“Perhaps the most important event in the history of the Jewish people after our exile”.
This was how Chaim Weizmann, the first President of the State of Israel, described the San Remo Peace conference.
This conference, held one hundred years ago, was a defining moment in the history of the Jewish people. Convened on 25 April 1920, a resolution was signed affirming the decision to establish a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine. While the 1917 Balfour Declaration stated the British government’s support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine, it had no international legal status. The San Remo resolution, signed by the Allied victors of the Great War (France, Italy, Britain and Japan, with an observer from the USA), incorporated the Balfour Declaration into law. Two years later the League of Nations (the forerunner to the United Nations) unanimously declared that: “… recognition has been given to the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the grounds of reconstituting their national home in that country.”
The purpose of the1920 San Remo conference was to decide how to manage the future development of the territories of the defeated Ottoman Empire. The Supreme Council sought to establish new sovereign states in the Middle East, based on legitimate territorial claims submitted by the Arab delegation and the Zionist organizations. This resulted in the establishment of Syria and Lebanon under French Mandate and Mesopotamia (Iraq), and Palestine under British Mandate.
While New Zealand’s Prime Minister, William Massey, was not present at the San Remo conference, he did participate in the Paris Peace conferences in 1919-1920 and sat on the sub-committee that worked out the Mandate system. He was an enthusiastic supporter of the restoration of the Jews to their ancient homeland.
A centennial conference in San Remo was planned for this month (April, 2020), to celebrate and highlight the significance of the San Remo declaration, but with Italy at the centre of the Covid-19 outbreak and most of the world shut down, the event has been postponed.
Conference organiser, Tomas Sandell, explained the importance of remembering the San Remo resolution:
“In a day and age when the enemies of Israel are trying to dispute any connection between the Jewish people and the land of Israel, it is very important to note the exact wording in these legal documents as they define the intention of the agreement as a reconstitution of a national home…The resolutions did not create any new rights but simply acknowledged pre-existing rights. In other words, international law acknowledges three thousand years of Jewish history in their ancient homeland.”
A live stream event to mark the occasion will be held on Sunday 26 April.
For more information on the San Remo Resolution and its significance.