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The Balfour Declaration: The Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict

3.85 of 5 stars 3.85  ·  rating details  ·  178 ratings  ·  33 reviews
Winner of the National Jewish Book Award

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
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ebook, 465 pages
Published August 10th 2010 by Random House (first published January 1st 2010)
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Richard Lee
A remarkably readable account of a very complex story - with some remarkable characters. (T.E. Lawrence is one of them but by no means the most interesting.) Britain really did get itself in between the Arabs and the Jews and made commitments to both in good faith but with a great deal of miscommunication and ambiguity. Now I want to understand what happened in Israel immediately after the second world war.

It also provides an additional perspective to the current focus on the Wester Front in WW1
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Louise Leetch
It’s common knowledge that the British were responsible the divisions of the Middle East after WWII but the machinations, maneuvers and manipulations truly began at the turn of the 20th Century. The Zionist movement was founded in 1897 in Switzerland and grew and spread very slowly. Over the next few years, Jews bought up large tracts of land in Palestine in an effort to establish a substantial minority. The emergence of Chaim Weizmann as the Jewish leader expanded their efforts to seek more tha ...more
James Perkins
This was an excruciatingly detailed account of British meddling in the Middle East around the time of the First World War, which was less to do with oil (the main focus of American interests today) and more to do with the maintenance of trade routes to Asia, especially India, the "jewel in the crown" of the British Empire. The Declaration set the groundwork for the formation of a Jewish state in Palestine, which finally happened some 30 years later.

I read this book because I wanted to learn mor
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Serjeant Wildgoose
This is a minutely detailed account of the political and diplomatic shenanigans that led to the 1917 'declaration' by British Foreign Secretary, The Earl of Balfour, which articulated the British government's intent to 'use their best endeavours to [establish] in Palestine ... a national home for the Jewish people.'

Always human but tedious at stretches, this is a staggering account of diplomatic duplicity on a vast scale. Not only did the British secretly bargain away Palestine for the simultane
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Lars
The subtitle of Jonathan Schneer's book "The Balfour Declaration" is "The Origins of the Arab Israeli Conflict". This book isn't about that conflict, nor is it really about The Balfour Declaration. This book is about the fall of the two history's largest empires, the Ottoman and the British empire.

The book recounts the story of the Zionist movement in the period around the first World War. During the Great War, the British government envisioned the collapse of the Ottoman empire and together wi
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Fredrick Danysh
At the end of the Crusades Israel no longer existed as a Jewish state, it was Muslim territory. In 1917 the British established a Jewish homeland in Palestine. This book is a record of the political and military struggle to create that Jewish homeland in the face of Arab opposition, a world war, and general anti-Sematic feelings.
Doug May
Incredible insight into the present situation from this book. A great history of the Ottoman theatre in WW 1. This was my introduction to the middle east during this period though I knew something of the declaration from my zionist history. Very interesting to read the varriant views within the Jewish community toward zionism at its inception in a time when many Jews did not view tgemselves as a distinxrt nation. Chaim Weizmann figures very prominently in the account. The implications to WWII ar ...more
Sabrine Faragallah
“Beautiful phrases and promises made by wartime leaders intent upon persuading men to fight.”

I read this book as I was looking for as a departure from my usual non-fiction reads regarding financial institutions. However I ended up interpreting Schneer’s work as an insight on political maneuverings in times of disruption, not unlike the previous books I read re: Big Banking pre-2008.

Schneer did an excellent job on character development, almost tedious to a point, which made the duplicity of the
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Diana
This was very, very interesting. I knew almost nothing of the Balfour Declaration before reading this book. It was clearly written, easily accessible but still dense enough to convey the importance and complication of how the declaration came to exist. To my view it was mostly neutral in bias, looking at the history of the declaration from multiple angles to see all parties and their expectations, thinking (and sometimes lack of thinking), and most of all the British government's political manip ...more
Abby
This is a superb, well-researched work of historical nonfiction that reads like a thriller. Schneer focuses on the period during WWI when Great Britain was simultaneously encouraging (in fact, stoking) Arab nationalism, Zionist aspirations for a separate state, Turkish control, _and_ an Anglo-Franco-Russian division of the Ottoman Empire. The deceit, treachery, and secret dealings are examined in minute detail and read like a spy novel.

The weakest part of the book is the final chapter. Instead
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Mary
Schneer sorts out the political machinations, mostly during World War I, that produced a redrawn map of the middle east in the 1920s. While it is understandable that British leaders would say anything to end the appalling loss of life on the western front (other than, apparently, 'hey, let's try something different than this trench warfare approach'...), the duplicity (triplicity? quadruplicity?) of pretty much everyone involved in the negotiations is breathtaking.

Schneer explains things clearly
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The American Conservative
'President Barack Obama’s attempts to ally the U.S. with the spirit of Tahrir Square may be Pax Americana’s latest sequel. But as historian Jonathan Schneer clarifies in The Balfour Declaration, striving for hegemony in the Middle East was not an original American production. It was the Brits who wrote the first script for this story.

From the British imperial project in the Middle East in the early 20th century—which is the subject of The Balfour Declaration—to the American hegemonic undertaking
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Phil
Anyone wishing to better understand the intricasies and nuances of the Arab/Jewish debate on Israel would do well to read this book. In fact, if you don't know anything about the conflict in Israel and Palestine, start with this book,

It's very insightful and Schneer, the author, does an exquisite job keeping the myriad key players on the pages as the diplomatic and Machiavellian machinery of the latter British Empire turned its gears to spit out this inevitably complicated situation that we, as
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Jimmy Tarlau
I went to schill (5th through 8th grades) with Jon Schneer who teaches history at Georgia Tech. Jodi and I visited him in Oxford when he was researching the book. This is an excellent history of the 1917 Balfour Declaration which was the first statement by the British that Palestine should be the home of the Jewish people. The book goes through all the ins and outs of Brith World War I foreign policy with the Arabs, the Zionists (and anti-Zionist Jews) and the Turks. Britain promised everybody s ...more
John
I wish the author had gone into Chaim Weizmann's scientific contribution to the WW II effort. A far more complicated story than I would have every imagined. Well worth reading.
Kevin Kizer
Wow...it was a clusterfuck then and it continues to be a clusterfuck today. I realize that's not the most insightful review ever, but that's all I have to say about it at this point. The way it went down was just embarrassing for all parties involved: lies, deceit, empty promises, half-truths, quarter-truths and eight-truths (if that's possible). And a whole lot of anti-semitism, even among those who were pro-Israel (they just stuck to the "positive" stereotypes).
H Wesselius
Excellent fact filled book on the origin of the Balfour Declaration complete with analysis on how this helped sow the Arab-Israel disputes today. When teh reader is finished he or she should have an excellent understanding of how the accidents of history can lead to one conclusion or an other. Schneer makes an excellent case for teh short sighted vision of British policy i.e. to end the war led to long term conflict.
John Roskelley
After reading this book, it's amazing that the Brits have any credibility left, considering how they were so duplicitous in their numerous efforts to satisfy so many varying goals before and during WWI. The main thrust was to explain the modern origins of the Zionist movement to establish Palestine as the country promised to the Jews. There were so many conflicting interests at bay. I recommend reading this!
Allan
A remarkable book which exposes British perfidy in the betrayal of the Palestinian people as well as sowing the discord which bedevils the Middle East to this day. The author does a masterful job of disentangling the many threads of this complex story from the P.M. down. Schneer shows how the myth of hidden Jewish influence led many of the participants into unwise decisions with unsettling consequences.
Jon
Great book. Learned a wealth of new knowledge (for me) about what was transpiring before and during the WWI relative to the countries and peoples involved in the middle east. Reasons for what was being said, to whom, at what time period and the thinking behind it. There are lots of facts behind what is being said in the book. Really helps understand what set up the current stalemate in the Middle East.
Jon-Erik
Some very interesting tidbits here. I would have liked a more thorough discussion of the impact of the Balfour declaration—it's just sort of taken for granted as this momentous thing. I get that. But if we're going to wade into such minutia as this book gets into, it wold be good and fitting, I think to give a congruent amount of detail as to how the Balfour declaration shaped future diplomacy.
Jack
I should have read this book many, many years ago. I find Middle East history to be a very fascinating subject. However, I did not have the foundation for the formation of Israel firmly in my mind. The Balfour Declaration provided me the understanding of Zionism and how WWI led to the Balfour Declaration. A must read for someone needing to understand the Israeli-Arab conflict.
Melissa
Any non-fiction book that begins with a cast of characters defined like a Shakespeare play requires the ability to concentrate! This book was fascinating but required more attention than I could give it as I was moving. Also, the library would not appreciate my taking it to Florida with me so I am forced to check it out again from a different library at a later date.
Richard Homer
This was a difficult read. Hard to keep all the players straight. But was interesting to hear why the middle east is in such turmoil and learn the mentality and thought process of the people in that region. I don't think it has changed in all this time. Their probably will never be a solution to the feelings and fanaticism of the groups that play such a prominent role.
Gerry
The first English version of the Q'uran was not as listed in this otherwise terrific book. Thomas Jefferson bought the first copy brought over much earlier than what this author gives credit toward. That is one simple small matter; overall this book was well researched, very well written, and very easy to read and to follow. It was an academic exercise for me.
Paul
Meticulous, absorbing account of a pivotal document in the history of the modern Middle East. Shows how Britain played multiple, conflicting diplomatic games with Zionists, Arabs and Ottomans as its empire was headed, though that fact was not clear at the time, into terminal decline
Ellen
Okay, finally giving up on this. It is well-written but it is too detailed for what I'm looking for. Not a bad book by any means, not just enjoyable to me. If you want a detailed history of this important event, you should definitely read it.
Carol Bergman
I have also read "A Peace to End All Peace," this book is even more excellent and well written. I read it as a complement to "The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine" in preparation for a dialog with Israelis and Palestinians.
Mary-Jane
Fascinating, detailed, and well-written. This book reads like a story with colourful characters well-described throughout. This would be a good companion book to "Paris 1919", with this book chronologically first.
Ben
Unbiased, very comprehensive, and highly relevant to today. Could have used more maps, but that's not enough to take a whole star away from it.
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Dr. Jonathan Schneer, who received his BA from McGill University in 1971 and his PhD from Columbia University in 1978, is the modern British historian at Georgia Tech in the School of History, Technology, and Society.
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