Salomon Benzimra responds

Yesterday I reviewed the book The Jewish People’s Rights to the Land of Israel, by Salomon Benzimra. I am very grateful to Mr. Benzimra for responding. Here are some of his comments on the review:

1. On the phrase “in all Palestine”: The third recital of the Preamble to the Mandate specifies the “connection of the Jewish people to Palestine.”  Article 2 of the Mandate makes the Preamble operative. There is no mention anywhere of “part of Palestine”, and this is in line with Article 5 (“…no Palestine territory shall be ceded or leased, or in any way placed under the control of the Government of any foreign power.”)  You state that the Palestinian Arabs would not consider themselves a “foreign power.”  That is true but every attempt to carve out territory in Palestine was done with the clear intention of creating eventually an Arab state which would be “foreign” in relation to the Jewish state, as it was originally conceived.  This happened in 1937 (Peel Report) and in 1947 (UN Resolution 181).  Therefore, my understanding of “foreign” is not related to “distant” or “established” but actually foreign in relation to the Jewish people, who were the sole recognized beneficiary at the San Remo Conference.  Otherwise, the drafters of the original Mandate would have specified the contours, within Palestine, of the area allocated to the Jewish National Home.  This never happened, except when the British introduced Article 25, a move [of] dubious legality.

2. On the connection between “national home” and “state”: It was the intention of Balfour to specifically mention “state” in his Declaration, but Nahum Sokolov and other members of the Zionist Organization believed it was not prudent to talk of a “state” in 1917, while WWI was still raging and the Ottomans were not yet defeated.

As you correctly mentioned, the Mandate for Mesopotamia clearly refers to a “state” but this document was drafted in 1920.  The question then arises as to why the word “state” was not included in the Mandate for Palestine, as it was confirmed by the Council of the League in 1922.

From the private correspondence of Balfour, it appears that as early as 1921 (and probably even earlier) Balfour interpreted the Declaration as meaning eventually the creation of a Jewish state, in opposition to Churchill’s interpretation (as reported by Sir Martin Gilbert in Winston S. Churchill: Companion Volume, Vol. 4, Part 3, April 1921-November 1922, p. 1559).  U.S. President Wilson, while at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, was also aware of the prevailing position of the League of Nations: “It will be the policy of the League of Nations to recognize Palestine as  Jewish State as soon as it is a Jewish state in fact” (reported by J.C. Hurewitz in The Middle East and North Africa in World Politics: a Documentary Record, Vol. 2).

This is precisely the point:  the Jewish National Home could only turn into a democratic Jewish State when the Jewish population became large enough, which was not the case yet in the early 1920s.  A decade later, even the Peel Report recognized this fact (as mentioned in my book, in the section on the Peel Commission).

Finally, another aspect often ignored by many opponents to the Jewish State is to be found in the spirit and the letter of the fourth paragraph of Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations which set up the Mandates System, specifically what is commonly known as “Class A” Mandates.  The text clearly shows that for those communities which already reached a certain “stage of development”, the natural outcome of the Mandate was to set up “independent nations [once] they are able to stand alone [after the Mandatory period].” Even “Class B” Mandates (applied to less developed populations of Africa) turned ultimately into independent states.  This is to say that the very institution of a Mandate for Palestine explicitly anticipated the creation of a state in due time.

3. “maximal Zionist position”: I do not believe the book presents a “maximal Zionist position.”  I have come across several positions taken by Zionists – some of them thoroughly documented –whose claims exceed what I think can be reasonably supported.  A case in point is presented in the section “The Mandate: first ‘partition’” where I explain my views on Transjordan.  I am sure you will find that my take on the Jewish claims to Transjordan are far more moderate than what you must have read elsewhere.

Having said that, I must commend you for your selection of excerpts, especially the two tables you reprinted.  I am sure your review will be useful to many readers of Fresno-Zionism who are acutely interested in the survival and well-being of Israel.

I was also very pleased to see your comments on the Kindle edition and the advantages it offers in accessing online references.  Other advantages include the “dynamic” Table of Contents for easier navigation; the quick search of any word or phrase as opposed to a tedious Index; the bookmarking, highlighting and insertion of comments; and the embedded Oxford Dictionary as you double-click any word…

As to the necessity of a printed edition, I fully agree with you.  Many people prefer to read on paper rather than on screen.  It is our intention to issue a print edition in English and in Hebrew (which we have already translated and is ready to be launched, pending the final decision from senior officials of the Israeli Government), as well as in French and Spanish.  We’ll certainly keep you posted on these developments.

Best regards,
Salomon Benzimra, P.Eng.
CILR – Toronto

One Response to “Salomon Benzimra responds”

  1. Salubrius says:

    I have just learned about Salomon Benzimira’s book and I look forward to reading it. I have written an article about those Jewish political rights myself and I am about to update it with some additional supporting material I have since found. When I read his book, I will be looking for the following:

    1. The fact that the Mandate was intended to be a trust for exclusive political (or
    national ) rights to Palestine and what are political or national rights. How do they differ from civil rights of the Arabs that were expressly preserved.
    The French attached a process verbal to the Mandate requiring that the Mandate preserve the existing rights of the non-Jews in the area. Why it was not effective to preserve existing political or national rights. The fact that Rashid Khalidi, former spokeman for the PLO, in his book the Iron Cage, expressed the view that the Arabs were ignored by the League of Nations when they passed out the political rights to Palestine.
    2. Why the Jews were given these rights in trust and not outright as explained in the memorandum of Arnold Toynbee and Lewis Namier of the British Foreign Office dated December 19, 1917..
    3. Why they were given them in the differing views of David Lloyd-George, Prime Minister at the time, Lord Balfour, Winston Churchill and others..
    4. Why the trust was not spelled out more clearly in the Mandate. Would it have stirred up the Arabs to rebel as they did in 1936 to 1939 requiring some 150,000 British troops to maintain stability, troops they could not spare during time of war?
    5. How the Arabs made clear they knew of the trust in their arguments against Partition even though it was not explicit in the Mandate..
    Musa Alami’s reproduction of the arguments against Partition made by the Arabs in 1948, in his book “The Future of Palestine”.
    6. How the equitable political or national rights of the Jews to Palestine became their legal rights upon abandonment of the trust in 1948.
    7. How Salomon Benzimra deals with the treaty between Jordan and Israel on the question of whether Israel has relinquished its rights to the land of Palestine East of the Jordan.
    8. How he deals with the legal memo of Israel’s legal advisor in 1967 after the Six Day War.