By DOUGLAS DAVIS
LONDON (January 12) - Leopold Amery, the author of the Balfour Declaration - the 1917 document from British foreign secretary Arthur Balfour to Lord Rothschild which laid the groundwork for the establishment of the State of Israel - was a secret Jew.
This has been disclosed in just-published research by William Rubinstein, professor of modern history at the University of Wales, who says Amery hid his Jewish background.
Ironically, one of Amery's sons, John, achieved infamy when he defected to Nazi Germany and was hanged for treason in London after World War II. The other son, Julian, succeeded his father as a member of Parliament and was a staunch supporter of Israel. He died two years ago.
In his 1955 autobiography, Amery, who was assistant secretary to the British war cabinet in 1917, said his own father, Charles Frederick Amery, came from an old English family.
His mother, Elisabeth Leitner Amery, he wrote, was part of a stream of Hungarian exiles who fled first to Constantinople and then to England.
According to Rubinstein's research, Amery's mother was born to Jewish parents in 1841 and was named Elisabeth Joanna Saphir. The family lived in Pest, which later became part of Budapest and contained the city's first Jewish quarter.
Both of her parents were Jewish, says Rubinstein, who adds that Amery himself changed his middle name from Moritz to Maurice in an attempt to disguise its origins.
As assistant secretary to the war cabinet, Amery not only drafted the Balfour Declaration, but also was responsible for establishing the Jewish Legion, the first organized Jewish fighting force since Roman times, which proved to be the forerunner of the modern Israel Defense Forces.
Later, as secretary of state for dominion affairs from 1925 to 1929, he spearheaded what many regard as the most impressive period of peaceful growth in pre-state Palestine.
But his most significant contribution to British politics was a powerful speech in parliament which is thought to have played a key role in precipitating the departure of prime minister Joseph Chamberlain in 1940 and the accession to power of Winston Churchill, who was to lead Britain through World War II.
Rubinstein, whose disclosures are contained in the February edition of History Today, describes Amery's deception as "possibly the most remarkable example of concealment of identity in 20th century British political history."
Rubinstein, who suspects that both of Amery's sons knew of their Jewish origins, believes Leopold Amery decided to conceal his own Jewishness for fear of persecution, because he was confused about his status following his relatives' conversion to Protestantism, and because of the obstacles it might have posed at the time to his political ambitions.
Finally, Rubinstein believes Amery might have hidden his origins
to avoid pressure for favors from the Jewish