The Balfour Declaration

The Balfour Declaration
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The Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict

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James Grady


Jonathan D. Sarna


Jonathan Schneer


  • اطلاعات
  • نقد و بررسی
  • دیدگاه کاربران
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نقد و بررسی

Publisher's Weekly

May 31, 2010
According to Schneer (London 1900), an expert in modern British history at Georgia Tech, intrigue and British doubledealing defined the 1917 Balfour Declaration of British support for a Jewish "national home" in Palestine as much as bravery and vision, leading to the disillusionment, distrust, and resentment that still dominate the region today. British Jewish chemist and Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann orchestrated the campaign to persuade powerful men that support for Zionism would benefit Britain's wartime cause and the ensuing peace. Perhaps most shrewdly, Weizmann lobbied former prime minister Arthur James Balfour, then a member of Britain's War Council. Meanwhile, Grand Sharif Hussein and his sons had won British backing for an Arab kingdom, which would presumably include Palestine, and with British encouragement rebelled against the Ottomans in 1916. Through British duplicity, the French also believed they had a interest in Palestine. And three months after the Balfour Declaration, British prime minister Lloyd George proposed a separate peace with Turkey, with the Ottomans remaining in Palestine. This perceptive, complex book will best be appreciated by Middle East historians, analysts, and policy wonks possessing a substantial prior understanding of the intricacies of the region and its players. 16 pages of b&w photos; 7 maps.


June 15, 2010

Schneer (History/Georgia Tech Univ.; The Thames, 2005, etc.) examines the divide-and-conquer politics of the colonial powers as they were brought to bear on 20th-century Palestine.

On the surface, the Balfour Declaration of 1917 was well intentioned. Named for its "odd protagonist," British diplomat and government official A.J. Balfour (1848-1930), it afforded a sympathetic vehicle to Zionist aspirations for a homeland in the old Holy Land. In a time of widespread anti-Semitism, Balfour paid heed to Zionist pioneer Chaim Weizmann and his insistence that European Jews had contributed immeasurably to the ascendant cultures of Germany and France. Others within the British government were unenthusiastic at the prospect of a Jewish return to Palestine, with Lloyd George, by one fly-on-the-wall account, caring not a whit for the Jews in question but taking a strong view that without them, all of the Holy Land might "pass into the possession or under the protectorate of 'Agnostic Atheist France.'!" French aspirations in Syria and Lebanon entered into the picture, as did the disposition of the doddering Ottoman Empire, which crumbled with Turkey's defeat in World War I. Schneer offers a portrait of events that are confusing at best, and that have many origins, whether in British designs to contain those French aspirations, to temper—and here his account is timely—the rising mood of jihad among Muslims living in British colonies, and to limit the growth of the Russian Empire to the north. To a large extent, the author writes, the Zionists and the Arabs whose land would be in play were unaware of those larger imperial games; "neither party," he writes, "understood that they were in a race at all, and both parties incorrectly identified their adversary." The result, which Schneer examines in an overworked metaphor, was the sowing of dragon's teeth that yield fierce monsters to this day.

A complex-enough tale that the lengthy dramatis personae that opens the book is not a feature but a necessity.



Library Journal

May 1, 2010
In October 1917, the British government issued the Balfour Declaration, promising to facilitate "the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people." This document appeared only after lengthy discussions and negotiations within the government and the British and international Jewish communities. The extensive research behind this book demonstrates how the declaration emerged after four years of intricate and sometimes contradictory diplomacy in which Britain also suggested it might support control of Palestine by its French allies, Arab nationalists, or even the Ottoman Empire, which Britain was fighting at the time. Schneer (Sch. of History, Technology & Society, Georgia Tech; "London 1900") has reviewed all the literature and examined government archives and personal papers to produce a thorough, detailed, accurate, and highly readable history of the complex and fluid British diplomacy focused on the Middle Eastern front in World War I. He enlivens his careful exposition of this complicated history with portraits of colorful individuals from all the competing states and concludes that the Balfour Declaration was "the highly contingent product of a tortuous process characterized as much by deceit and chance as by vision and diplomacy." VERDICT Very sound, very thorough, and highly recommended for academic readers and lovers of political, military, and diplomatic history.Elizabeth Hayford, Evanston, IL

Copyright 2010 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.


July 1, 2010
In November 1917, the British government stated that it would view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people. It was, in retrospect, a startlingly brief statement, which received little attention at the time. Since then, Zionists have regarded it as a declaration of the Jewish right to create an independent Jewish state; for Arabs, it is viewed as an outrageous case of imperialist manipulation and betrayal. Schneer writes a fascinating and scrupulously balanced account of the events and intense maneuvers that led to the issuance of the declaration. He superbly navigates between the various conflicting interests and lobbying efforts of Zionists, Arabs, and opposing elements within the British government. There are no heroes here; one is left with the impression that the Zionists won simply because they were more relentless and ruthless than their opposition, which included many non-Zionist Jews.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2010, American Library Association.)

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