The Hidden History of the Balfour Declaration


“This book is a magnificent achievement. It tells the untold story as fully, as accurately, and as authoritatively as it is ever likely to be told. The narrative is gripping. It reads like a detective novel of the whodunit variety” —– Avi Shlaim

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About the Book

Contained on a single page, the Balfour Declaration was sent by Arthur Balfour, the British Foreign Secretary, to Lord Rothschild, a leader of the British Jewish community, in November 1917. It read, in part, “His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”

This brief missive was to be critical in determining the history of the Middle East, from the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 to the present day. And yet, despite its importance, the true origins of the Declaration remain obscure.

The Declaration, Sahar Huneidi observes, was a work of carefully crafted ambiguity. It was this deliberate openness that allowed the British government, years later, to reshape its meaning, and even the history of its drafting, to support specific foreign policy ends. This process, Huneidi argues, was facilitated by a subsequent document: a little-known, handwritten memo by the Under-Secretary of the Colonial Office, William Ormsby-Gore, recounting from memory discussions surrounding the Declaration’s drafting.

Employing careful detective work and a rich knowledge of the subject matter, Huneidi reveals how, faced with a paucity of official records, Ormsby-Gore’s account became the basis for a decision on Palestine that had devastating consequences for the stability of the region. This concise, eloquent book provides a vivid case study of the rewriting and repurposing of history, and compellingly recontextualizes the ongoing struggles of Israel–Palestine.

246 pages • Paperback ISBN 978-1-682191-45-3 • E-book 978-1-682191-46-0

About the Author

sahar huneidi author photo

Sahar Huneidi has a BA in Political Science from the American University of Beirut, and a Ph.D. from the University of Manchester, where her thesis formed the basis of her subsequent published work on Herbert Samuel. She has contributed numerous articles to academic journals and has edited studies on Israel/Palestine. She has also received diploma certificates in art history from Christie’s Education. She is the director of East & West Publishing and lives mainly in London.

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