Saturday, August 06, 2016

Correcting Amb. Mark Regev

Last week, Israel's Ambassador to the United Kingdom's Court of St. James, Mark Regev, had a letter published in the London Times:

Macintyre is  Writer at Large and Associate Editor on the Times newspaper and was editor of The Times Weekend Review.  His article, to which Amb. Regev was responding, "Our Middle East carve-up is no cause for shame", posited that

The Balfour declaration and other milestones in our imperial history show how hard we tried to do the right thing

Regev, who was and continues to be an outstanding spokesperson and press liaison, was, in his youth, 

a prominent member of the Socialist Zionist youth movement Ichud Habonim

I do not fault him that membership.  Not everyone was in Betar.

However, as I have learned these past few years in appearing before the Habonim English-speaking groups on the movement's year program, the level of cognizance of historical facts can be, well, low.  And so, when Regev wrote, in a clear implication, that the Balfour Declaration is some way dealt with "Arabs", I sent in this letter which the Times actually published (thanks to RM for the pic):

I think it be made clear and repeated, "Palestine" was considered the historic Jewish homeland.  It was in that territory that the Jewish national home was to be, as the Mandate was charged, reconstituted:

Whereas recognition has thereby been given to the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country;

That Britain then whittled away the original territory by first giving away Transjordan in 1922 to a Saudi Arabian refugee and then in 1937-38 suggested several partition plans, and then in 1939 reneged on the meaning of the Mandate's purpose and then in 1947 handing over the Mandate to the UN for yet another partition, does not alter the historic fact: Palestine was to become the Jewish state.

Indeed, Macintyre noted

Crucially the ­declaration also states that “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities [my emphasis] in Palestine” — which then made up 90 per cent of the population. Any “marking” of the centenary needs to acknowledge that while the Jewish homeland envisaged in 1917 has been realised, the promise to protect the rights of the Palestinian ­people has not been honoured.

However, there was no "Palestinian people" at that time, at the least, especially in the sense of a separate Arab nation.  The 80,000 or so Jews who had been living in the area of Palestine up until the outbreak of the war, with thousands subsequently expelled by the Ottoman rulers, were as much "Palestinian" as any Arab or Bedouin living there.  Arabs' rights were indeed honored.  Regev was pinpointing that error but missed a chance to be historically correct in the full.

That's why I wrote what I wrote.

I hope that Mr. Regev, in addition to others,  has learned something.



To be comprehensive, I think the San Remo Conference of April 1920 need be mentioned.

As the minutes show, "Arabs" was mentioned, once, by the British representative in explaining the background of the Balfour Declaration:-

However, except for that single mention, the Italian representative reverts to the normative semantic of "non-Jewish":

as did the French represenative:

and the final, official text also notes simply "non-Jewish communities in Palestine":-


And the 1924 Convention between Great Britain and America regarding the Mandate: