Mandate Palestine: A Legacy of Zionism
By Eli E. Hertz
The League of Nations was founded on 10 January 1920. A forerunner of the UN, this international body published the legally binding document the "Mandate for Palestine." The Mandate's roots can be traced to the founding of modern Zionism in August 1897 and the Balfour Declaration of November 1917.
After witnessing the spread of anti-Semitism around the world, Theodor Herzl felt compelled to create a political movement with the goal of establishing a Jewish National Home in historic Palestine, and assembled the first Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland. During World War I, Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour simply expressed Great Britain's view with favor for "the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people."
The Mandate is the multilateral binding agreement which laid down the Jewish legal right to settle anywhere in the geographical area called Palestine, the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, an entitlement unaltered in international law.
The Mandate was not a naive vision briefly embraced by the international community. The entire League of Nations – 51 countries –unanimously declared on that July 24th, 1922:
"Whereas recognition has been given to the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country."
Washington went a step further: In September of that year, President Warren Harding signed the Lodge-Fish Joint Resolution, which had passed both Houses of Congress without dissent, which read, "Favors the establishment in Palestine of a National Home for the Jewish people."
The Mandate clearly differentiates between political rights referring to Jewish self-determination as an emerging polity—and civil and religious rights, referring to guarantees of equal personal freedoms to non-Jewish residents as individuals and within select communities.
Any attempt to negate the Jewish people's rights to Palestine, and to deny them access and control in the area designated for the Jewish people by the League of Nations, is in serious conflict with the Mandate's legal framework, set up on this date 91 years ago.