THE HIGH WALLS OF JERUSALEM: A History of the Balfour Declaration and the Birth of the British Mandate for Palestine by Ronald Sanders

THE HIGH WALLS OF JERUSALEM: A History of the Balfour Declaration and the Birth of the British Mandate for Palestine

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The antecedents, the circumstances, and the aftermath of the 1917 Balfour Declaration pledging British support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine: examined in sometimes numbing, sometimes absorbing detail. Sanders is a specialist in Jewish-related subjects--from Lost Tribes and Promised Lands (1978), about Jews-and-Indians, to The Days Grow Short (1980), about Kurt Weill; and readers' reactions are likely to vary accordingly. In two preliminary chapters, Sanders reviews: 1) pre-WW I British interest in a Jewish revival in Palestine, and its roots in expedience (the British wanted a colonial minority to protect, and they didn't want lots of persecuted Jews migrating to Britain); 2) Herzl's troubled relations with British Jews--through rejection of the East Africa solution. Thereafter, one chapter details Turkey's entry into WW I--throwing open the question of all the Near Eastern minorities; and the next details Jewish cabinet-member Herbert Samuels' interview with foreign secretary Edward Grey, in which Samuels raised the question of a Jewish state. (Having tried and failed to discover Samuels' precise motivations: ""We may pause a moment to consider the scene in the palatial corner room. . . ."") Samuels also sounds out chancellor of the Exchequer Lloyd George, ""describing Palestine as 'a country the size of Wales' ""; and so we pass along to the history of Lloyd George, and his complex attitude toward the Jews. Lloyd George, in turn, meets with his Liberal ally, the editor of the Manchester Guardian--who ""had recently made the acquaintance of Dr. Chaim Weizmann, reader in biochemistry of the university there and by this time, ten years after he had settled in the country, one of the prominent leaders of the Zionist movement in England."" These sorts of connections are and are not history; or, an aspect of history, but not the whole. What Sanders does do more fully than anyone heretofore is to give parallel accounts of the fighting in the Near East and the behind-the-scenes maneuvers and shifting alliances. In the follow-through, he stresses comity between top-level Jews and Arabs (""as Semitic cousins""), vs. growing friction between Jews and Arabs in Palestine itself--a harbinger, though hardly a new thought. For devotees of personality and color in a historical chronicle; others may wish to wait for the third volume of David Vital's history of Zionism, which will deal with the Balfour Declaration.

Pub Date: Jan. 23rd, 1983
Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston