From Publishers Weekly
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.
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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. --Jay Freeman