San Remo 1920

Brussels, March 25th, 2020 – The Spanish flu did not prevent the San Remo Peace Conference of 1920 from taking place, neither did the ash clouds from Iceland stop its 90th anniversary in 2010. Despite the current pandemic, which has tragically put Italy at the epicentre, the European Coalition for Israel is going ahead with the preparations for the upcoming 100th anniversary in only one month from now, on April 25th.

“Whilst we may not be able to meet physically in Sanremo, Italy, on the very day of the centennial, there are many other ways in which we can commemorate the San Remo Resolution and raise awareness of its significance under international law”, ECI Founding Director Tomas Sandell said in a statement on Tuesday. “The concrete plans will be revealed nearer to the date of the centenary and the next four weeks will be a busy time of preparation”, he added.

In San Remo, the Supreme Council of the Principal Allied Powers of the Great War (France, Italy, Britain and Japan, with an observer from the USA) met between April 19th and 26th, 1920, to decide how to manage the future development of the territories of the defeated Ottoman empire. Their aspirations were decidedly not colonial; rather they sought to progressively establish new sovereign states in the Middle East, based on legitimate territorial claims submitted by the Arab delegation and the Zionist organizations. These mutually supported Arab and Zionist claims resulted in the establishment of Syria and Lebanon under French Mandate and Mesopotamia (Iraq) and Palestine under British Mandate.

The San Remo Peace Conference has been described as a defining moment in the history of the Jewish people in that it incorporated into international law the Balfour Declaration (which promised that the British government would facilitate the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine) and paved the way for the rebirth of Israel in 1948.

The resolution, which was signed on April 25th, 1920, affirms the decision to establish a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine. Two years later, on July 24th, 1922, the League of Nations unanimously declared: “…whereas 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.”

”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”, Tomas Sandell says. “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.”

Nobody sums up the significance of the San Remo Peace Conference better than Chaim Weizmann, the first President of the State of Israel, who called the conference “perhaps the most important event in the history of the Jewish people after our exile”.

The San Remo Resolution was for many years widely forgotten in the public debate as the minutes from the Peace Conference were hidden away in the British War Archives. It was only in the early years of 2000 that international legal scholars such as Jacques Gauthier and Howard Grief would present their findings, independently of each other, namely, that title deed to the land of Israel was given to the Jewish people in San Remo in 1920.

Further exposure was given to these findings by ECI at the 90th anniversary of the San Remo Peace Conference in 2010, where the then Knesset Deputy Speaker Danny Danon was among the invited speakers. The findings have since been presented at ECI seminars and high-level diplomatic briefings in national capitals around the world, including Tokyo, London, Rome and Berlin, as well as in the European Parliament in Brussels and to ambassadors at the United Nations Security Council in New York.

Meanwhile local interest in the Peace Conference has grown also in the city of Sanremo itself where the City Hall is planning its own exhibition to mark the centenary. On a regional level the importance of Liguria in Jewish history has been further highlighted. It was from the port of La Spezia that the first ship with Jewish Holocaust survivors took sail for Palestine after the war. “If Auschwitz-Birkenau marked a valley of death for the Jewish people, San Remo and La Spezia in the region of Liguria have been places of hope and new beginnings”, Tomas Sandell notes.

“At this critical time when the whole nation of Italy is suffering from the most deadly pandemic in modern times, we want to express our solidarity with the Italian people by remembering the positive role played by their nation in relation to the Jewish people in times of suffering and distress. By commemorating the San Remo Peace Conference of 1920 we hope to encourage cultural tourism to Sanremo, the region of Liguria and beyond. As soon as circumstances permit ECI is committed to returning to Sanremo to celebrate this landmark event”, Sandell concludes.