories remains grave and volatile and that the Israeli settlement policies and practices constitute a major obstacle to all efforts and initiatives towards a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East,


Affirming once more that the regulations annexed to the Hague Conventions of 1907 and the provisions of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in the Time of War, of 12 August 1949, are applicable to the Arab territories occupied by Israel in 1967, including Jerusalem,


Reaffirms all its relevant resolutions;


Determines that the policies and practices of Israel in establishing settlements in the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied in 1967, including Jerusalem, have no legal validity, constitute a major and serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East and are in contravention with article 49 (6) of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949;


Calls once more upon Israel, the occupying Power, to abide scrupulously by the provision of the above-mentioned Geneva Convention of 12 August 1949, to rescind its previous measures, to desist from taking any action which would result in changing the legal status and geographical nature and materially affecting the demographic composition of the Arab territories in 1967 and, in particular, not to transfer parts of its own population into the occupied territories and not to force transfers of Arab populations from these territories;


Strongly deplores the continuation and persistence of Israel in pursuing those policies and practices and calls upon the Government and the people of Israel to rescind those measures, to dismantle the existing settlements, to desist from expanding and enlarging the existing ones and, in particular, to cease on an urgent basis from the planning, constructing and establishment of new settlements in the Arab territories occupied in 1967, including Jerusalem;


Rejects all Israeli arbitrary and illegal actions, especially those which result in the expulsion, deportation and forcible transfers of Arab populations from the occupied Arab territories;


Condemns the recent attacks perpetrated against the Arab civilian population in the occupied Arab territories, especially the killing and wounding of students at the Islamic College of the Arab city of Al-Khalil on 26 July 1983;


Calls upon all States not to provide Israel with any assistance to be used specifically in the connection with the settlements in the occupied territories;


Reaffirms its determination, in the event of non-compliance by Israel with the present resolution, to examine practical ways and means in accordance with relevant provisions of the Charter of the U.N. to secure he full implementation of the present resolution.

12. S/17459 of 13 September 1985 (10 in favor, U.S. veto, 4 abstentions ? Australia, Denmark, France, UK)


Recalling its resolutions 468 (1980), 469 (1980) and 484 (1980); Taking note of the General Assembly resolution 35/122 of December 1980,


Stressing the urgent need to achieve a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East; Affirming again that the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in time of War, of 12 August 1949, is applicable to the Arab territories occupied by Israel since 1967, including Jerusalem,


Deplores the repressive measures taken by Israel since 4 August 1985 against the civilian Palestinian population in the Israeli occupied territories especially in the West Bank and Gaza and expresses serious concern that the persistence of Israeli authorities in applying such measures would lead to further deterioration of the situation in the occupied territories;


Calls upon Israel, the occupying Power, to immediately stop all repressive measures including curfews, administrative detentions and forceful deportation and to release forthwith all detainees and refrain from further deportations;


Further calls upon Israel to abide scrupulously by the provisions of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in time of War, of 12 August 1949.

13. S/17769/Rev. 1 of 29 January 1986 (13 in favor, U.S. veto, 1 abstention – Thailand)


Reaffirming that the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, is applicable to the Arab territories occupied by Israel since 1967, including Jerusalem,


Bearing in mind the specific status of Jerusalem and, in particular, the need to protect and preserve the unique spiritual and religious dimensions of the Holy Places in the City,


Recalling and reaffirming its resolutions relevant to the status and character of the Holy City of Jerusalem, in particular resolutions 252 of 21 May 1968, 267 of 3 July and 271 of 15 September 1969, 298 of 25 September 1971, the consensus statement made by the President of the Security Council on 11 November 1976, resolutions 465 of 1 March 1980, 476 of 30 June 1980 and 478 of 20 August 1980,


Strongly deploring the continued refusal of Israel, the occupying power, to comply with the relevant resolutions of the Security Council,


Deeply concerned at the provocative acts by Israelis, including members of the Knesset, which have violated the sanctity of the Haram Al-Sharif in Jerusalem,


Strongly deplores the provocative acts which have violated the sanctity of the sanctuary of Haram Al-Sharif in Jerusalem;


Affirms that such acts constitute a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East, the failure of which could also endanger international peace and security;


Determines once more that all measures taken by Israel to change the physical character, demographic composition, institutional structure or status of the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem, or any part thereof, have no legal validity and that the policy and practices of Israel of settling parts of its population and new immigrants in those territories constitute a flagrant violation of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, and also constitute a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East;


Reiterates that all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel, the occupying Power, which have altered or purport to alter the character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem and in particular the "basic law" on Jerusalem are null and void and must be rescinded forthwith;


Calls upon Israel, the occupying Power, to observe scrupulously the norms of international law governing military occupation, in particular the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and to prevent any hindrance to the discharge of the established functions of the Supreme Islamic Council in Jerusalem, including any cooperation that the Council may desire from countries with predominantly Muslim populations and from Muslim communities in relation to its plans for the maintenance and repair of the Islamic Holy Places;


Urgently calls on Israel, the occupying power, to implement forthwith the provisions of this resolution and the relevant Security Council resolutions. 

14. S/19466 of 29 January 1988 (14 in favor, U.S. veto)


Expressing its grave concern over the increasing sufferings of the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territories,


Bearing in mind the inalienable rights of all people recognized by the Charter of the U.N. and proclaimed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,


Reaffirming that the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, is applicable to the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied by Israel since 1967, including Jerusalem,


Commending the International Committee of the Red Cross for its activities in the occupied territories,


Commending also the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (U.N.R.W.A.) for its invaluable work,


Conscious of the urgent need to resolve the underlying problem through a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement, including a solution to the Palestinian problem in all its aspects,


  1. Expresses its deep appreciation to the Secretary-General for his report;
  2. Calls upon Israel, as the occupying Power and as a High Contracting Party to the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, to accept the de jure applicability of the Convention to the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem, and to fully comply with its obligations under that convention;
  3. Recalls the obligation of all the High Contracting Parties, under article 1 of the Convention, to ensure respect for the Convention in all circumstances;
  4. Calls again upon Israel to desist forthwith from its policies and practices which violate the human rights of the Palestinian people;
  5. Requests Israel to facilitate the task of the International Committee of the Red Cross and of the UNRWA and requests all Members to give them their full support;
  6. Requests the Secretary-General to continue to monitor the situation in the occupied territories by all means available to him and to make regular and timely reports to the Council;
  7. Affirms the urgent need to achieve, under the auspices of the U.N., a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the Arab/Israeli conflict, and integral part of which is the Palestinian problem, and expresses its determination to work towards that end.

15. S/19780 of 14 April 1988 (14 in favor, U.S. veto)


Expressing its grave concern over the current situation in the occupied Palestinian territories,


Reaffirming its resolutions 605 of 22 December 1987, 607 of 5 January 1988 and 608 of 14 January 1988,


Recalling the report of the Secretary-General of 21 January 1988 (S/19443),


Having been apprised of the deportation by Israel, the occupying Power, of eight civilian Palestinians on 11 April 1988 and of its decision to continue the deportation of Palestinian civilians in the occupied territories,


Gravely concerned and alarmed by the measures adopted by Israel against the civilian Palestinian people and its persistent policy of taking measures of collective punishment, such as the recent demolition of homes in the village of Beita,


Also expressing grave concern over the action taken by the forces of the occupying Power against Sheikh Saad Eddin El-Alami, Head of the Supreme Islamic Council who was assaulted and beaten in the Haram Al Sharif in Jerusalem, on 1 April 1988,


Reaffirming once again that the Geneva Convention relative to the protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, is applicable to Palestinian and other Arab territories, occupied by Israel since 1967, including Jerusalem,


Recalling in particular the provisions of article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and expressing alarm that Israel has continued to transfer its civilian population into the territory it occupies and has equipped those settlers with arms which have been used against the civilian Palestinian people,


  1. Urges Israel, the occupying Power, to abide immediately and scrupulously by the Geneva Convention relative to the protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, and to desist forthwith from its policies and practices that are in violation of the provisions of the Convention;
  2. Urges further Israel to rescind the order to deport Palestinian civilians and ensure the safe and immediate return to the occupied Palestinian territories of those already deported;
  3. Urges once again Israel to desist forthwith from deporting Palestinian civilians from the occupied territories;
  4. Condemns those polices and practices of Israel, the occupying Power, that violate the human rights of the Palestinian people in the occupied territories, and in particular the opening of fire by the Israeli army, resulting in the killing and wounding of defenseless Palestinian civilians;
  5. Affirms the urgent need to achieve, under the auspices of the U.N., a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the Arab/Israeli conflict, an integral part of which is the Palestinian problem, and expresses its determination to work towards that end.

16. S/20463 of 17 February 1989 (14 in favor, U.S. veto)


Bearing in mind the inalienable rights of all peoples recognized by the Charter of the U.N. and proclaimed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,


Gravely concerned over the increasing suffering and continued violation of the human rights of the Palestinian people in the Palestinian territory occupied by Israel since 1967, including Jerusalem,


Gravely concerned in particular over the imposition of new measures by Israel, the occupying power, which have led to increased injuries and deaths of innocent Palestinian civilians, including children,

Considering that the current policies and practices of Israel, the occupying Power, in the occupied territories are bound to have grave consequences for the endeavors to achieve comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East,


Recalling the obligation of the High Contracting Parties under article 1 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, to ensure respect for the Convention in all circumstances,


Conscious of the need to end the Israeli occupation and to achieve a comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East,


  1. Strongly deplores Israel’s persistent policies and practices against the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territory, especially the violation of the human rights, and in particular the opening of fire that has resulted in injuries and deaths of Palestinian civilians, including children;
  2. Strongly deplores also the continuing disregard by Israel, the occupying Power, of the relevant decisions of the Security-Council;
  3. Confirms once more that the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949 is applicable to the Palestinian territory occupied by Israel since 1967, including Jerusalem, and the other occupied Arab territories;
  4. Calls upon Israel, the occupying power, to abide by the relevant resolutions of the Security Council, as well as to comply with its obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention and to desist forthwith from its policies and practices that are in violation of the provisions of the Convention;
  5. Affirms the urgent need to achieve, under the auspices of the U.N., a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the Middle East conflict, an integral part of which in the Palestinian problem, and expresses its determination to work towards that end.

17. S/20677 of 8 June 1989 (14 in favor, U.S. veto)


Having considered the letter dated 31 May 1989 from the Permanent Representative of Sudan to the U.N., in his capacity as Chairman of the Group of Arab States at the U.N. for the month of May,


Bearing in mind the inalienable rights of all peoples recognized by the Charter of the U.N. and proclaimed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,


Recalling that the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, is applicable to the Palestinian and the other Arab territories occupied by Israel since 1967, including Jerusalem,


Recalling its relevant resolutions on the situation in the Palestinian territory occupied by Israel since 1967, including Jerusalem, and in particular its resolutions 466 (1979), 465 (1980), 607 (1988) and 608 (1988),


Recalling the Secretary-General’s report of 21 January 1988 pursuant to resolution 605 (1987), and in particular the recommendations contained therein (S/19443),


Expressing its grave concerns and alarm over the increasing sufferings of the Palestinian People in the occupied Palestinian territory,


Having been apprised if the recent violations of the human rights of the Palestinian People in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem,


  1. Strongly deplores those policies and practices of Israel, the Occupying Power, which violate the human rights of the Palestinian people in the occupied territory as well as vigilante attacks against Palestinian towns and villages and the desecration of the Holy Koran;
  2. Calls upon Israel, as the Occupying Power and as a High Contracting Party to the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, to accept the de jure applicability of the Convention to the Palestinian and other Arab Territories occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem, and fully comply with its obligations under that Convention and in particular its "responsibility for the treatment accorded to the protected persons by its agents";
  3. Recalls the obligations of all High Contracting Parties, under article 1 of the Convention, to ensure respect for the Convention in all circumstances;
  4. Demands that Israel desist forthwith from deporting Palestinian civilians from the occupied territory and ensure the safe and immediate return of those already deported;
  5. Expresses great concern about the prolonged closure of schools in parts of the occupied territory, with all its adverse consequences for education of Palestinian children, and calls upon Israel to permit the immediate reopening of those schools;
  6. Requests the Secretary-General to continue to monitor the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory by all means available to him, to make timely reports to the Council, including recommendations on ways and means to ensure respect for the Convention and protection of Palestinian civilians in the occupied territory, including Jerusalem;
  7. Requests the Secretary-General to submit the first such report no later than 23 June 1989;
  8. Decides to keep the situation in the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied by Israel since 1967, including Jerusalem, under review.

18. S/20945/Rev.1 of 7 November 1989 (14 in favor, U.S. veto)


Having considered the letter dated 3 November 1989 from the Permanent Representative of Kuwait to the UN, in his capacity as Chairman of the Group of Arab States for the month of November,


Recalling its relevant resolutions on the situation in the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied by Israel since 1967, including Jerusalem, in particular resolution 605 (1987) of 22 December 1987,


Taking note of General Assembly resolution 44/2 of 6 October 1989,


Bearing in mind the inalienable rights of all peoples recognized by the Charter of the UN and proclaimed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,


Recalling also the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949,


Alarmed by the deteriorating situation in the Palestinian territory occupied by Israel since 1967, including Jerusalem,


Having heard the statements concerning the policies and practices of Israel, the occupying Power, and the conduct of its troops and agents in those territories, as manifested in the town of Beit Sahur, other towns and refugee camps,


Taking into account the immediate need to consider measures for the impartial and international protection of Palestinian civilian population under Israeli occupation,


Considering that the current policies and practices of Israel, the occupying Power, in the occupied territory are bound to have grave consequences for the endeavors to achieve comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East,


  1. Strongly deplores those policies and practices of Israel, the occupying Power, which violate the human rights of the Palestinian people in the occupied territories, and in particular the siege of towns, the ransacking of the homes of inhabitants, as has happened at Beit Sahur, and the confiscation of their property and valuables;
  2. Reaffirms once again that the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, is applicable to the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied by Israel since 1967, including Jerusalem;
  3. Calls once again upon Israel, the occupying Power, to abide immediately and scrupulously by the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, and to desist forthwith from its policies and practices that are in violation of the provisions of the Convention;
  4. Calls upon all High Contracting parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to ensure respect for it, including the obligation of the occupying Power under the Convention to treat the population of the of the occupied territory humanely at all times and in all circumstances;
  5. Calls upon Israel to desist from committing such practices and actions and lift its siege;
  6. Demands that Israel return the confiscated property to its owners;
  7. Requests the Secretary-General to conduct on-site monitoring of the present situation in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem, by all means available to him, and to submit periodic reports thereon, the first such report no later than 15 November 1989.

19. S/21326 of 31 May 1990 (14 in favor, U.S. veto)

Having listened to the statement by His Excellency President Yasser Arafat,


Reaffirming that the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, is applicable to the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied by Israel since 1967, including Jerusalem,


Gravely concerned and alarmed by the deteriorating situation in the Palestinian territory occupied by Israel since 1967, including Jerusalem,


Establishes a Commission consisting of three members of the Security Council, to be dispatched immediately to examine the situation relating to the policies and practices of Israel, the occupying Power, in the Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, occupied by Israel since 1967;


Requests the Commission to submit its report to the Security Council by 20 June 1990, containing recommendations on ways and means for ensuring the safety and protection of the Palestinian civilians under Israeli occupation;


Requests the Secretary-General to provide the Commission with the necessary facilities to enable it to carry out its mission;


Decides to keep the situation in the occupied territories under constant and close scrutiny and to reconvene to review the situation in the light of the findings of the Commission.

20. S/1995/394 of 17 May 1995 (14 in favor, U.S. veto)


Reaffirming its pervious resolutions on the status of Jerusalem, including resolutions 252 (1968), 267 (1969), 271 (1969), 476 (1980), 478 (1980) and 672 (1990),


Expresses concern over the recent declaration of Israeli expropriation orders of 53 hectares of land in East Jerusalem,


Reaffirming the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 12 August 1949, to all territories occupied by Israel since 1967, including Jerusalem,


Aware of the negative impact of the above-mentioned expropriation on the Middle East peace process, which started in Madrid in October 1991 on the basis of the Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973),


Aware also that in the Declaration of Principles of 13 September 1993 Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization agreed to postpone negotiations on final status issues, including Jerusalem, until the second stage of the peace process,


Determined to provide the necessary backing to the Middle East peace process,


  1. Confirms that the exportations of land by Israel, the occupying Power, in East Jerusalem is invalid and in violation of relevant Security Council resolutions and provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 12 August 1949;
  2. Calls upon the Government of Israel to rescind the expropriation orders and to refrain from such action in the future;
  3. Expressing its full support for the Middle East peace process and its achievements, including the Declaration of Principles of 13 September 1993 as well as the following implementation agreements;
  4. Urges the parties to adhere to the provisions of the agreements reached and to follow up with the full implementation of those agreements;
  5. Decides to remain seized of the matter
  6. .

21. S/1997/199 of 7 March 1997 (14 in favor, U.S. veto)

Expressing deep concern at the decision of the Government of Israel to initiate new settlement activities in the Jabal Abu Ghneim area in East Jerusalem,


Expressing concern about other recent measures that encourages or facilitate new settlement activities,


Stressing that such settlements are illegal and a major obstacle to peace,


Recalling its resolutions on Jerusalem and other relevant Security Council resolutions,


Confirming that all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel which purport to alter the status of Jerusalem, including expropriation of land and properties thereon, are invalid and cannot change that status,


Reaffirming its support for the Middle East Peace Process and all its achievements, including the recent Agreement on Hebron,


Concerned about the difficulties facing the Middle East Peace Process, including the impact these have on the living conditions of the Palestinian people, and urging the parties to fulfil their obligations, including under the agreements already reached,


  1. Calls upon the Israeli authorities to refrain from all actions or measures, including settlement activities, which alter the facts on the ground, pre-empting the final status negotiations, and have negative implications for the Middle East Peace Process;
  2. Calls upon Israel, the occupying Power, to abide scrupulously by its legal obligations and responsibilities under the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, which is applicable to all the territories occupied by Israel since 1967;
  3. Calls upon all parties to continue, in the interest of peace and security, their negotiations within the Middle East Peace Process on its agreed basis and the timely implementation of the agreements reached.

22. S/1997/241 of 21 March 1997 (13 in favor, 1 abstention, U.S. veto)


Recalling its relevant resolutions, in particular those concerning Jerusalem and Israeli settlements,


Aware of General Assembly resolution 51/223 of 13 March 1997,


Stressing its support for the Middle East Peace Process and the need for the implementation of the agreements and commitments reached,


Demands that Israel immediately cease construction of the Jabal Abu Ghneim settlement in East Jerusalem, as well as all other Israeli settlement activities in the occupied territories;


Requests the Secretary-General to submit a report on the developments in this regard.  

23. S/2001/270 of 27 March 2001 (9 in favor, 4 abstentions (U.K., France, Ireland, Norway), 1 veto (U.S.), 1 did not vote (Ukraine))


Reaffirming the need for a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East based on Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) of 22 November 1967, and 338 (1973) of 22 October 1973 and reaffirming also all its previous relevant resolutions, including its resolution 1322 (2000) of 7 October 2000,

Expressing its grave concern at the continuation of the tragic and violent events that have taken place since September 2000, resulting in many deaths and injuries, mostly among Palestinians,  

Reiterating the need for protection of all civilians as expressed in its resolutions 1265 (1999) and 1296 (2000),


Expressing its determination to contribute to ending the violence, protecting Palestinian civilians in the occupied territories and promoting dialogue between the Israeli and Palestinian sides,


Expressing its support for the efforts of the Secretary-General and the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East peace process,


Reiterating the need for Israel, the occupying Power, to abide scrupulously by its legal obligations and its responsibilities under the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 12 August 1949,




  1. Calls for the immediate cessation of all acts of violence, provocation and collective punishment, as well as the return to the positions and arrangements which existed prior to September 2000;    
  2. Calls upon the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority to implement promptly and without preconditions the understandings reached at the Summit convened at Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, of 17 October 2000;    
  3. Urges a resumption of negotiations within the Middle East peace process on its agreed basis, taking into account the previous positive developments in the negotiations between the two sides and calls on them to reach a final agreement on all issues, on the basis of their previous agreements, with the objective of implementing resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973);    
  4. Expresses grave concern at recent settlement activities, in particular the recent decision to expand the settlement at Jabal Abu Ghneim and calls for full cessation of settlement activities;    
  5. Calls on the parties to take the following immediate steps:



    1. resumption of contacts at all levels on implementation of reciprocal commitments including in the field of security previously made by both sides;
    2. an end to the closures of the occupied Palestinian territories to permit resumption of full normal activities of daily life;
    3. the transfer by Israel to the Palestinian Authority of all revenues due, in accordance with the Paris Protocol on Economic Relations of 29 April 1994;
    4. additional confidence building measures by both sides including unequivocal public statements in support of all commitments made at Sharm El-Sheikh and of this resolution;




  1. Expresses full support for the work of the Fact-Finding Committee established at Sharm El-Sheikh, calls upon all parties to cooperate fully with it, and looks forward to its report;    
  2. Appeals to the international donor community to extend, as rapidly and as generously as possible, economic and financial assistance to the Palestinian people, and stresses in this regard the importance of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee;    
  3. Requests the Secretary-General to consult the parties on immediate and substantive steps to implement this resolution and expresses the readiness of the Council to act upon receipt of the report to set up an appropriate mechanism to protect Palestinian civilians, including through the establishment of a United Nations observer force;    
  4. Decides to remain actively seized of the matter.

King-Crane Commission (1919): Recommendations

The term Syria below included at that time the current territories of Syria, Lebanon and Palestine/Israel. – Webmaster


Recommendations of the King-Crane Commission with regard to Syria-Palestine and Iraq (August 29, 1919)

I. Syria-Palestine

A. We recommend, as most important of all, and in strict harmony with our Instructions, that whatever foreign administration (whether of one or more Powers) is brought into Syria, should come in not at all as a colonising Power; in the old sense of that term, but as a Mandatory under the League of Nations with a clear consciousness that "the well-being and development," of the Syrian people form for it a "sacred trust."

(1) To this end the Mandate should have a limited term, the time of expiration to be determined by the League of Nations, in the light of all the facts as brought out from year to fear, in the annual reports of the Mandatory to the League or in other ways.

(2) The mandatory Administration should have, however, a period and power sufficient to ensure the success of the new state; and especially to make possible carrying through important educational and economic undertakings, essential to secure founding of the State.

(3) The mandatory Administration should be characterised from the beginning by a strong and vital educational emphasis in clear recognition of the imperative necessity of education for the citizens of a democratic state, and for the development of a sound national spirit. This systematic cultivation of national spirit is particularly required in a country like Syria, which has only recently come to self-consciousness.

(4) The Mandatory should definitely seek, from the beginning of its trusteeship, to train the Syrian people to independent self-government as rapidly as conditions allow, by setting up all the institutions of a democratic state, and by sharing with them increasingly the work of administration, and so forming gradually an intelligent citizenship, interested unselfishly in the progress of the country, and forming at the same time a large group of disciplined civil servants.

(5) The period of "tutelage" should not be unduly prolonged, but independent self-government should be granted as soon as it is can safely be done; remembering that the primary business of governments is not the accomplishment of certain things, but the development of citizens.

(6) It is peculiarly the duty of the Mandatory in a country like Syria, and in this modern age, to see that complete religious liberty is ensured, both in the constitution and in the practice of the state, and that a jealous care is exercised for the rights of all minorities. Nothing is more vital than this for the enduring success of the new Arab State.

(7) In the economic development of Syria, a dangerous amount of indebtedness on the part of the new state should be avoided, as well as any entanglements financially with the affairs of the mandatory Power. On the other hand, the legitimate established privileges of foreigners, such as rights to maintain schools, commercial concessions, etc., should be preserved, but subject to reviews and modification under the authority of the League of Nations in the interest of Syria. The mandatory Power should not take advantage of its position to force a monopolistic control at any point to the detriment either of Syria or of other nations; but it should seek to bring the new State as rapidly as possible to economic independence as well as to political independence.

Whatever is done concerning the further recommendations of the Commission, the fulfilment of at least the conditions now named should be assured, if the Peace Conference and the League of Nations are true to the policy of mandatories already embodied in the Covenant of the League of Nations. This should effectively guard the most essential interests of Syria, however the machinery of administration is finally organised. The Damascus Congress betrayed in many ways their intense fear that their country should become, though under some other name, simply a colonial possession of some other Power. That fear must be completely allayed.

B. We recommend, in the second, that the unity of Syria be preserved, in accordance with the earnest petition of the great majority of the people of Syria.

(1) The territory concerned is too limited, the population too small and the economic, geographic, racial and language unity too manifest, to make the setting up of independent States within its boundaries desirable, if such division can possibly be avoided. The country is very largely Arab in language, culture, tradition, and customs.

(2) This recommendation is in line with important general considerations; already urged, and with the principles of the League of Nations, as well as in answer to the desires of the majority of the population concerned.

(3) The precise boundaries of Syria should be determined by a special commission on boundaries, after the Syrian territory has been in general allotted. The Commissioners believe; however, that the claim of the Damascus Conference to include Cilicia in Syria is not justified, either historically or by commercial or language relations. The line between the Arabic-speaking and the Turkish-speaking populations would quite certainly class Cilicia with Asia Minor, rather than with Syria. Syria, too, has not such need of further seacoast as the large interior sections of Asia Minor.

(4) In standing thus for the recognition of the units of Syria, the natural desires of regions like the Lebanon, which have already had a measure of independence, should not be forgotten. It will make for real unity, undoubtedly, to give a large measure of local autonomy and especially in the case of strongly unified groups. Even the "Damascus Programme" which presses so earnestly the unity of Syria, itself urges a government "on broad decentralisation principles."

Lebanon has achieved a considerable degree of prosperity and autonomy within the Turkish Empire. She certainly should not find her legitimate aspirations less possible within a Syrian national State. On the contrary, it may be confidently expected that both her economic and political relations with the rest of Syria would be better if she were a constituent member of the State rather than entirely independent of it.

As a predominantly Christian country too, Lebanon naturally fears Moslem domination in a unified Syria. But against such domination she would have a four-fold safeguard; her own large autonomy; the presence of a strong mandatory for the considerable period in which the constitution and practice of the new State would be forming; the oversight of the League of Nations, with its insistence upon religious liberty and the rights of minorities; and the certainty that the Arab Government would feel the necessity of such a State, if it were to commend itself to the League of Nations. Moreover, there would be less danger of a reactionary Moslem attitude, if Christians were present in the State in considerable numbers, rather than largely segregated outside the State, as experience of the relations of different religious faiths in India suggest.

As a predominantly Christian country it is also to be noted that Lebanon would be in a position to exert a stronger and more helpful influence if she were within the Syrian State, feeling its problems and needs, and sharing all its life, instead of outside it, absorbed simply in her own narrow concerns. For the sake of the larger interests, both of Lebanon and of Syria, then, the unity of Syria is to be urged. It is certain that many of the more thoughtful Lebanese themselves hold this view. A similar statement might be made for Palestine; though, as the Holy Land for Jews and Christians and Moslems alike, its situation is unique, and might more readily justify unique treatment, if such treatment were justified anywhere. This will be discussed more particularly in connexion with the recommendation concerning Zionism.

C. We recommend, in the third place, that Syria be placed under one mandatory Power, as the natural way to secure real and efficient unity.

(1) To divide the administration of the provinces of Syria among several mandatories, even if existing national unity were recognised; or to attempt a joint mandatory of the whole on the commission plan:-neither of these courses would be naturally suggested as the best way to secure and promote the unity of the new State, or even the general unity of the whole people. It is conceivable that circumstances might drive the Peace Conference to some such form of divided Mandate; but it is not a solution to be voluntarily chosen, from the point of view of the larger interests of the people, as considerations already urged indicate.

(2) It is not to be forgotten, either, that, however they are handled politically, the people of Syria are three, forced to get on together in some fashion. They are obliged to live with one another–the Arabs of the East and the people of the coast, the Moslems and the Christians. Will they be helped or hindered, in establishing tolerable and finally cordial relations, by a single mandatory? No doubt the quick mechanical solution of the problem of difficult relations is to split the people up into little independent fragments. And sometimes, undoubtedly, as in the case of the Turks and Armenians.

The relations are so intolerable as to make some division imperative and inevitable. But in general, to attempt complete separation only accentuates the differences and increases the antagonism. The whole lesson of the modern social consciousness points to the necessity of understanding the other half, as it can be understood only by close and living relations. Granting reasonable local autonomy to reduce friction among groups, a single mandatory ought to form a constant and increasingly effective help to unity of feeling throughout the State, and ought to steadily improve group relations. The people of Syria, in our hearings, have themselves often insisted that, so far as unpleasant relations have hitherto prevailed among various groups, it has been very largely due to the direct instigation of the Turkish Government. When justice is done impartially to all; when it becomes plain that the aim of the common government is the service of all classes alike, not their exploitation, then can decent human relations be secured-a foundation which could not be obtained by dividing men off from one another in antagonistic groups.

The Commissioners urged, therefore, for the largest future good of all groups and regions, alike the placing of the whole of Syria under a single Mandate.

D. We recommend, in the fourth place, that Amir Faisal be made head of the new united Syrian State.

(1) This is expressly and unanimously asked for by the representative Damascus Congress in the name of the Syrian people, and there seems to be no reason to doubt that the great majority of the population of Syria sincerely desire to have Amir Faisal as ruler.

(2) A constitutional monarchy along democratic lines, seems naturally adapted to the Arabs, with their long training under tribal conditions, and with their traditional respect for their Chiefs. They seem to need, more than most people, a king as the personal symbol of the power of the State.

(3) Amir Faisal has come, too, natural into his present place of power, and there is no one else who could well replace him. He has the great advantage of being the son of the Sharif of Mecca, and as such honoured throughout the Moslem world. He was one of the prominent Arab leaders who assumed responsibility for the Arab uprising against the Turks, and so shared in the complete deliverance of the Arabic-speaking portions of the Turkish Empire. He was as consequently hailed by the Damascus Congress as having merited their full confidence and entire reliance. He was taken up and supported by the British as the most promising candidate for the headship for the new Arab State-an Arab of the Arabs, but with a position of wide appeal through his Sharifian connection, and through his broad sympathies with the best in the Occident. His relations with the Arabs to the east of Syria are friendly, and his kingdom would not be threatened from that side. He undoubtedly does not make so strong an appeal to the Christians of the West Coast, as to the Arabs of the East; but no man can be named who would have a stronger general appeal. He is tolerant and wise, skilful in dealing with men winning in manner, a man of sincerity insight and power. Whether he has the full strength needed for his difficult task it is too early too early to say; but certainly no other Arab leader combines so many elements of power as he, and he will have invaluable help throughout the mandatory period. The Peace Conference may take genuine satisfaction in the fact that an Arab of such qualities is available for the headship of this new state in the Near East.

E. We recommend, in the fifth place, serious modification of the extreme Zionist programme for Palestine of unlimited immigration of Jews, looking finally to making Palestine distinctly a Jewish state.
(1) The Commissioner began their study of Zionism with minds predisposed in its favour, but the actual facts in Palestine, coupled with the force of the general principles proclaimed by the Allies and accepted by the Syrians have driven them to the recommendation here made.

(2) The Commission was abundantly supplied with literature on the Zionist programme by the Zionist Commission to Palestine; heard in conferences much concerning the Zionist colonies and their claims; and personally saw something of what had been accomplished. They found much to approve in the aspirations and plans of the Zionists, and had warm appreciation for the devotion of many of the colonists, and for their success, by modern methods, in overcoming great natural obstacles.

(3) The Commission recognised also that definite encouragement had been given to the Zionists by the Allies in Mr. Balfour’s often quoted statement, in its approval by other representatives of the Allies. If, however, the strict terms of the Balfour Statement are adhered to-favouring "the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people," "it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine" – it can hardly be doubted that the extreme Zionist programme must be greatly modified. For a national home for the Jewish people is not equivalent to making Palestine into a Jewish State; nor can the erection of such a Jewish State be accomplished without the gravest trespass upon the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine. The fact came out repeatedly in the Commission’s conferences with Jewish representatives, that the Zionists looked forward to a practically complete disposition of the present non-Jewish inhabitants of Palestine, by various forms of purchase. In his address, of July 4, 1918, President Wilson laid down the following principle as one of the four great "ends for which the associated peoples of the world were fighting": "The settlement of every question, whether of territory, of sovereignty, of economic arrangement, or of political relationship upon the basis of the free acceptance of that settlement by the people immediately concerned and not upon the basis of the material Interest or advantage of any other nation or people which may desire a different settlement for the sake of its own exterior influence or mastery." If that principle is to rule, and so the wishes of Palestine’s population are to be decisive as to what is to be done with Palestine, then it is to be remembered that the non-Jewish population of Palestine-nearly nine-tenths of the whole emphatically against the entire Zionist programme. The tables show that there was no one thing upon which the population of Palestine were more agreed than upon this. To subject a people so minded to unlimited Jewish immigration, and to steady financial and social pressure to surrender the land, would be a gross violation of the principle just quoted, and of the people’s rights, though it kept within the forms of law. It is to be noted also that the feeling against the Zionist programme is not confined to Palestine, but shared very generally by the people throughout Syria, as our conferences clearly showed. More than seventy-two percent-1.350 in all the petitions in the whole of Syria were directed against the Zionist programme. Only two requests–those for a united Syria and for independence had a larger support. This general feeling was duly voiced by the General Syrian Congress in the seventh, eighth and tenth resolutions of the statement.

The Peace Conference should not shut its eyes to the fact that the anti-Zionist feeling in Palestine and Syria is intense and not lightly to be flouted. No British officer, consulted by the Commissioners, believed that the Zionist programme could be carried out except by force of arms. The officers generally thought that a force of not less than 50,000 soldiers would be required even to initiate the programme. That of itself is evidence of a strong sense of the injustice of the Zionist programme, on the part of the non-Jewish populations of Palestine and Syria. Decisions requiring armies to carry out are sometimes necessary, but they are surely not gratuitously to be taken in the interests of serious injustices.

For the initial claim, often submitted by Zionist representatives, that they have a "right" to Palestine based on an occupation of 2,000 years ago, can hardly be seriously considered. There is a further consideration that cannot justly be ignored, if the world is to look forward to Palestine becoming a definitely-Jewish State, however gradually that may take place. That consideration grows out the fact that Palestine is the Holy Land for Jews, Christians, and Moslems alike. Millions of Christians and Moslems all over the world are quite as much concerned as the Jews with conditions in Palestine, especially with those conditions which touch upon religious feeling and rights. The relations in these matters in Palestine are most delicate and difficult. With the best possible intentions, it may be doubted whether the Jews could possibly seem to either Christians or Moslems proper guardians of the holy places, or custodians of the Holy Land as a whole. The reason is this: The places which are most sacred to Christians those having to do with Jesus-and which are also sacred to Moslems, are not only not sacred to Jews, but abhorrent to them. It is simply impossible, under those circumstances, for Moslems and Christians to feel satisfied to have these places in Jewish hands, or under the custody of Jews. There are still other places about which Moslems must have the same feeling. In fact, from this point of view, the Moslems, just because the sacred places of all three religions are, sacred to them, have made very naturally much more satisfactory custodians of the holy places than the Jews could be. It must be believed that the precise meaning in this respect of the complete Jewish occupation of Palestine has not been fully sensed by those who urge the extreme Zionist programme. For it would intensify, with a certainty like fate; the anti-Jewish feeling both in Palestine and in all other portions of the world which look to Palestine as the Holy Land.

In view of all these considerations, and with a deep sense of sympathy for the Jewish cause, the Commissioners feel bound to recommend that only a greatly reduced Zionist programme be attempted by the Peace Conference, and even that, only very gradually initiated. This would have to mean that Jewish immigration should be definitely limited, and that the project for making Palestine distinctly a Jewish commonwealth should be given up.

There would then be no reason why Palestine could not be included in a united Syrian State, just as other portions of the country, the holy places being cared for by an international and inter-religious commission, somewhat as at present under the oversight and approval of the Mandatory and of the League of Nations. The Jews, of course, would have representation upon this Commission.

The recommendations now made lead naturally to the necessity of recommending what power shall undertake the single Mandate for all Syria.

(1) The considerations already dealt with suggest the qualifications ideally to be desired in the mandatory Power: First of all, it should be freely desired by the people. It should be willing to enter heartily into the spirit of the mandatory system, and its possible gift to the world, and so be willing to withdraw after a reasonable period, and not seek selfishly to exploit the country. It should have a passion for democracy, for the education of the common people and for the development of the national spirit. It needs unlimited sympathy and patience in what is practically certain to be a rather thankless task; for no Power can go in honestly to face actual conditions (like land-ownership, for example) and seek to correct these conditions, without making many enemies. It should experience in dealing with less-developed people, and abundant resources in men and money.

(2) Probably no Power combines all these qualifications, certainly not in equal degree. But there is hardly one of these qualifications that has not been more or less definitely indicated in our conference with Syrian people and they certainly suggest a new stage in the development of the self-sacrificing spirit in the relations of peoples to one another. The Power that undertakes the single Mandate for all Syria, in the spirit of these qualification will have the possibility of greatly serving not only Syria but the world, and of exalting at the same time its own national life. For it would be working in direct line with the high aims of the Allies in the War, and give proof that those high aims had not been abandoned. And that would mean very much just now, in enabling enabling the nations to keep their faith in one another and in their own highest ideals.

(3) The Resolutions of the Peace Conference of January 30, 1919, quoted in our instructions, expressly state for regions to be "completely severed from the Turkish Empire", that "the wishes of these communities must be a principal consideration in the election of the mandatory Power." Our survey left no room for doubt of the choice of the majority of the Syrian people. Although it was not known whether America would take a Mandate at all; and although the Commission could not only give no assurances upon that point, but had rather to discourage expectation; nevertheless, upon the face of the returns, America vvas the first choice of 1,152 of the petitions presented-more than sixty per cent-while no other Power had as much as fifteen per cent for first choice.

And the conferences showed that the people knew the grounds upon which they registered their choice for America. They declared that their choice was due to knowledge of America’s record; the unselfish aims with which she had come into the War; the faith in her felt by multitudes of Syrians who had been in America; the spirit revealed in American educational institutions in Syria, especially the College in Beirut, with its well-known and constant encouragement of Syrian national sentiment; their belief that America had no territorial or colonial ambitions, and would willingly withdraw when the Syrian State was well established as her treatment both of Cuba and the Philippines seemed to them to illustrate; her genuinely democratic spirit; and her ample resources.

From the point of view of the desires of the "people concerned," the Mandate should clearly go to America.

(4) From the point of view of qualifications, too, already stated as needed in the Mandatory of Syria, America, as first choice of the people, probably need not fear careful testing, point by point, by the Standard involved in our discussion of qualifications; though she has much less experience in such work than Great Britain, and is likely to show less patience; and though her definite connexions with Syria have been less numerous and close than those of France. She would have at least the great qualification of fervent belief in the new mandatory system of the League of Nations, as indicating the proper relations which a strong nation should take take toward a weaker one. And, though she would undertake the Mandate with reluctuctance, she could probably be brought to see how logically the taking of such responsibility follows from the purposes with which she entered the War, and from her advocacy of the League of Nations.

(5) There is the further consideration that America could probably come into the Syrian situation, in the beginning at least, with less friction than any other Power. The great majority of Syrian people, as has been seen, favour her coming, rather than that of any other Power. Both the British and the French would find it easier to yield their respective claims to America than to each other. She would have no rival imperial interests to press. She would have abundant resources for the development of the sound prosperity of Syria; and this would inevitably benefit in a secondary way the nations which have had closest connexion with Syria, and so help to keep relations among the Allies cordial. No other Power probably would be more welcome as a neighbour to the British with their large interests in Egypt, Arabia and Iraq; or the Arabs and Syrians in these regions; or the French with their long-established and many-sided interests in Bairut and the Lebanon.

(6) The objections to recommending at once a single American Mandate for all Syria are: First of all, that it is not certain that the America people would be willing to take the Mandate; that is not certain that the British or French would be willing to withdraw, and would cordially welcome America’s coming, a situation which might prove steadily harassing to an American administration; that the vague but large encouragement given to the Zionist aims might prove particularly embarrassing to America, on account of her large influential Jewish population; and that, if America were to take any mandate at all, and were to take but one mandate, it is probable that an Asia Minor Mandate would be more natural and important. For there is a task there of such peculiar and world-wide significance as to appeal to the best in America, and demand the utmost from her, and as certainly to justify her in breaking with her established policy concerning mixing in the affairs of the eastern hemisphere. The Commissioners believe, moreover, that no other Power could come into Asia Minor with hands so free to give impartial justice to all the peoples concerned.
To these objections, as a whole, it is to be said that they are all of such a kind that they may resolve themselves; and that they only form the sort of obstacles that must be expected in so large and significant an undertaking. In any case they do not relieve the Commissioners from the duty of recommending the course which, in their honest judgment, is the best course, and the one for which the whole situation calls.

The Commissioners, therefore, recommend, as involved in the logic of the facts, that the United States of America be asked to undertake the single Mandate for all Syria.
If for any reason the mandate for Syria is not given to America, then the Commissioners recommend, in harmony with the express request of the majority of Syrian people, that the mandate be given to Great Britain. The tables show that there were 1,073 petitions in all Syria for Great Britain as mandatory, if America did not take the Mandate. This is very greatly in excess of any similar expression for the French.

On the contrary-for whatever reason-more than sixty percent of all the petitions presented to the Commission directly and strongly protested against any French mandate. Without going into discussion of the reasons for this situation, the Commissioners are reluctantly compelled to believe that this situation itself makes it impossible to recommend a single French Mandate for all Syria.

The feeling of the Arabs of the East is particularly strong against the French. And there is grave reason to believe that the attempt to enforce a French Mandate would precipitate war between the Arabs and the French, and force upon Great Britain a dangerous alternative. The Commissioners may perhaps be allowed to say that this conclusion is contrary to their own earlier hope, that because of France’s long and intimate relations with Syria, because of her unprecedented sacrifices in the War, and because the British Empire seemed certain to receive far greater accessions of territory from the War-it might seem possible to recommend that France be given the entire Mandate for Syria. But the longer the Commission remained in Syria, the more clear it became that the course could not be taken. The Commissioners recommend, therefore, if America cannot take the mandate for all Syria, that it be given to Great Britain; because of the choice of the people concerned; because she is already on the ground and with much of the necessary work in hand; because of her trained administrators; because of her long and generally successful experience in dealing with less developed peoples; and because she has so many of the qualifications needed in a mandatory Power, as we have already considered them.

We should hardly be doing justice, however, to our sense of responsibility to the Syrian people, if we did not frankly add some at least of the reasons and misgivings, variously expressed and implied in our conferences, which led to the preference for an American Mandate over a British Mandate. The people repeatedly showed honest fear that in Bntish hands the mandatory power would become simply a colonising power of the old kind; that Great Britain could find it difficult to give up the colonial theory, especially in case of a people thought inferior; that she would favour a civil service and pension budget too expensive for a poor people; that the interests of Syria would be subordinated to the supposed needs of the Empire; that there would be, after all, too much exploitation of the country for Britain’s benefit; that she would never be ready to withdraw and give the country real independence; that she did not really believe in universal education, and would not provide adequately for it; and that she already had more territory in her possession-in spite of her fine colonial record-than was good either for herself or for the world.

These misgivings of the Syrian people unquestionably largely explain their demand for "absolute independence", for a period of "assistance" of only twenty years, their protest against Article XXII of the Covenant of the League of Nations, etc. They all mean that whatever Power the Peace Conference shall send into Syria, should go in as a true mandator) under the League of Nations, and for a limited term. Anything else would be a betrayal of the Syrian people.

It needs to be emphasised, too, that under a true mandatory for Syria, all the legitimate interests of all the nations in Syria would be safeguarded. In particular, there is no reason why any tie that France has had with Syria in the past should be severed or even weakened under the control of another mandatory Power, or in an independent Syria.

There remains only to be added that, if France feels so intensely concerning her present claims in Syria as to threaten all cordial relations among the Allies, it is of course, possible to give her a Mandate over the Lebanon (not enlarged) separated from the rest of Syria, as is desired by considerable groups in that region. For reasons already given, the Commissioners cannot recommend this course, but it is a possible arrangement.

International Conference on Palestine Refugees (2000)

International Conference on Palestine Refugees

organized by the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People in cooperation with the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the League of Arab States, at the UNESCO Headquarters, Paris, 26 and 27 April 2000

The Conference was attended by representatives of 58 governments, Palestine, 3 intergovernmental organizations, 4 United Nations bodies and agencies, and 38 non-governmental organizations. Presentations were made by 16 experts, including Palestinians and Israelis.

The final document of the Conference, including presentations made to the Conference, are available online at:″OpenDocument

Letter from Herzl to Mayor of Jerusalem, 1899

Letter  from Dr. Theodore Herz1 to M. Youssuf Zia Al-Khalidi, Mayor of Jerusalem

Carl Ludwigstrasse 50
19 March 1899


I owe to Mr. Zadok Kahn’s  kindness the pleasure of having read the letter which you addressed to him. Let me tell you first of all that the feelings of friendship which you express for the Jewish people inspire in me the deepest appreciation. The Jews have been, are, and will be the best friends of Turkey since the day when Sultan Selim  opened his Empire to the persecuted Jews of Spain.

And this friendship consists not only of words-it is ready to be transferred into acts and to aid the Moslems.

The Zionist idea, of which I am the humble servant, has no hostile tendency toward the Ottoman Government, but quite to the contrary this movement is concerned with opening up new resources for the Ottoman Empire. In allowing immigration to a number of Jews bringing their intelligence, their financial acumen and their means of enterprise to the country, no one can doubt that the well-being of the entire country would be the happy result. It is necessary to understand this, and make it known to everybody.

As Your Excellency said very well in your letter to the Grand Rabbi, the Jews have no belligerent Power behind them, neither are they themselves of a warlike nature. They are a completely peaceful element, and very content if they are -left in peace. Therefore, there is absolutely nothing to fear from their immigration.

The question of the Holy Places?

But no one thinks of ever touching those. As I have said and written many times: These places have lost forever the faculty of belonging exclusively to one faith, to one race or to one people. The Holy Places are and will remain holy for all the world, for the Moslems as for the Christians as for the Jews. The universal peace which all men of good will ardently hope for will have its symbol in a brotherly union in the Holy Places.

You see another difficulty, Excellency, in the existence of the non-Jewish population in Palestine. But who would think of sending them away? It is their well-being, their individual wealth which we will increase by bringing in our own. Do you think that an Arab who owns land or a house in Palestine worth three or four thousand francs will be very angry to see the price of his land rise in a short time, to see it rise five and ten times in value perhaps in a few months? Moreover, that will necessarily happen with the arrival of the Jews. That is what the indigenous population must realize, that they will gain excellent brothers as the Sultan will gain faithful and good subjects who will make this province flourish-this province which is their historic homeland.

When one looks at the situation in this light, which is the true one, one must be the friend of Zionism when one is the friend of Turkey.

I hope, Excellency, that these few explanations will suffice to give you a little more sympathy for our movement.

You tell Mr. Zadok Kahn that the Jews would do better to go somewhere else. That may well happen the day we realize that Turkey does not understand the enormous advantages which our movement offers it. We have explained our aim publicly, sincerely and loyally. I have had submitted to His Majesty the Sultan some general propositions, and I am pleased to believe that the extreme clearness of his mind will make him accept in principle the idea of which one can afterwards discuss the details of execution. If he will not accept it, we will search and, believe me, we will find elsewhere what we need.

But then Turkey will have lost its last chance to regulate its finances and to recover its economic vigour.

It is a sincere friend of the Turks who tells you these things today. Remember that!

And accept, Excellency, the assurance of my very high consideration.

(signed) Dr. Theodore HERZL

Declaration of Israel’s Independence, May 1948

Declaration of Israel’s Independence 1948
[see critical comment on title]

Issued at Tel Aviv on May 14, 1948 (5th of Iyar, 5708)

The land of Israel was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and national identity was formed. Here they achieved independence and created a culture of national and universal significance. Here they wrote and gave the Bible to the world.

Exiled from Palestine, the Jewish people remained faithful to it in all the countries of their dispersion, never ceasing to pray and hope for their return and the restoration of their national freedom.

Impelled by this historic association, Jews strove throughout the centuries to go back to the land of their fathers and regain their statehood. In recent decades they returned in masses. They reclaimed the wilderness, revived their language, built cities and villages and established a vigorous and ever-growing community with its own economic and cultural life. They sought peace yet were ever prepared to defend themselves. They brought the blessing of progress to all inhabitants of the country.

In the year 1897 the First Zionist Congress, inspired by Theodor Herzl’s vision of the Jewish State, proclaimed the right of the Jewish people to national revival in their own country.

This right was acknowledged by the Balfour Declaration of November 2, 1917, and re-affirmed by the Mandate of the League of Nations, which gave explicit international recognition to the historic connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and their right to reconstitute their National Home.

The Nazi holocaust, which engulfed millions of Jews in Europe, proved anew the urgency of the re-establishment of the Jewish state, which would solve the problem of Jewish homelessness by opening the gates to all Jews and lifting the Jewish people to equality in in the family of nations.

The survivors of the European catastrophe, as well as Jews from other lands, proclaiming their right to a life of dignity, freedom and labor, and undeterred by hazards, hardships and obstacles, have tried unceasingly to enter Palestine.

In the Second World War the Jewish people in Palestine made a full contribution in the struggle of the freedom-loving nations against the Nazi evil. The sacrifices of their soldiers and the efforts of their workers gained them title to rank with the peoples who founded the United Nations.

On November 29, 1947, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted a Resolution for the establishment of an independent Jewish State in Palestine, and called upon the inhabitants of the country to take such steps as may be necessary on their part to put the plan into effect.

This recognition by the United Nations of the right of the Jewish people to establish their independent State may not be revoked. It is, moreover, the self-evident right of the Jewish people to be a nation, as all other nations, in its own sovereign State.

ACCORDINGLY, WE, the members of the National Council, representing the Jewish people in Palestine and the Zionist movement of the world, met together in solemn assembly today, the day of the termination of the British mandate for Palestine, by virtue of the natural and historic right of the Jewish and of the Resolution of the General Assembly of the United Nations,

HEREBY PROCLAIM the establishment of the Jewish State in Palestine, to be called ISRAEL.

WE HEREBY DECLARE that as from the termination of the Mandate at midnight, this night of the 14th and 15th May, 1948, and until the setting up of the duly elected bodies of the State in accordance with a Constitution, to be drawn up by a Constituent Assembly not later than the first day of October, 1948, the present National Council shall act as the provisional administration, shall constitute the Provisional Government of the State of Israel.

THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open to the immigration of Jews from all countries of their dispersion; will promote the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; will be based on the precepts of liberty, justice and peace taught by the Hebrew Prophets; will uphold the full social and political equality of all its citizens, without distinction of race, creed or sex; will guarantee full freedom of conscience, worship, education and culture; will safeguard the sanctity and inviolability of the shrines and Holy Places of all religions; and will dedicate itself to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.

THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be ready to cooperate with the organs and representatives of the United Nations in the implementation of the Resolution of the Assembly of November 29, 1947, and will take steps to bring about the Economic Union over the whole of Palestine.

We appeal to the United Nations to assist the Jewish people in the building of its State and to admit Israel into the family of nations.

In the midst of wanton aggression, we yet call upon the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to return to the ways of peace and play their part in the development of the State, with full and equal citizenship and due representation in its bodies and institutions – provisional or permanent.

We offer peace and unity to all the neighboring states and their peoples, and invite them to cooperate with the independent Jewish nation for the common good of all.

Our call goes out the the Jewish people all over the world to rally to our side in the task of immigration and development and to stand by us in the great struggle for the fulfillment of the dream of generations – the redemption of Israel.

With trust in Almighty God, we set our hand to this Declaration, at this Session of the Provisional State Council, in the city of Tel Aviv, on this Sabbath eve, the fifth of Iyar, 5708, the fourteenth day of May, 1948.

UNGA Resolution 194 (1948)

United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194 (III)
11 December 1948

The General Assembly,

Having considered further the situation in Palestine,

1. Expresses its deep appreciation of the progress achieved through the good offices of the late United Nations Mediator in promoting a peaceful adjustment of the future situation of Palestine, for which cause he sacrificed his life; and

Extends its thanks to the Acting Mediator and his staff for their continued efforts and devotion to duty in Palestine;

2. Establishes a Conciliation Commission consisting of three States Members of the United Nations which shall have the following functions:

(a) To assume, in so far as it considers necessary in existing circumstances, the functions given to the United Nations Mediator on Palestine by resolution 182;(S-2) of the General Assembly of 14 May 1948;

(b) To carry out the specific functions and directives given to it by the present resolution and such additional functions and directives as may be given to it by the General Assembly or by the Security Council;

(c) To undertake, upon the request of the Security Council, any of the functions now assigned to the United Nations Mediator on Palestine or to the United Nations Truce Commission by resolutions of the Security Council; upon such request to the Conciliation Commission by the Security Council with respect to all the remaining functions of the United Nations Mediator on Palestine under Security Council resolutions, the office of the Mediator shall be terminated;

3. Decides that a Committee of the Assembly, consisting of China, France, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the United Kingdom and the United States of America, shall present, before the end of the first part of the present session of the General Assembly, for the approval of the Assembly, a proposal concerning the names of the three States which will constitute the Conciliation Commission;

4. Requests the Commission to begin its functions at once, with a view to the establishment of contact between the parties themselves and the Commission at the earliest possible date;

5. Calls upon the Governments and authorities concerned to extend the scope of the negotiations provided for in the Security Council’s resolution of 16 November 1948 and to seek agreement by negotiations conducted either with the Conciliation Commission or directly, with a view to the final settlement of all questions outstanding between them;

6. Instructs the Conciliation Commission to take steps to assist the Governments and authorities concerned to achieve a final settlement of all questions outstanding between them;

7. Resolves that the Holy Places – including Nazareth – religious buildings and sites in Palestine should be protected and free access to them assured, in accordance with existing rights and historical practice; that arrangements to this end should be under effective United Nations supervision; that the United Nations Conciliation Commission, in presenting to the fourth regular session of the General Assembly its detailed proposals for a permanent international r

Report by U.N. Mediator on Palestine, Sept. 1948

Conclusions From Progress Report of the United Nations Mediator on Palestine, September 16, 1948 

(a) Mediation Effort


1. Since I presented my written Suggestions to the Arab and Jewish authorities on 27 June, I have made no formal submission to either party of further suggestions or proposals for a definitive settlement.(2) Since that date, however, I have held many oral discussions in the Arab capitals and Tel Aviv, in the course of which various ideas on settlement have been freely exchanged. As regards my original Suggestions, I hold to the opinion that they offered a general framework within which a reasonable and workable settlement might have been reached, had the two parties concerned been willing to discuss them. They were flatly rejected, however, by both parties. Since they were put forth on the explicit condition that they were purely tentative, were designed primarily to elicit views and counter-suggestions from each party, and, in any event, could be implemented only if agreed upon by both parties, I have never since pressed them. With respect to one basic concept in my Suggestions, it has become increasingly clear to me that however desirable a political and economic union might be in Palestine, the time is certainly not now propitious for the effectuation of any such scheme.

2. 1 do not consider it to be within my province to recommend to the Members of the United Nations a proposed course of action on the Palestine question. That is a responsibility of the Members acting through the appropriate organsation my role as United Nations Mediator, however, it was inevitable that I should accumulate information and draw conclusions from my experience which might well be of assistance to Members of the United Nations in charting the future course of United Nations action on Palestine. I consider it my duty, therefore, to acquaint the Members of the United Nations, through the medium of this report, with certain of the conclusions on means of peaceful adjustment which have evolved from my frequent consultations with Arab and Jewish authorities over the past three and one-half months and from my personal appraisal of the present Palestinian scene. I do not suggest that these conclusions would provide the basis for a proposal which would readily win the willing approval of both parties. I have not, in the course of my intensive efforts to achieve agreement between Arabs and Jews, been able to devise any such formula. I am convinced, however, that it is possible at this stage to formulate a proposal which, if firmly approved and strongly backed by the General Assembly, would not be forcibly resisted by either side, confident as I am, of course, that the Security Council stands firm in its resolution of 15 July that military action shall not be employed by either party in the Palestine dispute. It cannot be ignored that the vast difference between now and last November is that a war has been started and stopped and that in the intervening months decisive events have occurred.


3. The following seven basic premises form the basis for my conclusions:

Return to peace

(a) Peace must return to Palestine and every feasible measure should be taken to ensure that hostilities will not be resumed and that harmonious relations between Arab and Jew will ultimately be restored.

The Jewish State

(b) A Jewish State called Israel exists in Palestine and there are no sound reasons for assuming that it will not continue to do so.

Boundary determination

(c) The boundaries of this new State must finally be fixed either by formal agreement between the parties concerned or failing that, by the United Nations.

Continuous frontiers

(d) Adherence to the principle of geographical homogeneity and integration, which should be the major.objective of the boundary arrangements, should apply equally to Arab and Jewish territories, whose frontiers should not therefore, be rigidly controlled by the territorial arrangements envisaged in the resolution of 29 November.

Right of repatriation

(e) The right of innocent people, uprooted from their homes by the present terror and ravages of war, to return to their homes, should be affirmed and made effective, with assurance of adequate compensation for the property of those who may choose not to return.


(f) The City of Jerusalem, because of its religious and international significance and the complexity of interest involved, should be accorded special and separate treatment.

International responsibility

(g) International responsibility should be expressed where desirable and necessary in the form of inter-national guarantees, as a means of allaying existing fears, and particularly with regard to boundaries and human rights.

4. The following conclusions, broadly outlined, would, in my view, considering all the circumstances, provide a reasonable, equitable and workable basis for settlement:

(a) Since the Security Council, under pain of Chapter VIII sanctions, has forbidden further employment of military action in Palestine as a means of settling the dispute, hostilities should be pronounced. formally ended either by mutual agreement of the parties or, failing that, by the United Nations. The existing indefinite truce should be superseded by a formal peace, or at the minimum, an armistice which would involve either complete withdrawal and demobilization of armed forces or their wide separation by creation of broad demilitarized. zones under United Nations supervision.

(b) The frontiers between the Arab and Jewish territories, in the, absence of agreement between Arabs and Jews, should be established by the United Nations and delimited by a technical boundaries commission appointed by and responsible to the United Nations, with the following revisions in the boundaries broadly defined in the resolution of the General Assembly of 29 November in order to make them more equitable, workable and consistent with existing realities in Palestine.

(i) The area known as the Negev, south of a line running from the sea near Majdal east southeast to Faluja (both of which places would be in Arab territory), should be defined as Arab territory;

(ii) The frontier should run from Faluja north northeast to, Ramleh and Lydda (both of which places would be in Arab territory), the frontier at Lydda then following the line established in the General Assembly resolution of 29 November;

(iii) Galilee should be defined as Jewish territory.

(c) The disposition of the territory of Palestine not included within the boundaries of the Jewish State should be left to the Governments of the Arab States in full consultation with the Arab inhabitants of Palestine, with the recommendation, however, that in view of the historical connection and common interests of Transjordan and Palestine, there would be compelling reasons for merging the Arab territory of Palestine with the territory of Transjordan, subject to such frontier rectifications regarding other Arab States as may be found practicable and desirable.

(d) The United Nations, by declaration or other appropriate means, should undertake to provide special assurance that the boundaries. between the Arab and Jewish territories shall be respected and maintained, subject only to such modifications as may be mutually agreed upon by the parties concerned.

(e) The port of Haifa, including the oil refineries and terminal and without prejudice to their inclusion in the sovereign territory of the Jewish State or the administration of the city of Haifa, should be declared a free port, with assurances of free access for interested Arab countries and an undertaking on their part to place no obstacle in the way of oil deliveries by pipeline to the Haifa refineries, whose, distribution would continue on the basis of the historical pattern.

(f) The airport of Lydda should be declared a free airport with assurance of access to it and employment of its facilities for Jerusalem and interested Arab countries.

(g) The City of Jerusalem, which should be understood as covering the area defined in the resolution of the General Assembly of 29 November, should be treated separately and should be placed under effective United Nations control with maximum feasible local autonomy for its Arab and Jewish communities, with full safeguards for the protection of the Holy Places and sites and free access to them, and for religious freedom.

(h) The right of unimpeded access to Jerusalem, by road, rail or air, should be fully respected by all parties.

(i) The right of the Arab refugees to return to their homes in Jewish controlled territory at the earliest possible date should be affirmed by the United Nations, and their repatriation, resettlement and economic -and social rehabilitation, and payment of adequate compensation for the property of those choosing not to return, should be supervised and -assisted by the United Nations conciliation commission described in paragraph (k) below.

(j) The political, economic, social and religious rights of all Arabs in the Jewish territory of Palestine and of all Jews in the Arab territory of Palestine should be fully guaranteed and respected by the authorities. The conciliation commission provided for in the following paragraph should supervise the observance of this guarantee. It should -also lend its good offices, on the invitation of the parties, to any efforts toward exchanges of populations with a view to eliminating trouble-some minority problems, and on the basis of adequate compensation for property owned.

(k) In view of the special nature of the Palestine problem and the dangerous complexities of Arab-Jewish relationships, the United Nations should establish a Palestine conciliation commission. This ,commission, which should be appointed for a limited period, should be, responsible to the United Nations and act under its authority. The commission, assisted by such United Nations personnel as may prove necessary, should undertake

(i) To employ its good offices to make such recommendations to the parties or to the United Nations, and to take such other steps as may be appropriate, with a view to ensuring the continuation ol the peaceful adjustment of the situation in Palestine;

(ii) Such measures as it might consider appropriate in fostering the cultivation of friendly relations between Arabs and Jews;

(iii) To supervise the observance of such boundary, road, railroad, free port, free airport, minority rights and other arrangements as may be decided upon by the United Nations;

(iv) To report promptly to the United Nations any development in Palestine likely to alter the arrangements approved by the United Nations in the Palestine settlement or to threaten the peace of the area.

(b) Supervision of the Two Truces


1. The supervision of the truce is a continuing responsibility and it is neither necessary nor desirable at this stage to formulate any definitive views concerning the operation. The experience thus far gained in the supervision of two truces extending over a total period of more than three months has been very valuable, however, and on the basis of this experience certain analyses and conclusions may even now be usefully set forth.

2. In assessing in general terms the entire period of truce., my dual role of Mediator and of supervisor of truce observation is an important factor. Conditions of truce, even though subject to frequent minor and occasional major infractions by both parties, provide a peaceful basis indispensable to the task of mediation. At the same time, organizing and supervising truce observance make imperative demands on time and staff. I am inevitably drawn into the settlement of disputes arising solely out of the truce, and it may be readily appreciated that my position and decisions as truce supervisor cannot, in the minds of the disputants, be easily dissociated from my role in the more fundamental task of mediation.

3. The situation in Jerusalem has been considerably more tense and difficult during the second truce than during the first. This fact is due to a complex of reasons among which are the change in military dispositions between truces, and the increased concentration of manpower which appears to have taken place there in the interval between the truces. The special importance which each side attaches to the status of Jerusalem in a general settlement of the Palestine problem is, in the circumstances, a constant influence tending to heighten the tension there.

4. However, the situation in Jerusalem has shown recent improvement. The decision of the Security Council on 19 August fixing the responsibility of the parties under the cease-fire order, a considerable increase in tile number of United Nations Observers stationed there, and intensive efforts to achieve localized demilitarization agreements, have produced beneficial results. Nevertheless, the conditions in Jerusalem are such that not even the increased number of Observers now there could for long maintain the truce in the City if it should appear likely that a settlement would be indefinitely deferred.

5. United Nations supervision of the regular food convoys of Jerusalem has been an important feature of both truces. The movement of these convoys involved difficult negotiation and constant supervision and escort. Apart from some sniping activity during the early days of each truce, the convoy system has worked remarkably well. On the other hand, persistent efforts to ensure the flow of water to Jerusalem through the main pipe-lines have met with failure during both truces, the destruction of the Latrun pumping station having so far nullified all efforts to solve the problem during the second truce.

6. The period of the first truce coincided with the ripening of cereal crops in Palestine. Since the front lines ran almost entirely through land belonging to Arab cultivators, a great number of fields bearing crops wits in no-man’s land or behind Jewish positions. Attempts by Arabs to harvest crops in no-man’s land and in the vicinity of and sometimes behind Jewish positions often led the Jews to react by firing on the harvesters. This was a major complication during the first truce, both before and after my ruling of 16 June, and explains many of the breaches of truce and the difficulties of truce observation over a wide area. During the second truce, incidents of this nature have been relatively few, since the harvest season for cereal crops is over. The efforts of Observers in securing local agreements regarding harvesting of crops undoubtedly saved many crops that would otherwise have been lost.

7. The fact that in the Negev there is no continuous front line has been, during both truces, a special cause of difficulty as a result of the need for each side to by-pass the other’s positions in order to supply some of its own positions. Convoys under United Nations supervision largely solved the problem, though not without friction, during the first truce. During the second truce a similar system was proposed, but agreement on conditions could not be reached with the parties. Consequently, on 14 September I laid down the terms governing future convoys in the Negev.

8. In considering the effectiveness of the truce supervision, attention must be paid to two distinct, though related, aspects of the problem. On the one hand, there is the problem of observing the actual fighting fronts, of dealing with incidents which may arise there and preventing, if possible, any further outbreak of hostilities. On the other hand, there is the observation which is necessary over a vast area to check whether or not materials and men are being moved in a manner to confer a military advantage contrary to the terms of the truce. As regards the second aspect of this problem, an important consideration is that the area under observation covers a very large part of the Middle East and that the necessity to concentrate a majority of the limited number of Observers at my disposal near the fighting fronts restricts the number available for duties elsewhere. The availability of an increased number of Observers has enabled me to ensure a more extensive supervision, especially in territories outside Palestine.

9. Experience has shown that the more quickly action can be taken to deal with a local violation, the more easily incidents are controlled or prevented. It must be admitted that, on occasion, slowness to act, often because of circumstances beyond control, has hampered the operation of the truce supervision. Although the Secretary-General of the United Nations has given me the fullest co-operation and every assistance available to him, it is apparent that the United Nations was not in position as regards Observer personnel, armed guards, communications and transportation equipment or budgetary provision to set up rapidly the elaborate machinery of truce observation required.

10. The second truce differed from the first principally in the fact that it was ordered by the Security Council under threat of further action under Chapter VII of the Charter, and that no time limit was set. This introduced a new element into the situation as compared with the first truce, in that the second truce involved compliance with a Security Council order. There is a tendency on each side to regard alleged breaches by the other side of a truce which has been ordered by the Security Council as calling for prompt action by that Council. Both sides now evidence a sense of grievance and complain that the compulsory prolongation of the truce is contrary to their interests. This feeling is inevitably reflected in their attitudes toward the Observers and truce obligations in general. The truce undoubtedly imposes a heavy burden on both sides, but even so, the burden of war would be heavier.

11. The truce is not an end in itself. Its purpose is to prepare the way for a peaceful settlement. There is a Period during which the potentiality for constructive action, which flows from the fact that a truce has been achieved by international intervention, is at a maximum. If, however, there appears no prospect of relieving the existing tension by some arrangement which holds concrete promise of peace, the machinery of truce supervision will in time lose its effectiveness and become an object of cynicism. If this period of maximum tendency to forego military action as a means of achieving a desired settlement is not seized, the advantage gained by international intervention may well be lost.

(c) Assistance to Refugees


1. Conclusions which may be derived.from the experience to date are summarized as follows:

(a) As a result of the conflict in Palestine there are approximately 360,000 Arab refugees and 7,000 Jewish refugees requiring aid in that country and adjacent States.

(b) Large numbers of these are infants, children, pregnant women :and nursing mothers. Their condition is one of destitution and they are "vulnerable groups" in the medical and social sense.

(c) The destruction of their property and the loss of their assets will render most of them a charge upon the communities in which they have sought refuge for a minimum period of one year (through this winter and until the end of the 1949 harvest).

(d) The Arab inhabitants of Palestine are not citizens or subjects of Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Transjordan, the States which are at present providing them with a refuge and the basic necessities of life. As residents of Palestine, a former mandated territory for which the international community has a continuing responsibility until a final settlement is achieved, these Arab refugees understandably look to the United Nations for effective assistance.

(e) The temporary alleviation of their condition, which is all that my disaster relief programme can promise them now, is quite inadequate to meet any continuing need, unless the resources in supplies and personnel available are greatly increased. Such increased resources might indirectly be of permanent value in establishing social services in the countries concerned, or improving greatly existing services. This applies particularly to general social administrative organizations, maternal and child care services, the training of social workers, and the improvement of food economics.

(f) The refugees, on return to their homes, are entitled to adequate safeguards for their personal security, normal facilities for employment, and adequate opportunities to develop within the community without racial, religious or social discrimination.

(g) So long as large numbers of the refugees remain in distress, I believe that responsibility for their relief should be assumed by the United Nations in conjunction with the neighbouring Arab States, the Provisional Government of Israel, the specialized agencies, and also all the voluntary bodies or organizations of a humanitarian and non-political character.

2. In concluding this part of my report, I must emphasize again the desperate urgency of this problem. The choice is between saving the lives of many thousands of people now or permitting them to die.

The situation of the majority of these hapless refugees is already tragic, and to prevent them from being overwhelmed by further disaster and to make possible their ultimate rehabilitation, it is my earliest hope that the international community will give all necessary support to make the measures I have outlined fully effective. I believe that for the international community to accept its share of responsibility for the refugees of Palestine is one of the minimum conditions for the success of its efforts to bring peace to that land.


(1) Excerpts from U.N. doc. A/648 (part one, p. 29; part two, p. 23 and part three, p. 11), September 18, 1948. Department of State Bulletin of October 3, 1948, pp. 436-440. The report was signed by Folke Bernadotte in Rhodes on September 16,1948. 

(2) Bulletin of July 25,1948, p. 105.