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The Balfour Declaration: The Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict [Hardcover]

Jonathan Schneer
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
Price: 25.00 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

2 Aug 2010
On 2 November 1917, after much discussion, the British War Cabinet under Lloyd George finally approved and issued a statement in the form of a short letter from the Foreign Office to the English Zionist, Lord Rothschild. It was signed by the foreign Secretary, Arthur Balfour and contained the key short paragraph that began: 'His Majesty's Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object '. "The Balfour Declaration", as it came to be known, set in motion a series of events, entirely unforeseen by its authors, which shaped the modern world and continues to shape it. Conceived against a backdrop of the First World War, its midwives were an extraordinary cast of diplomats, scholars, soldiers and spies, Arab insurgents and Zionist zealots. It is a tale full of intrigue, betrayal, adventure, death and triumph. And ranges from London to Cairo to the Deserts of Arabia, where the enigmatic figure of T.E. Lawrence achieved lasting fame. Alongside the scrap of paper with which Chamberlain returned from Munich in 1938, the "Balfour Declaration" is one of the most important documents of the last 100 years and Jonathan Schneer's scrupulously researched and vivid retelling brings to life this key episode in one of the world's longest lasting and most damaging conflicts.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (2 Aug 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0747599483
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747599487
  • Product Dimensions: 23.8 x 15.8 x 4.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 183,667 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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PRAISE FOR THE THAMES: ENGLAND'S RIVER 'Combines a dramatist's empathy with people and a scholar's devotion to facts ... magnificent ... a 'must-read' for all lovers of London' Liza Picard, author of Dr Johnson's London 'A pleasure to read ... Schneer is a high stylist' Kathryn Hughes, Guardian

Book Description

Drawing on new research, The Balfour Declaration gets to the heart of the present crisis in the Middle East by going back to the roots of the conflict in a British government communication of autumn of 1917.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating bit of history 7 Dec 2010
The sub-title is a bit misleading. The story is very much about the circumstances surrounding the very short statement (on the aspiration for a Jewish national homeland) from Balfour to Walter Rothschild, and the story ends there. That is certainly be part of story the origins of the dispute between Israelis and Arabs but it is course a long way from the whole story.

Even this small part of the story is immensely complex. Schneer does a great job working through those complexities and in describing the personalities involved. The conflict between British Zionists and assimilationists is well described, and it is fascinating to weigh their respective arguments with the benefit of 90 years of subsequent history. The British government's focus on Britain's interests (as it perceived them) is clear and understandable in the circumstances of WW1. British duplicity cetainly didn't discriminate between Jews and Arabs or factions within those groups - Britain deceived anyone and everyone if it felt it was in is interests to do so. (As one suspects every nation does, particularly at times of national emergency - no-one who has read this book would be much surprised by anything revealed from Wikileaks about how diplomacy works).
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read 23 Jan 2012
As a historian and former journalist I can say that if you can only read one book on the politics, and confluence of events, people, interests and myths concerning `Jewish World Influence' that led to the realization of the dream of a homeland for the Jewish People, The Balfour Declaration: The Origins of the Arab Israeli Conflict is the one to read. The personalities and internal conflicts contained within the Zionist movement and its leadership are exposed, as are the sometimes convoluted, contrary and often conniving, contrary policies of the British Government. The 67 Words of the Declaration, crafted in such a manner as to pay lip service to the 700,000 Arabs who occupied the `National Home for the Jewish people' unleashed a still unresolved bitter conflict which has enveloped the politics of the Middle East in blood, in retrospect, while it gave salvation to most of the survivors of the Holocaust, never the less was a disaster for Great Britain, the Imperial power that `gave Palestine away' and in current times a albatross around the neck America's Middle eastern policy. In many ways the story reads like a le Carre novel, betrayal, intrigue and Imperial Hubris. Unlike a novel, however, the final chapter of the Balfour Declaration has yet to be written.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars well written 22 Feb 2011
This is a very well written account of a highly complex episode of diplomacy.
I thoroughly enjoyed the read. The writer has done an excellent job in explicating all the threads of this entangled history. He did this by taking each thread, each piece of the jigsaw and painting the picture in imaginative and colourful detail. So, when he picks up the next thread he backtracks in time and tells the other story which chronologically really runs in parallel. And so forth with the next strands. All the time though he gives you a little glimpse of what the other strands are up to. And so he weaves a magnificent tapestry and you get the full picture of this crucial and colourful saga. (Whilst reading, I was reminded of Tarantino films like e.g. Pulp Fiction, where the chronology is chopped up, but in the end it all comes beautifully together.)

This is an exciting story of high diplomacy, intrigue and counter-intrigue. There is an abundance of great characters. I was left musing on the possibilities of an adventurous mini-series for television. Though I'm focussing here on the readability of the story and on its adventurousness, the writer, in my opinion, treats it with the seriousness it deserves and never forgets the terrible subsequent history of the region.

A commentator of another review (Danny of Arabia) has implied - I think - some bias in this account (though I'm not sure from his comments whether he actually read this book or only some blogs by the author). I don't know enough to judge this, but to me the narrative seemed pretty fair to all parties - but due to lack of knowledge I am unable to tell whether crucial bits of history were left out or distorted etc. Still, the book has whet my appetite for more and surely the more different authors you read the less chance of bias. All in all I recommend this book as a great narration of a complex and sensitive topic which remains relevant today.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars balfour - attempting to square the circle 7 Sep 2010
The 1917 Balfour declaration makes commitments both to the Jewish people in offering them a home in Palestine & at the same time a commitment to the indigenous Arab population, which appears at odds with the promise made to the Jews. This book explains in detail the events leading up to the Declaration & the consequences arising from it. It is a really worthwhile endeavour for anyone interested in events in the Middle East to this day.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful book 6 Oct 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book details the machinations of all sides over Palestine in WWI.

It tracks the dreadfully cynical moves made by the British Foreign Office mandarins as they proceed to get hold of the wrong end of the stick from all ends and make an utter mess of the whole region as they try to play the Arabs, Turks and Jews off against each other.

The Arabs, Turks and Jews seem to fulfil their stereotypes as well with the Turks being corrupt but patriotic, the Arabs elegant, devious, murderous and incompetent and the Jews bluffing with a hand that holds no aces, and somehow managing to win the game in the end.

It's all beautifully written with the author almost refusing to believe the levels of deviousness the British stoop to at some points.

What did he expect? The management of empire and the post war carve-up after the First World War is Perfidious Albion at her most murderously incompetent...
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