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The Balfour Declaration: The Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict Hardcover – August 10, 2010

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; First Edition edition (August 10, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400065321
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400065325
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 6.5 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #538,486 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

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

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Customer Reviews

I highly recommend reading this book as a good starting point for understanding the issues in modern Palestine.
In my opinion, this is an unacceptable way of citing referenced information, especially for a serious historical book like this one.
Regular Joe
Schneer does a great job of showing how Palestine/Israel became sanctioned by the British as the Zionist's "Homeland."
Robert C. Peterson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

53 of 54 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on November 21, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book, recommended by a local Jewish book club, surprised me in the fair & balanced nature of the research and scholarship involved in this tricky subject; yet, Schneer, a British labour historian employed copious first-hand sources to unravel the bewildering labyrinth that was British Middle East policy during the First World War. He was not defending Zionism, nor British imperialism nor the Arab revolt of the time; rather, he focused on the myriad ways diplomacy, imperialism, nationalism and Zionism intersected through the mechanisms of the "cast of thousands" who people this captivating history. The Balfour Declaration itself, a short denouement of political hubris on the part of the British Foreign Office to win over the world's dispersed Jews to their side in this "war to end all wars," is anti-climactic when measured against the promises they handed out like candy to the Arabs who fought for them against the Turks, their French & Russian allies and any other group who could assist in the war effort. Nothing describes the last faltering years if the storied British world Empire better than this duplicitous and often arrogant display of the "white man's burden" run amok in its imperial nation-building endeavor. Schneer clearly posits the fact that the British had no real intentions to meet her postwar obligations as the Paris Peace talks revealed in 1919. Taking us through this confusing yet essential journey of understanding some of the foundations of Arab-Israeli discontent in a readable manner, he had made this topic available to many who may have found earlier works too broad, to biased or too laden with footnotes to pursue. As a lecturer of Middle East history for the past 35 years, I would strongly endorse this book's inclusion in everyone's course syllabus and private library.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By AurensHydaspes on December 22, 2010
Format: Hardcover
A Magnificent Overture for the Present Conflict in the Middle East.

Dr. Jonathan Schneer has written a succinctly meticulous book on the origins of Zionism and the generated Arab mistrust of the West because of their betrayal by the British. That is the main theme of the book, on how the British put out to support two radically opposite groups to maintain their own hegemony in the Middle East. Under the augury of some esoteric and omnipotent international Jewry who the British thought had some control over the politics of The Great War, Effective Zionism was born under the handling of the charismatic (and perhaps duplicitous) Chaim Weizmann with the ultimate goal, of a settlement colony of Jewish people in Palestine under the rue of the British mandate. (Schneer does write very effectively and pedagogically on how there was a good amount internal almost sectarian conflict within the British Jewish community over the concept of Zionism...there was a good [perhaps virulent] anti-Zionist sector of the Jewish community]. The other side had the Arabs under Sayyid Hussein bin Ali and (his most prominent son) King Faisal who under the false pretense of the British revolted against Ottoman empire and were promised a Arab Kingdom that included the "Holy Land", or so they thought.

Ultimately, the book is written from British perspective, but does a superb job of having balanced point of view of the Arabs and the Zionists. One controversy that can be argued form the book is weather the British were actively being deceptive and perfidious with the Arabs, who did not found out about the Balfour Declaration until it was almost to late or was it just a whetting out the "Divide and Conquer" tactic that best fit the crumbling Empire.
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38 of 48 people found the following review helpful By animal lover on September 18, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have always been curious about the terrible injustices in the Middle East. How, I wondered, could such fear, resentment, hatred start and increase over so many years? This book introduces the reader to Balfour, Sykes, Picot, Hussein, the young Turks and the first Zionists. All of these characters, well described by the author with quotes from their letters and speeches, practice some form of deception. The peoples of the Middle East today, especially, but not only in Palestine and Israel, pay for the lies and tricks practiced by all these players. Ironically the backdrop of this story is WWI and the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire. It all worked together to create destruction, distrust and death.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Lawrence Albert on October 4, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is as well balanced an account of a conflict which seems to have no end.When an Empire is to be desolved,when a war is to be won,when allies are being sought,all manner of promises are made,all manner of deceptions are applied,all in the name of cause and in the name of what is right.The parties to this day follow these practices and remain certain that their cause is the only right one. This book clearly shows the original players and how they hoped to achieve their various righteous objectives,and,in each case, without carefull thought of the consequences to the other parties involved.This book should be read by the present day remaining players in the conflict.It should be considered with the same sense of sensitivity the author has successfully employed.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By ESM517 on July 3, 2012
Format: Paperback
This is a fascinating history of a key milestone in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Unfortunately, the fascinating and thorough history gets bogged down in too many details, a bit of melodrama (rather than the steady voice of an historian) and comments from today's view that do not reflect the thinking of the times. Overall, I did enjoy the book and the topic, but the three stars, rather than five, reflect my important caveats. An example of incorrect hindsight can be found on page 168, where the author is incredulous that people at the time believed Sykes that there was a strong Jewish world power behind WWI. Well, as he later points out, people of power did believe that for a number of reasons and that was "of the times". How can you write a history book of a specific time by placing your own modern opinions and hindsight over the events? Historical events must be viewed and analyzed in their own context. What I did enjoy, though, the most was the overview at the beginning of all the people involved and Schneer does a good job of painting pictures of all these key figures.
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