Mandatory Service: How the League of Nations Shaped Modern International Relations


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Professor Susan Pedersen, a historian of Britain and Europe at Columbia University, discusses her most recent book The Guardians: The League of Nations and the Crisis of Empire. On the centenary of the Balfour Declaration, it is crucial to explore the British Mandate of Palestine in a broader context.

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This season of the Tel Aviv Review is made possible by The Van Leer Jerusalem Institute, which promotes humanistic, democratic, and liberal values in the social discourse in Israel.

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One comment on “Mandatory Service: How the League of Nations Shaped Modern International Relations

  1. Greg Pollock says:

    The author/interviewee notes Balfour declares that “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine” but says nothing of political rights. As James Madison says in the Federalist Papers (1787-8), a right without a remedy is no right; the same was said earlier by the far from liberal (read far from Whig) William Blackstone in his Commentaries on the Laws of England (1765-1769). Religious rights may be pressed by some into a corporate form, quite possibly at the time of Balfour, focusing on non-Western “tribal” communities, although this would certainly not be the meaning taken in the EU and US today. “Civil” rights therein would not be taken as in the US of today either, but surely they would include social rights such as a secured home and community association. Neither of these last can endure without redress under occupation. Political rights are a form of delayed process toward such redress. So I would say that the Balfour promise of unprejudiced civil rights requires a remedy outside of occupation, and today we know of no other remedy than some overlay of political rights and representation. True, political rights are inadequate, as attested by the need for courts; but, as well, the Israeli courts have shown themselves inadequate protection. At the time of Balfour, a finely detailed occupation could not be envisioned, so Balfour in implication then assumed local processing of civil and religious rights, meaning that a Jewish homeland was to leave such processing intact. This has failed. So, now, in implication, Balfour requires some form of political rights as standing remedy for those it rote lists.

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