How the Balfour Declaration Became International Law Despite Attempts to Undermine It

A century ago, the victors of World War I met in the Italian city of San Remo to discuss how to divide up territories that had previously belonged to the Ottoman empire. It was here that Arthur Balfour’s famous promise effectively became international law. But things almost didn’t turn out that way. With support from British officers, Emir Faisal—son of Sharif Hussein of Mecca, promoted by T.E. Lawrence—was attempting to make himself the ruler of a Syrian kingdom that included the Land of Israel. Meanwhile, the French were poised to back away from their previous assurances regarding the Jews. Faisal had signed an agreement with Chaim Weizmann, the chief Zionist diplomat, in January 1919 pledging his support to the creation of a Jewish state, but, as Efraim Karsh writes, he “was speaking from both sides of his mouth.”

In his testimony to the Paris peace conference a month after signing the agreement with Weizmann, the emir refrained from mentioning, let alone endorsing, the Balfour Declaration, proposing instead to leave Palestine’s future “for the mutual consideration of all parties interested.” This phrasing gave the country’s non-Jewish population a veto power over the establishment of a Jewish national home—in contrast to the Balfour Declaration that rendered them “civil and religious rights” but no say over Palestine’s future.

[Moreover], no sooner had Faisal promised the French prime minister Georges Clemenceau “to use his efforts with the people to secure a French mandate for Syria” than he embarked on a spirited effort to tarnish this pledge by manipulating the King-Crane Commission, [convened by the U.S. to adjudicate the Franco-British dispute over the division of the Levant], against the French and the Zionists.

[W]hile feigning “a deep sense of sympathy for the Jewish cause,” the commission dismissed the millennia-long Jewish attachment to Palestine as valid justification for the establishment of a Jewish national home there. Effectively treating the Jews as a religious community rather than a nation, it recommended that “Jewish immigration should be definitely limited, and that the project for making Palestine distinctly a Jewish commonwealth should be given up,” thus relegating the country’s Jewish community to a permanent minority in Faisal’s prospective Syrian kingdom.

It was primarily through the efforts of Britain’s prime minister Lloyd George, and the continuous lobbying of Weizmann, that the diplomats at San Remo accepted the promise of a Jewish national home at all:

[I]t was an extraordinary feat of diplomacy that within less than five years of its issuance the Balfour Declaration had been endorsed by the official representative of the will of the international community: not in the “technical” sense of supporting the creation of a Jewish national home in Palestine but in the deeper sense of recognizing the Jews as a nation deserving self-determination in its ancestral homeland. This is something that successive Palestinian leaderships have been loath to acknowledge to date.

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Read more at BESA Center

More about: Balfour Declaration, Chaim Weizmann, History of Zionism, International Law, Mandate Palestine, Treaty of San Remo

How European Fecklessness Encourages the Islamic Republic’s Assassination Campaign

In September, Cypriot police narrowly foiled a plot by an Iranian agent to murder five Jewish businessman. This was but one of roughly a dozen similar operations that Tehran has conducted in Europe since 2015—on both Israeli or Jewish and American targets—which have left three dead. Matthew Karnitschnig traces the use of assassination as a strategic tool to the very beginning of the Islamic Republic, and explains its appeal:

In the West, assassination remains a last resort (think Osama bin Laden); in authoritarian states, it’s the first (who can forget the 2017 assassination by nerve agent of Kim Jong-nam, the playboy half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, upon his arrival in Kuala Lumpur?). For rogue states, even if the murder plots are thwarted, the regimes still win by instilling fear in their enemies’ hearts and minds. That helps explain the recent frequency. Over the course of a few months last year, Iran undertook a flurry of attacks from Latin America to Africa.

Whether such operations succeed or not, the countries behind them can be sure of one thing: they won’t be made to pay for trying. Over the years, the Russian and Iranian regimes have eliminated countless dissidents, traitors, and assorted other enemies (real and perceived) on the streets of Paris, Berlin, and even Washington, often in broad daylight. Others have been quietly abducted and sent home, where they faced sham trials and were then hanged for treason.

While there’s no shortage of criticism in the West in the wake of these crimes, there are rarely real consequences. That’s especially true in Europe, where leaders have looked the other way in the face of a variety of abuses in the hopes of reviving a deal to rein in Tehran’s nuclear-weapons program and renewing business ties.

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Read more at Politico

More about: Europe, Iran, Israeli Security, Terrorism