Norman De Mattos Bentwich OBE MC (28 February 1883 – 8 April 1971) was a British barrister and legal academic. He was the British-appointed attorney-general of Mandatory Palestine and a lifelong Zionist.
During the British military administration of Palestine, Bentwich served as Senior Judicial Officer, which continued in the civil administration after 1920 as Legal Secretary. The title was soon changed to Attorney-General, a post he held until 1931.
Bentwich played a major role in the development of Palestinian law. According to Likhovski, he "concentrated his efforts on providing Palestine with a set of modern commercial laws that he believed would facilitate economic development and thus attract more Jewish immigration." Bentwich's perceived Zionist bias made him increasingly unpopular with Palestinian Arabs, who conducted demonstrations and other protests against his presence in the administration. Some British officials, including the Colonial Office and the Chief Justice of Palestine Michael McDonnell, saw him as a liability and agitated for his dismissal. In 1929 he was barred from representing the government at the Shaw Commission into the August riots. In late 1930 he went on leave to England, where he unsuccessfully sought to gain support for his continued role in Palestine. He was offered senior judicial positions in Mauritius and Cyprus, but turned them down. In August 1931 his appointment as Attorney-General was terminated by the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies, who cited "the peculiar racial and political conditions of Palestine, and the difficulties with which the Administration has in consequence to bear."
In November 1929, Bentwich was shot in the thigh by a 17-year-old Arab employee of the Palestine Police. His assailant was sentenced to 15 years hard labour, despite Bentwich personally advocating for him.
From 1932 to 1951 Bentwich occupied the Chair of International Relations at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His first lecture, on "Jerusalem, City of Peace", was disrupted by Jewish students who considered him too conciliatory towards the Arabs. Several of the ringleaders, one of them Avraham Stern, were suspended. Bentwich was a disciple of Zionist thinker Ahad Ha'am, and wrote a book about him, Ahad Ha'am and His Philosophy, in 1927. He was one of the Jewish members of Palestine Administration who in 1929 joined Brit Shalom, a society founded to find rapprochement between Jews and Arabs in Palestine.
In his book, Mandate Memories, he stated that "the Balfour Declaration was not an impetuous or sentimental act of the British government, as has been sometimes represented, or a calculated measure of political warfare. It was a deliberate decision of British policy and idealist politics, weighed and reweighed, and adopted only after full consultation with the United States and with other Allied Nations."
Academic and legal career
- Called to the bar (Lincolns Inn), 1908
- Ministry of Justice, Cairo, 1912–1915
- Major, Camel Transport, 1916–1918
- Legal secretary to military administration, Palestine, 1918–22
- First attorney-general in mandatory government of Palestine, 1922–30
- Recalled to Colonial Office, 1930–31
- Professor of International Relations, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 1932 and 1945–1951
- Director of League of Nations High Commission for Refugees from Germany, 1933–1935
- British Ministry of Information and Air Ministry, 1939–45
- Co-editor of the Jewish Review, 1910–1913 and 1932–1934
- Lecturer at Hague Academy of International Law, 1929, 1934 and 1955
- Vice-President, Jewish Committee for Relief Abroad
- Chairman, National Peace Council, 1944–1946
- Chairman, United Restitution Organization, 1948–1971
- Foreign Office Committee on Restitution in British Zone of Germany, 1951
- President, Jewish Historical Society, 1960–1962
- Chairman, Friends of Hebrew University
- President of London North-Western Reform Synagogue, 1958–71
Bentwich published a large number of books and articles. Some of his books are listed here.
- Philo-Judaeus of Alexandria, Jewish Publication Society of America, Philadelphia, 1910.
- The Declaration of London, with an introduction and notes and appendices, E. Wilson, London, 1911.
- Students leading cases and statutes on international law, Sweet & Maxwell, London, 1913.
- Josephus, Jewish Publication Society of America, Philadelphia, 1914.
- Palestine of the Jews. Past, Present, and Future, Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co. Ltd., London, 1919.
- Hellenism, The Jewish publication society of America, Philadelphia, 1919.
- Ahad Ha'am and his philosophy, Keren Hayesod (Palestine Foundation Fund) and the Keren Kayemeth Le-Israel, Jerusalem, 1927.
- The Mandates System, Longmans, London, 1930.
- England in Palestine, Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co. Ltd., London, 1932.
- Palestine, Benn, London, 1934.
- Fulfilment in the Promised land, 1917–1937, Soncino Press, London, 1938.
- Wanderer Between Two Worlds – An Autobiography, Kegan Paul Trench Trubner, London, 1941.
- Judaea lives again, V. Gollancz, London, 1943.
- For Zion's Sake. A Biography of Judah L. Magnes. First Chancellor and First President of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jewish Publication Society, 1954.
- The Jews in our Times, Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, 1960.
- Israel Resurgent, Ernest Benn, London, 1960.
- My 77 years : an account of my life and times, 1883–1960, Jewish Publication Society of America, Philadelphia, 1961.
- Mandate Memories (with Helen Bentwich), The Hogarth Press, London, 1965.
- Israel : two fateful years, 1967–69, Elec, London, 1970.
- Bernard Wasserstein (1978). The British in Palestine. London: Royal Historical Society. pp. 209–215.
- Norman Bentwich (1962). My Seventy Seven Years. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. pp. 21–23.
- Martin Bunton (2007). Colonial Land Policies in Palestine 1917–1936. Oxford University Press. pp. passim.
- Assaf Likhovski (2006). Law and Identity in Mandate Palestine. University of North Carolina Press. pp. 57–58.
- Norman and Helen Bentwich (1965). Mandate Memories. London: The Hogarth Press. pp. 146–147.
- Norman and Helen Bentwich (1965). Mandate Memories. London: The Hogarth Press. pp. 136–139.
- J. M. Levy (28 February 1930). "Arab gets 15 years for Palestine attack". New York Times. p. 9.
- Bentwich, Norman. The Jews in Our Time. Harmonds, Middlesworth: Penguin Books, 1960.
- Norman Bentwich (1962). My Seventy Seven Years. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. pp. 98–100.
- Halpern, Ben The Disciple, Chaim Weizmann in Jacques Kornberg (1983) At the Crossroads: Essays on Ahad Ha'am SUNY Press. p.164
- Berit Shalom jewishvirtuallibrary.org
- Happy Balfour Day, Jerusalem Post
- Norman Bentwich going back to Palestine as Professor at Hebrew University
- Norman Bentwich, The Law of Private Property in War, with a Chapter on Conquest (London: Sweet & Maxwell, 1907)] – his Yorke prize essay from 1906.