Balfour: The Last Grandee

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He held office longer than any other Cabinet minister and dealt with successes and defeats with similar equanimity during his year career. Balfour was a Conservative but never a true-blue Tory like the powerful squirearchy who viewed him with awe but often found him difficult to understand. He was in fact many different things: a Scottish laird and an English sophisticate; a ferocious partisan and a celebrated philosopher; a champion of Christianity yet a defender of spiritualism; an Imperialist and a Zionist; an Etonian and a reformer of state education.

The leading figure in that drama was a charismatic chemistry professor from Manchester, Chaim Weizmann — with his domed head, goatee beard and fierce intellect.

Adored Gazelle

But talking about the return of the Jews to the land of Israel was only meaningful because that land seemed up for grabs after the Ottoman Empire sided with Germany in The Ottoman army, however, proved no walkover. Although Baghdad fell in March , two British assaults on Gaza that spring were humiliatingly driven back, with heavy losses.

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All this is easy to forget because the creeping barrage of British centenary commemorations has been focused on the Western Front. In this prescribed narrative of remembrance for , what happened outside the Western Front has been almost entirely obscured. The collection covers not only Palestine and Mesopotamia roughly modern-day Iraq and Kuwait , but also Italy, Africa, Russia, Turkey and the Pacific — indeed much of the world — but sadly it is not currently available to the public.

Together with producer Mark Burman, I visited some of the war sites and monuments from Beersheba in the south, on the edge of the Negev desert, to the Jaffa Gate into the Old City of Jerusalem.

So Lloyd George looked east, seeking an eye-catching victory in Palestine to boost morale at home and advance British influence in the region. Before Allenby left Britain to take up his new command, the prime minister delivered a brisk pep talk.

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If you do ask and you do not get what you need, it will be ours. He moved his HQ from Cairo to nearer the front line south of Gaza, so that he could keep a closer eye on troops and commanders, and he also upgraded supply lines up the coast from Egypt, especially the railway and the water pipeline. He trained his troops to use their initiative, rather than following orders to the letter, and kept units on their toes with surprise visits. This was one reason why Balfour and his colleagues finally got to grips with the Zionist agenda.

Arthur James Balfour

Britain would govern Palestine not for its own benefit but as a protectorate that allowed the Chosen People to return to the Promised Land. British endorsement of Zionism was expected to strengthen support for the war in both Russia and America where, it was hoped, pro-Zionist Jews could help swing political and public opinion. Balfour and Lloyd George would have been happy with an unvarnished endorsement of Zionism.

But when this draft finally came before the war cabinet for discussion on 4 October, it ran into fierce opposition from two very different angles. Edwin Montagu, newly appointed as secretary of state for India, was only the third practising Jew to hold cabinet office. The other critic of the proposed Declaration was Lord Curzon, a former viceroy of India, who therefore viewed Palestine within the geopolitics of Asia.

Arthur James Balfour | Library of Congress

A grandee who traced his lineage back to the Norman Conquest, Curzon loftily informed colleagues that the Promised Land was not exactly flowing with milk and honey, but nor was it an empty, uninhabited space. He stated, from his recollection of Palestine, that the country was, for the most part, barren and desolate … a less propitious seat for the future Jewish race could not be imagined. By now the strident Montagu had left for India, and on this occasion Balfour, who could often be moody and detached, led from the front, brushing aside the objections that had been raised and reasserting the propaganda imperative.

If we could make a declaration favourable to such an ideal, we should be able to carry on extremely useful propaganda both in Russia and America.

And this time Curzon did not, though he did make another telling comment. No one, however, paid much attention. Lloyd George and Balfour had secured the endorsement of Zionism they wanted, but in the form of a typical cabinet compromise, characterised by verbal dexterity rather than intellectual clarity. The two conditions had bought off the two main critics. Thelma Balfour, An African-American perspective on astrology is tailored to the experience, interests, and culture of the African-American community, offering profiles of each sign as well as lighthearted advice on an array of subjects.


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A scion of two great families, Arthur James Balfour was born to wealth and privilege and possessed intellect and charm in legendary abundance. Ralph James Q.

Adams, Green, Sharon Kendrick, The first full analysis of the international thought of the British statesman A. Balfour Jason Tomes, Jonathan Schneer explores the story behind the declaration and its unforeseen consequences that have shaped the modern world, placing it in context paying attention to the fascinating characters who conceived, opposed and plotted around it Jonathan Schneer, Reviews all important primary and secondary sources by and about Balfour, a British statesman.

Eugene L.