Howard Grief. 19 April 1940 — 3 June 2013
On 2 July, the stone-setting for Howard Grief took place in Jerusalem, and I should like to pay tribute to this extraordinary man, and the unique legacy he left to the Jewish people in his book, “The Foundation and Borders of Israel under International Law“, published in 2008 —– the product of more than 20 years of research.
It is a work of profound scholarship, yet the documentation of the Jewish legal rights to the land set in a historical narrative, make it a compelling read. Each titled chapter within it is a stand-alone, with the first being the most important.
Howard Grief was a Canadian lawyer specialising in commercial law and litigation, whose passion and love for the land of Israel and the Jewish people set him on the path he was to follow, in 1982.
In 1989 he made aliya with his Israeli wife and two young sons, and whilst practising as an attorney in Jerusalem, was appointed legal advisor to Yuval Ne’eman, minister for energy and infrastructure in the Shamir government, on matters pertaining to Israeli territorial sovereign rights. It is worth mentioning that Ne’eman was a distinguished physicist who set up Israel’s space programme, and discovered the existence of quarks independently of Murray Gell-Mann who won the Nobel prize for the discovery.
Howard realised that Israeli sovereignty did not originate from the UN Partition plan of 1947, universally believed to be the instrument of international law that created Israel, but instead it was the San Remo Conference of the 24th. and 25th. April 1920, which invested sovereignty in the Jewish People through the representative Zionist organisations.
It was at San Remo, the continuation of the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, that the Principal Allied Powers, the victors in the war against the Central Powers, set aside all of Palestine as the land designated for the reconstitution of the Jewish National Home, based on the historical connection of the Jewish People with Palestine.
The San Remo Resolution was described by Lord Curzon, the British foreign minister from 1919, as the Jewish Magna Carta.
The Franco-British Boundary Convention of December 23, 1920, fixing the northern and northeastern boundary of Palestine with Syria-Lebanon, affirmed that Judea, Samaria and Gaza were to be integral parts of the Jewish National Home. Indeed, the maps of the cartographer and theologian, George Adam Smith, were to be used as the basis of the future borders, based on the ancient kingdoms of Israel and Judah.
Howard conducted his painstaking research from British government archives and the minutes of the San Remo conference, both in English and French, as well as numerous other original documents associated with that era. His original research has established him as the leading world authority on the subject, and has been used in an Israeli government video explaining its rights to the territories.
On a personal note it was my good fortune to have met Howard and enjoyed his friendship during the last two years of his life.
In June 2011, whilst in Jerusalem, I called him up with a view to him giving a lecture in London, but he explained that his health would not allow it as he was on dialysis several times a week. Nevertheless, despite his deteriorating health, he was busier than ever, writing articles, giving lectures and responding to requests worldwide for his opinions. He had presented a petition to the Canadian House of Commons on behalf of Canadian citizens regarding Israeli sovereign rights to the territories, and was in the process of doing the same in the USA to Congress.
He had an ever-growing email list, and it was always a pleasure to read his latest missive addressed to “my dear correspondents”, and had a marvellous pen which he used to great effect in his put-downs to those so-called legal experts, dilettantes he called them, who admonished Israel for her “illegal” behaviour.
My particular favourite was a letter on behalf of clients regarding demands from the European Former Leaders Group, including Chris Patten and others, to the President of the European Council, which denounced Israel for its “illegal” settlement activity, including in East Jerusalem, and demanded that punitive measures be taken against it.
He admonished them for their “impudence” and their “complete and abysmal ignorance of Jewish Legal Rights to the Land of Israel“, and then went on to inform them what these were, in a concise summary.
Howard was a modest and gentle person, never interested in his own ego, and spent his most productive years documenting Jewish rights to the Land, (at his own expense), so that future generations should have the knowledge with which to fight the delegitimisation and demonisation of Israel, which has now become common currency.
His passing is a great loss to all Am Yisrael. May he rest in peace.