The popular myth that Israel is occupying stolen land is blown apart by a little-known treaty signed 100 years ago this weekend that politicians and media prefer to ignore.
It was at the Italian Riviera resort of San Remo on April 26th 1920 that the Allied victors of World War I agreed on a document creating a national home for the Jewish people. In so doing, they were giving legal status to the 1917 Balfour Declaration, through which the British government promised to do all it could towards this end.
Within weeks of the latter, the capture of Jerusalem by Allied forces brought an end to the 400-year-old Ottoman Empire and thus opened the door for the Declaration’s immediate implementation.
So while it is commonly accepted by Bible believers that Israel has a divine right to the Promised Land, this treaty became her earthly deed. And as it has never been abrogated, it still stands today.
The conference at San Remo (now Sanremo) was attended by the four principal war-time Allied powers represented by the Prime Ministers of Britain (David Lloyd George), France and Italy and by the Japanese Ambassador Keishiro Matsui, with the USA having observer status.
Its purpose was to decide on the future of the Middle East following the breakup of the aforementioned Muslim empire, with U.S. President Woodrow Wilson promoting the idea of establishing new sovereign states rather than acquiring colonies. Lebanon, Syria, Mesopotamia (Iraq) and Palestine (as it was then known) were the regions under consideration, and Britain was granted the Mandate for the latter, charged with preparing the territory for a Jewish state on account of historical links going back over 3,000 years.
The agreement was confirmed in 1922 by the Council of the League of Nations, the UN’s predecessor, with all 51 members voting in favour. The boundary in question came to be defined as all of ‘Palestine’ west of the Jordan River including what later came to be known as the West Bank.
The emergence of the latter, which has since considerably muddied the waters, followed the illegal annexation of Judea, Samaria and East Jerusalem by Jordan in 1949 – recognised by only two countries in the world including Britain! The territories were re-captured by Israel in 1967 and have been disputed ever since.
But they quite clearly still belong to Israel under the San Remo Treaty. Isn’t it time our politicians and journalists brushed up on their history? After all, a state cannot ‘illegally occupy’ territory that belonged to it in the first place!
So, Israel has been established by international law, based on a pledge originally made by British Foreign Secretary Lord Balfour, which itself was a recognition of God’s word that the land had been given to the sons of Abraham as an everlasting possession (Genesis 15.18f, 17.8 & 22.17f). Britain’s policy had been encouraged by a succession of evangelical leaders who understood the importance of Israel’s return to their ancient land as prophesied in the Scriptures.
Other key factors were the repeated pogroms and general persecution of the Jews which also galvanised journalist Theodor Herzl to pioneer the beginnings of re-settlement through the Zionist movement.
Denial of property rights has been among the many restrictions imposed on Jews over the centuries, so it is hardly surprising that the right to their land continues to be disputed by a world heavily influenced by anti-Semitism. For the record, the Ottoman Empire renounced its legal rights to the land after World War I.
Perhaps the COVID crisis is a perfect opportunity for the nations to right wrongs in this whole area surrounding Israel’s legitimacy? I believe the current plague may well be connected with nations having blood on their hands in general, particularly over abortion. Israel is guilty in this respect too, but has also been a victim of nations failing to act swiftly enough when the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps became known. (See Isaiah 26.20f) It was only this past week that Israel once again solemnly marked their Holocaust Remembrance Day.
And things could get worse if we don’t repent. UK abortion legislation currently being proposed – allowing a child to be killed as it is being born – is horrifyingly comparable to the Nazi-led eugenics programme that almost wiped out Europe’s Jews.
Last year, then Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt acknowledged Britain’s shocking role in denying access to Israel for Jews trying to flee the Holocaust. But a full apology is long overdue for our betrayal of the sacred trust bestowed upon us to look after their interests.
In 1947 we terminated stewardship of the Mandate, but it didn’t prevent the re-birth of Israel, duly recognised by the required two-thirds majority at the UN, with Britain abstaining – and subsequently losing her empire!
Everyone benefits from the Jewish people (Gen 12.3) except those who curse them. For example, nations like the UK who have significantly embraced the gospel and spread it abroad have especially thrived – until recently forsaking both God and his Land.
Even Arabs living among Jews admit to being better off – in terms of jobs, pay and living conditions – than they would be under Palestinian Authority rule, according to successive polls. And we all benefit from Israel’s medical and technological expertise, as Prince Charles acknowledged on his recent visit.
But the most precious of all their gifts to the world are the Word of God, and our Saviour Jesus, the Word made flesh.
A centenary conference had been scheduled for Sanremo this weekend and I had hoped to attend myself. For obvious reasons it was cancelled, especially with the north of Italy severely affected by the pandemic. But a special hour-long programme will be screened on Revelation TV on Sunday afternoon at 2pm – also online at www.revelationtv.com. By contrast to much of Europe, Sanremo and the surrounding region has been a beacon of hope and new beginnings for the Jewish people – it was from the nearby port of La Spezia that the first ship of Holocaust survivors set sail for Israel after the war.
Charles Gardner is author of Israel the Chosen, available from Amazon; Peace in Jerusalem, available from olivepresspublisher.com; and A Nation Reborn, available from Christian Publications International