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The Balfour Declaration: The Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflictby Jonathan Schneer
Synopses & Reviews
Issued in London in 1917, the Balfour Declaration was one of the key documents of the twentieth century. It committed Britain to supporting the establishment in Palestine of “a National Home for the Jewish people,” and its reverberations continue to be felt to this day. Now the entire fascinating story of the document is revealed in this impressive work of modern history.
With new material retrieved from historical archives, scholar Jonathan Schneer recounts in dramatic detail the public and private battles in the early 1900s for a small strip of land in the Middle East, battles that started when the governing Ottoman Empire took Germany’s side in World War I. The Balfour Declaration paints an indelible picture of how Arab nationalists, backed by Britain, fought for their future as Zionists in England battled diplomatically for influence. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to either side or even to most members of the British government, Prime Minister David Lloyd George was telling Turkey that she could keep her flag flying over the disputed territory if only she would agree to a separate peace.
The key players in this watershed moment are rendered here in nuanced and detailed relief: Sharif Hussein, the Arab leader who secretly sought British support; Chaim Weizmann, Zionist hero, the folksmensch who charmed British high society; T. E. Lawrence, the legendary “super cerebral” British officer who “set the desert on fire” for the Arabs; Basil Zaharoff, the infamous arms dealer who was Britain’s most important back channel to the Turks; and the other generals and prime ministers, soldiers and negotiators, who shed blood and cut deals to grab or give away the precious land.
A book crucial to understanding the Middle East as it is today, The Balfour Declaration is a rich and remarkable achievement, a riveting volume about the ancient faiths and timeless treacheries that continue to drive global events.
"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. (Aug.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
About the Author
Jonathan Schneer, a specialist in modern British history, is a professor at Georgia Tech's School of History, Technology, and Society. He is the author of five additional books, as well as numerous articles and reviews. A fellow of the American Council of Learned Societies in 1985-86, he has also held research fellowships at Oxford and Cambridge Universities in the UK, as well as at the Erich Remarque Center of New York University. He was a founding editor of Radical History Review and is a member of the editorial board of 20th Century British History and the London Journal.
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History and Social Science » Europe » Great Britain » General History