Sir Mark Sykes: British diplomat and a convert to Zionism

Sir Mark Sykes is probably best known for being the joint author of the Sykes-Picot Agreement, an Anglo-French plan to deal with the Middle East after 1918. His life-span was only forty years – he died in February 1919 while attending the Paris Peace Conference – but he was involved in several key issues relating to Britain’s Middle Eastern policy. He was, in fact, said to be the first in Britain to use the term ‘Middle East’.1 His influence on British policy in that region was formidable, but what is not fully appreciated even in some Jewish circles is that he became a strong supporter of Zionism and was deeply involved in the diplomacy that led to the Balfour Declaration.

Sykes has received mixed fortune from the many historians who overlook his support and sympathy for Zionism. Although the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography carries a long account of his

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