Is Israel a Jewish State?
Is Israel a Jewish State?

Al Jazeera recently carried an op-ed by Ben White, a graduate of Cambridge University, entitled "Israel's Definition as a 'Jewish State’".

According to Mr. White, "The alternative to Israel as a 'Jewish state' is not a Palestinian Arab state, but a state where all have equal rights.”  However, he ignored that even if the Arabs residing in Palestine qualified as a people, the question was res judicata, having been decided in 1920 at San Remo and calling the Arabs in Palestine the “Palestinian People” does not add much to his case..

I wanted to comment on his view which differs quite a lot from my own, but for some reason, Disquis (a comment system) balks at sending me the comments to articles in Al Jazeera and receiving my comments.  The question is an important one and should not go unanswered.. So I am sending you my comment to publish if you think it will interest your readers.

Mr. Ben White appears to be a very learned fellow and I might have accepted his comment but for the fact that I am familiar with the history of the Balfour Declaration, the San Remo Resolution, and the Palestine Mandate.

It was Woodrow Wilson who was opposed to large European Countries dominating the colonial territories captured by the Allies in WWI.  He knew that under natural law as declared by John Locke, a people should have self-determination.  That was America’s view in our War of Independence.  But he was not deciding the general question of whether that would apply to secession as well as decolonization.  The US had balked at the attempted secession of the South at great cost to itself, still in the memory of many in 1917. 

Looking forward to the end of hostilities in WWI, he appointed a Committee of Inquiry that dedicated its efforts to determining the “people” in each area of the world that should be recognized as having the right of self-determination.  The late Julius Stone, a world recognized International Lawyer found  "That the provision for a Jewish national home in Palestine was an application of the principle of self-determination is manifest from the earliest seminal beginning of the principle.

The Enquiry Commission, established by President Wilson in order to draft a map of the world based on the Fourteen Points, affirmed the right of the Jewish people that Palestine should become a Jewish State clearly on this ground. Palestine, the Commission said, was "the cradle and home of their vital race", the basis of the Jewish spiritual contribution, and the Jews were "the only people whose only home was in Palestine”

In 1919 the question of who should get the political rights to Palestine came up in the Paris Peace Talks, but was not resolved at that time.  However the American diplomats carried with them briefing documents on that question.  I have copied them at length in my legal opinion archived at  You will note the same language used in the report of the 1917 Committee of Inquiry and the briefing documents of the American diplomats to the Paris Peace Talks. 

In 1920 the Allied War Powers reconvened in San Remo and adopted the British Balfour policy of recognizing the Jewish People as the cestui que trust of the political rights to Palestine and rejecting the Arab People’s application.

In 1964 the Soviet dezinformatsiya apparently seized on this as a way to erect a barrier to Jewish sovereignty over Palestine which formed a barrier to its quest for domination of the Middle East as a way to extend its hegemony over Western Europe.  They invented a “Palestinian People”,  inserting this term in the preamble of the 1964 PLO Charter drafted in Moscow and corroborated only by the first 432 members of the Palestine National Council, each hand-picked by the KGB. 

 A member of the PLO executive board agreed with me, stating to the Dutch newspaper Trouw in 1977 that there was no Palestinian People, that the term was just used for political purposes.  And indeed there is no good evidence of Arab nationalism in Palestine before 1964, only national anti-Semitism.  They separated from Syria because the Syrians were not anti-Semitic enough for Haj Amin-al Husseini.  They didn’t want to rely on one another — but would prefer that to rule by the Jewish People. 

During WWI none of the Arabs in Palestine or Syria had fought on the side of the Allies even though they claim they were promised independence by the British if they did so.and many Arabs had fought for the Ottomans

And in the diary of Count Folke Bernadotte, who investigated this question for UNSCOP, the UN Committee on Palestine that was looking to see what to do upon Britain’s abdication as Mandatory Power or trustee of the Political Rights placed in their trust, Count Bernadotte noted that there was no evidence of Palestinian Arab Nationalism.  In fact Zahir Muhsein has said that when the Jews had been annihilated, the PLO would merge with Jordan.  He said that the term Arab Palestinian People was a pollitical ploy.   So when the Soviet dezinformatsia invented the Palestinian People in Moscow, Soviet Diplomats at the UN were pushing to dignify the right of a “people” to self-determination as not only natural law but also international law. 

But in my legal opinion at I show why that would not have worked even if the Palestinians were a genuine people.  When the right of a people to self-determination is in tension with the right of a sovereign state to territorial integrity, the right of a people is subordinate.  It is necessary to maintain world order that state boundaries be inviolable.

In any event, what the Allied Principal War Powers at San Remo did was to adopt the formulation of the British Balfour policy. It did not recognize the right of self-determination of the Jews in Palestine, it recognized World Jewry, the Jewish People as the cestui que trust of the political rights to Palestine.  These are group rights, they are the collective political rights, the right to form a government and then to administer it.  The individual political right to one vote for each citizen is frequently discussed as a civil right. The civil and religious rights of non-Jewish communities were saved in the Balfour Declaration, the San Remo Resolution and the Palestine Mandate that stated in detail how the League of Nations were to expect the Balfour and San Remo policy to be carried out.  The French tried to add “political rights” to the savings clause for civil and religious rights but the others would not accept that amendment.

The Balfour Policy was to be carried out in two stages.  In the first would be a Jewish National Home, permitting Jews to settle "as a matter of right" anywhere in Palestine.  This was cut down to Palestine west of the Jordan in 1922 when the policy was approved by 52 countries.  However, when the Jewish population increased to a majority, the Jews would get not only the right to settle, but also to rule.  It must also, before ruling, exhibit the capability of exercising sovereignty.  Then it would become a Jewish Commonwealth without being an anti-democratic government.

So Ben White was looking at the wrong formulation.  It was the Jewish People and the Arab People who filed competing applications at the Paris Peace Talks.  It was the Jewish People who was the cestui que trust of the Political Rights to Palestine and who obtained legal dominion over them under the law of trusts in 1948 when the Jewish People became a majority within the Green Line and had control over the people in that area and the rights for that territory vested. 

The remainder of the rights vested in 1967 when the Jewish People took control over Judea,Samaria and East Jerusalem.  Israel has not as yet asserted control over the first two territories.  But it has over East Jerusalem.  So if Mr. White is correct, any group without even calling itself a “people” could empower the UN to redraw the boundaries of a sovereign state.  That is pretty far-fetched, even for one not a student of International Law.

In conclusion, knowing this history, it is hard for me to conclude that what under international law is the state of the Jewish People is anything but a democratic Jewish State.