San Remo, Italy, 27th April, 2014 – While the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Talks reached a new low and was officially declared ”on hold”, delegates from many nations gathered at the Royal Hotel in San Remo, Italy, to reaffirm the rights of the Jewish people to self-determination, as agreed by the Supreme Council of the Principal Allied Powers in the San Remo Peace Conference of April 1920.
’Jewish statehood is worth celebrating’, said Tomas Sandellwhen explaining the motive behind the international gathering which took place in the same hotel used by the British delegation in 1920, and where formal dinners took place during the peace conference. ’After suffering for nearly 1,800 years under foreign occupation, the right of the Jewish people to self-determination was finally confirmed in San Remo in 1920, thus marking the beginning of the process of decolonisation. This is why Jewish statehood should not only be celebrated by the Jewish people themselves, but by all people groups who value self-determination and national sovereignty and in particular the Arab peoples of Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq who received the same rights in San Remo in 1920’, he said.
Israel´s unique place in the family of nations was underlined in a written message from the President of the Czech Republic, Milos Zeman, and conveyed by his Foreign Policy Advisor, Ambassador Hynek Kmonicek, the keynote speaker at a Gala Dinner on Saturday night. In his greeting, the President stated that ”friendship with Israel is best expressed in your voting record at the UN and not in formal speeches at state dinners.” The Czech Republic was one of only eight UN member states to have rejected the unilateral Palestinian statehood bid at the UN General Assembly in November 2012. President Zeman explained Czech support for Israel as ”a natural expression of shared values”, thus underscoring the close relationship between Israel and the West.
Another country that stood by Israel at the UN General Assembly in November 2012 was Canada. In a written statement to the gathering, Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird, unable to attend in person, said that Canadian support for Israel´s right to live in peace and security with its neighbours had been Canadian policy consistently since 1948.
Representing the Israeli Government at the convocation were Director General Yossi Kuperwasser of the Ministry of International Relations and Strategic Affairs and the Israeli Deputy Ambassador to Italy,Dan Haezrachy. They affirmed the importance of San Remo in understanding Jewish statehood.
’The right of the Jewish people to reconstitute their ancestral homeland in Palestine was affirmed in this very place in 1920, later confirmed by the Council of the League of Nations in 1922 and by the United Nations in the Partition Plan of 1947. Even so, the Palestinian leader Abu Mazen refuses to this very day to accept a Jewish state. This is why we need to come back to San Remo and be reminded of what has already been agreed under binding international law – the right to a Jewish state’, Kuperwasser said.
Deputy Mayor of San Remo, Claudia Lolli, explained how this Italian region has a special bond with Israel and the Jewish people. A few hundred kilometers from San Remo, in the city of La Spezia, the first ship carrying Jewish refugees to Palestine set sail after the Second World War and the city is known today as ”the door to Zion”. Lolli suggested that San Remo makes its links to Jewish statehood better known in order to become an educational tourist destination for those who want to discover this long-hidden part of Jewish history.
In a closing seminar, Sandell and Kuperwasser elaborated on the need to preserve this previously lost Jewish history and heritage in San Remo.
’Every Jewish child should read and learn about what happened in San Remo in 1920 just as much as they learn about the Basel Conference of 1897 and the tragedy of the Shoah’, Sandell said.
’This is the sunny side of Jewish history, when the leading powers of the international community finally confirmed the historical, cultural and religious bond between the Jewish people and the land of Israel. This was the right of the Jewish people to re-constitute their national home in what was then Palestine, and which was affirmed under international law’, Kuperwasser concluded.
In a one-day symposium, political personalities, diplomats and economists looked at the unique contribution of the Jewish people to mankind.
’Israel is more than all its technical inventions and Nobel laureates; the Jewish people gave us a completely new way to look at life’, explained the international panelists. ’These same values, as expressed in the charter of the United Nations, are the original values of today´s international organisations.’
Dr Gregory Lafitte concluded the seminar by speaking about Israel at the United Nations. ’It is important that the UN remains committed to the people who gave them these values’. He said that Israel has many friends at the UN who want to engage with the Jewish state in order to find solutions to everyday problems – through agricultural technologies and entrepreneurship for development, to mention just two Israeli-initiated UN resolutions.
He went on to say that the UN needs to embrace Israel more fully into the family of nations. As Israel celebrates 65 years as a member of the UN, it is high time that the UN also recognised the Jewish holidays. He proposed a new Forum for Cultural Diplomacy to help promote these universal values as reflected in the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur.
’Yom Kippur teaches us about the need for atonement and reconciliation. There could be no better way to celebrate 65 years of UN membership than by embracing these core UN values, by making Yom Kippur a UN holiday’, he concluded.
The meeting adopted a two-page resolution which affirmed the right of Jewish self-determination which will be presented at the UN in New York on May 12th, the 65th Anniversary of Israeli membership of the UN.