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Report: Balfour Author Was a Jew

January 12, 1999

LONDON (AP) _ The British author of a key international document that paved the way for the foundation of Israel covered up his own Jewish ancestry, a historian says.

Leopold Amery, a British lawmaker who drafted the Balfour Declaration, changed his middle name from Moritz to Maurice in an apparent effort to hide the fact his mother was a Jew, Professor William Rubinstein of the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, writes in the current issue of History Today magazine.

As assistant secretary to the war cabinet in 1917, Amery drafted a letter for Lord Balfour, the foreign secretary, expressing Britain’s support for ``the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.″

The Balfour Declaration was endorsed by the Allied powers and included in the British mandate over Palestine, which was approved by the League of Nations in 1922.

In his autobiography ``My Political Life,″ which was published shortly before his death in 1955, Amery said only that his mother had fled Hungary after 1848. He said his father came from an old English family.

Rubinstein said Amery’s mother was Elizabeth Johanna Saphir and was of purely Jewish descent.

``It is an extraordinary secret, possibly the most remarkable example of concealment of identity in 20th-century British political history,″ Rubinstein said.

One of Amery’s sons, John, was a fascist who was hanged for treason in London during World War II. Another son, Julian, was a longtime Conservative member of Parliament who died in 1996.

Rubinstein speculated that Amery may have covered up his Jewish ancestry to avoid harassment at school, or to avoid being pressured by Jewish interests as a member of Parliament.

``Most men _ especially those in public life _ who are hiding their Jewish ancestry would take pains to distance themselves as far as possible from Jewish issues,″ Rubinstein said. ``Many might have become anti-Semites. But most remarkably, Amery behaved in precisely the opposite manner.″

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