MORE SOBER VOICES OUT OF ISRAEL – MAURICE OSTROFF
Prodigiously setting the
When he first came to Israel from South Africa as a volunteer during Israel’s War of Independence, Maurice Ostroff was a key figure in setting up Israel’s then non-existent radar system. Initially they had to make do with a lot of ingenuity and spare parts that included bicycle sprockets. Amazingly, they managed to locate enemy fighter planes. Over sixty years later, Maurice Ostroff is still scanning the atmosphere for hostile movement against Israel.
His website www.2nd-thoughts.org is widely regarded as a reliable source of information about the Arab-Israel conflict, as well as a forum in which he challenges Israel’s many detractors with facts and logic. People with whom he has exchanged viewpoints or who chose to remain mute to his incisive observations, include the hapless Judge Richard Goldstein, as well as others far more inflexible such as bashers of Israel, such as South African government minister Ronnie Kasrils and Nobel Prize recipient Bishop Desmond Tutu. He has taken on former US President Jimmy Carter, Mearsheimer and Walt, as well as Jews whose concern about Arab adversity (brought about almost entirely through the mendacity of their own leaders) blocks out any consideration for the rights and mortal dangers faced by their fellow-Jews.
Like many other people who try to correct the false impressions that Israel’s many adversaries spread in the media, campuses and lecture halls, Maurice Ostroff has had a very variegated career as an engineer, company director and as a member of the Israel-South Africa Chamber of Commerce and the Board of Governors of the Technion in Haifa.
In this slightly abridged item that we present here, Maurice Ostroff deals with the controversial issue of Judea and Samaria (aka the West Bank).
This article is intended neither as an argument for, nor against, Israel retaining some or all of the West bank settlements. Rather it urges that any discussion of the subject be based on the facts …
Proponents of sanctions against Israel refer repeatedly to Israeli violations of international law as if the alleged illegality is axiomatic. However if we look only at facts without being diverted by preconceived, unsubstantiated opinions there is a strong likelihood that we might revise our conclusions.
Contrary to the intellectually honest approach of seeking credible information from a wide variety of sources and following the facts wherever they may lead, Israel’s attackers regularly quote only sources that support their belief that Israel is an illegal occupier, and exclude others of equal or possibly better authority that conflict with what they wish to believe.
Ostroff continues by listing some of the sources that Israel’s detractors invariably choose to ignore:
THE 1915 McMAHON-HUSSEIN AGREEMENT
In 1915 Sir Henry McMahon made promises on behalf of the British government, via Sherif Hussein of Mecca, about allocation of territory to the Arab people. Although Hussein understood from the promises that Palestine would be given to the Arabs, the British later claimed that land definitions were only approximate and that a map drawn at the time excluded Palestine from territory to be given to the Arab people. However in a subsequent change of policy in recognition of McMahon’s correspondence, and in violation of its mandate, Britain separated the territory east of the Jordan River namely Transjordan, since named Jordan from Palestine west of the Jordan.
In his book “State and economics in the Middle East: a society in transition” (Routledge, 2003), Alfred Bonné included a letter from Sir Henry McMahon to The Times of London dated July 23,1937 in which he wrote, “I feel it my duty to state, and I do so definitely and emphatically, that it was not intended by me in giving this pledge to King Hussein, to include Palestine in the area in which Arab independence was promised. I also had every reason to believe at the time that the fact that Palestine was not included in my pledge was well understood by King Hussein.”
THE MAY 1916 SYKES-PICOT AGREEMENT
This secret agreement between Britain, France and Russia was concluded by British diplomat, Sir Mark Sykes and French diplomat Georges Picot. In seeking to divide the Middle East into areas of influence for each of the imperial powers but leaving the Holy Land to be jointly administered by the three powers, it clashed materially with the McMahon Agreement. It was intended to hand Syria, Mesopotamia, Lebanon and Cilicia (in south-eastern Asia Minor) to the French and Palestine, Jordan and areas around the Persian Gulf and Baghdad, including Arabia and the Jordan Valley to the British. Although intended to be secret, the Arabs learned about the agreement from communists who found a copy in the Russian government’s archives.
THE 1917 BALFOUR DECLARATION
The Balfour Declaration is contained in the following letter from Lord Arthur Balfour, the British foreign secretary, to Lord Rothschild, president of the British Zionist Federation, dated November 2nd, 1917.
Dear Lord Rothschild,
I have much pleasure in conveying to you, on behalf of His Majesty’s Government, the following declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations which has been submitted to, and approved by, the Cabinet.
“His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, 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.”
I should be grateful if you would bring this declaration to the knowledge of the Zionist Federation.
Arthur James Balfour
The declaration was accepted by the League of Nations on July 24, 1922 and embodied in the mandate that gave Great Britain administrative control of Palestine as described in more detail below.
THE SAN REMO CONFERENCE 1920
After ruling vast areas of Eastern Europe, South-western Asia, and North Africa for centuries, the Ottoman Empire lost all its Middle East territories during World War One. The Treaty of Sèvres of August 10, 1920 abolished the Ottoman Empire and obliged Turkey to renounce all rights over Arab Asia and North Africa. It was replaced by the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923.
The status of the Ottoman Empire’s former possessions was determined at a conference in San Remo, Italy on April 24-25, 1920 attended by Great Britain, France, Italy, Japan and as an observer, the United States. Syria and Lebanon were mandated to France while Mesopotamia (Iraq) and the southern portion of the territory (Palestine) were mandated to Britain, with the charge to implement the Balfour Declaration.
While the Balfour Declaration was in itself not a legally enforceable document, it did become so by being en- trenched in international law when it was incorporated in its entirety in a resolution passed by the Conference on April 25. Significantly, the only change made to the wording of the Balfour Declaration was to strengthen Britain’s obligation to implement the Balfour Declaration. Lord Curzon described the San Remo resolution as “the Magna Carta of the Zionists”.
The conference’s decisions were confirmed unanimously by all 51 member states of the League of Nations on 24 July, 1922 and they were further endorsed by a joint resolution of the United States Congress in the same year.
The San Remo resolution received a further US endorsement in the Anglo-American Treaty on Palestine, signed by the US and Britain on 3 December, 1924, that incorporated the text of the Mandate for Palestine … The Senate ratified the treaty on 20 February, 1925 followed by President Calvin Coolidge on March 2, 1925 and by Great Britain on March 18, 1925.
Britain was specifically charged with giving effect to the establishment of the Jewish National Home in Palestine that was called for in the Balfour declaration that had already been adopted by the other Allied Powers. Clearly, the legitimacy of Syria, Lebanon, Iraq & a Jewish state in Palestine as defined before the creation of Transjordan all derive from the same binding international agreement at San Remo, that has never been abrogated.
In April 2010, a ceremony attended by politicians and others from Europe, the U.S. and Canada was held in San Remo at the house where the signing of the San Remo declaration took place in 1920. At the conclusion of the commemoration, the following statement was released:
“Reaffirming the importance of the San Remo Resolution of April 25, 1920 which included the Balfour Dec. in its entirety – in shaping the map of the modern Middle East, as agreed upon by the Supreme Council of the principal Allied Powers (Britain, France, Italy, Japan, and the United States acting as an observer), and later approved unanimously by the League of Nations; the Resolution remains irrevocable, legally binding and valid to this day.
“Emphasizing that the San Remo Resolution of 1920 recognized the exclusive national Jewish rights to the Land of Israel under international law, on the strength of the historical connection of the Jewish people to the territory previously known as Palestine. … “Recalling that such a seminal event as the San Remo Conference of 1920 has been forgotten or ignored by the community of nations, and that the rights it conferred upon the Jewish people have been unlawfully dismissed, curtailed and denied. …. Asserting that a just and lasting peace, leading to the acceptance of secure and recognized borders between all States in the region, can only be achieved by recognizing the long established rights of the Jewish people under international law.”
THE BRITISH MANDATE OVER PALESTINE
As stated above, the San Remo Conference decided to place Palestine under British Mandatory rule making Britain responsible for giving effect to the Balfour declaration that had been adopted by the other Allied Powers. The resulting “Mandate for Palestine,” was an historical League of Nations document that laid down the Jewish legal right to settle anywhere in Palestine and the San Remo Resolution together with Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations became the basic documents on which the Mandate for Palestine was established.
The Mandate’s declaration of July 24, 1922 states unambiguously that Britain became responsible for putting the Balfour Declaration, in favor of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, into effect and it confirmed that recognition had thereby been given to the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country.
It is highly relevant that at that time the West Bank and parts of what today is Jordan were included as a Jewish Homeland. However, on September 16, 1922, the British divided the Mandate territory into Palestine, west of the Jordan and Transjordan, east of the Jordan River, in accordance with the McMahon Correspondence of 1915. Transjordan became exempt from the Mandate provisions concerning the Jewish National Home, effectively removing about 78% of the original territory of the area in which a Jewish National home was to be established in terms of the Balfour Declaration and the San Remo resolution as well as the British Mandate.
This action violated not only Article 5 of the Mandate which required the Mandatory to be responsible for seeing that no Palestine territory shall be ceded or leased to, or in any way placed under the control of the Government of any foreign Power but also article 20 of the Covenant of the League of Nations in which the Members of the League solemnly undertook that they would not enter into any engagements inconsistent with the terms thereof.
Article 6 of the Mandate stated that the Administration of Palestine, while ensuring that the rights and position of other sections of the population are not prejudiced, shall facilitate Jewish immigration under suitable conditions and shall encourage, in co-operation with the Jewish agency referred to in Article 4, close settlement by Jews on the land, including State lands and waste lands not required for public purposes.
Nevertheless in violation of article 6, in a 1939 White Paper Britain limited Jewish immigration from Europe, a move regarded by Zionists as betrayal of the terms of the mandate, especially in light of the increased persecution of Jews in Europe. In response, Zionists organized Aliyah Bet, a program of illegal immigration into Palestine.
The frequently voiced complaint that the state being offered to the Palestinians comprises only 22 percent of Palestine is obviously invalid. The truth is exactly the reverse. From the above history it is obvious that the territory on both sides of the Jordan was legally designated for the Jewish homeland by the 1920 San Remo Conference, mandated to Britain, endorsed by the League of Nations in 1922, affirmed in the Anglo-American Convention on Palestine in 1925 and confirmed in 1945 by article 80 of the UN. Yet, 77% of this territory was excised from the territory in May 1923 when, in violation of the mandate and the San Remo resolution, Britain gave autonomy to Transjordan (now known as Jordan) under as-Sharif Abdullah bin al-Husayn.
Furthermore, as the San Remo resolution has never been abrogated, it was and continues to be legally binding between the several parties who signed it. It is therefore obvious that the legitimacy of Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and a Jewish state in Palestine all derive from the same international agreement at San Remo.
In essence, when Israel entered the West Bank and Jerusalem in 1967 it did not occupy territory to which any other party had title. While Jerusalem and the West Bank, (Judea and Samaria), were illegally occupied by Jordan in 1948 they remained in effect part of the Jewish National Home that had been created at San Remo and in the 1967 6-Day War Israel, in effect, recovered territory that legally belonged to it. To quote Judge Schwebel, a former President of the International Court of Justice, “As between Israel, acting defensively in 1948 and 1967, on the one hand, and her Arab neighbors, acting aggressively, in 1948 and 1967, on the other, Israel has the better title in the territory of what was Palestine, including the whole of Jerusalem.
A very small list of other authoritative experts who have declared Israel’s presence in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan to be legal, include Professor Julius Stone, one of the twentieth century’s leading authorities on the Law of Nations. See http://www.2nd-thoughts.org/id160.html
Eugene W. Rostow, US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs between 1966 and 1969 who played a leading role in producing the famous Resolution 242. See http://www.2nd-thoughts.org/id45.html
Jacques Gauthier, Canadian lawyer who spent 20 years researching the legal status of Jerusalem leading to the conclusion on purely legal grounds, ignoring religious claims that Jerusalem belongs to the Jews, by international law. See http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/125049#.TkAg4mGuySo
Entry filed under: dangeous lies and halftruths, How to avoid Armageddon, In order to survive, Solutions for Palestine, Things not mentioned in the press, United Nations. Tags: Arabs, balfour, internationa court of justic, Israel, Jews, mcmahon, ostroff, Palestine, san remo, united nations.