How Zionist Was Churchill?

Laurent Guyenot reviews Martin Gilbert’s book, Churchill and the Jews: A Lifelong Friendship, Henri Holt & Company, 2007

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Winston Churchill is one of the greatest heroes of Hollywood history, where he is portrayed as a courageous lone voice who rallied the free world against arch-warmonger Adolf Hitler.

Today, a rising chorus of revisionists questions that cartoonish version of events. Patrick Buchanan, one of America’s most notable commentators, argues that Churchill, not Hitler, was the real barbarian warmonger. (Illustrating the point, check out this “debate” between Churchill and Hitler.)

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But if Buchanan and company are right and Churchill did indeed make horrendous mistakes that have had catastrophic consequences for Western civilization and the world in general, on whose behalf was he making them?

In the essay below, Laurent Guyénot, author of JFK-9/11 and the forthcoming From Yahweh to Zion, provides some tentative answers.

Kevin Barrett, Veterans Today Editor


How Zionist was Churchill?

A review of Martin Gilbert’s book, Churchill and the Jews: A Lifelong Friendship, Henri Holt & Company, 2007

by Laurent Guyénot

In 2012, a giant bust of Churchill was inaugurated in Jerusalem in recognition of his staunch and unwavering support of the Jewish cause. Anthony Rosenfelder, a trustee of the Jerusalem Foundation responsible for the project, declared: “As a passionate Zionist all his life and a philo-semite, Churchill has been under-recognised.”

He explained that his understanding of Churchill’s support to the Zionist cause had been enhanced by Martin Gilbert’s book, Churchill and the Jews: A Lifelong Friendship, published in 2007.  “It switched on a light for me,” he said.[1]

It did the very same for me. For those who have not read this highly informative book, I will here summarize the points which seem to me of major importance for understanding the background for the foundation of Israel.

Churchill’s Jewish friends


The first chapters, dealing with Winston’s early years, are of course not the most important. Yet, given Churchill’s later role, it is interesting to learn that: “his father Lord Randolph Churchill was noted for his friendship with individual Jews.”

“The Jews whom his father knew and invited to dine were men of distinction and achievement. One was ‘Natty’ Rothschild, 1st Baron Rothschild, the head of the British branch of the Rothschild banking family, who in 1885 became the first Jew to become a member of the House of Lords. Another was the banker Sir Ernest Cassel, born in Cologne, a close friend of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.”[2]

The Churchills were also close to another Rothschild branch, the family of Leopold Rothschild. After Lord Randolph Churchill’s death in 1895, these wealthy Jews continued their friendship with young Winston: “Lord Rothschild, Sir Ernest Cassel and Baron de Hirsch frequently invited him to their houses.” Cassel, in particular, looked after Churchill’s finances.

When Churchill spent his 1906 summer holiday in Europe, his three hosts were Sir Ernest Cassel in the Swiss Alps, Lionel Rothschild (son of Leopold) in Italy, and Baron de Forest at Castle Eichstatt in Moravia, all Jews. Yet, Churchill’s son Randolph would later write, ironically: “Churchill did not confine his quest for new and interesting personalities and friends to Jewish households. During this period he was sometimes invited into Gentile society.”

Churchill and Weizmann

Among Churchill’s Jewish friends, few can claim to have had more influence on his policy than Chaim Weizmann, the most active Zionist lobbyist during the thirty years preceeding the foundation of the Jewish State, of which Weizmann would become the first President.

Churchill and Weizmann had first met in April 1903, during a protest meeting against Russian pogroms in Manchester. Churchill, then Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies, had spoken “against the appalling massacres and detestable atrocities recently committed in the Empire of Russia.

”During WWI, as First Lord of the Admiralty, Churchill approached Weizmann, a chemist engineer working at the University of Manchester (Churchill’s constituency), asking him to help solve the shortage of acetone, necessary for making cordite, the essential naval explosive. Weizmann worked on this for two years and delivered, which, he would recall in his memoirs, “was to have consequences which I did not foresee.”

In 1917, Weizmann became president of the Zionist Federation of Great Britain, while Churchill was appointed Minister of Munitions, then Secretary of State for War en 1919.

Churchill and Weizmann’s thoughts on Palestine, Churchill once said in 1942, were “99 per cent identical.” Indeed Gilbert shows that, as early as 1919, Churchill often consulted Weizmann in private meetings.

In September 1919, he carried through Weizmann’s suggestion to appoint as the new Chief Administrator of the British military administration General Wyndham Deedes, considered sympathetic to Zionism.

In May 1939, when the new White Paper which was to replace Churchill’s 1922 White Paper was debated in the House of Commons, Churchill invited Weizmann to lunch with him at his London apartment and, as Weizmann recalled in his memoirs, “produced a packet of small cards and read his speech out to us; then he asked me if I had any changes to suggest.”

During WWII, Churchill met Weizmann less regularly, because, he confided to Parliament Member Robert Boothby, “he found him so fascinating that he would spend too much of his time talking to him”. To which Boothby responded: “Weizmann gives a very different reason:  […] he said that the reason you would not see him was because, for you, he was ‘Conscience.’” A very telling expression of Weizmann’s own vision of his influence on Churchill.

On 15 April 1944, Churchill suggested that Weizmann be the new British High Commissioner in Palestine. He said to the Colonial Secretary, Oliver Stanley: “You can depend on Weizmann. He would not take on a job if he did not mean to stick to the conditions which would have to be imposed.”

Buy on Amazon.com – Drawing on a wide range of archives and private papers, speeches, newspaper coverage, and wartime correspondence, Churchill’s official biographer, Sir Martin Gilbert, explores the origins, implications, and results of Churchill’s determined commitment to European Jewish rights, opening a window on the politician’s life and career.

Churchill’s Balfour Declaration

It was only after the foundation of Israel that Churchill made his coming-out as “an old Zionist.” “As a Zionist from the days of the Balfour Declaration, I have watched with admiration the courageous effort of Israel to establish her independence and prosperity,” he declared at Carnegie Hall in New York on 29 April 1952 on the fourth anniversary of the independence of Israel, in a message read by his daughter. “I am, of course, a Zionist, and have been ever since the Balfour Declaration,” he wrote to US President Eisenhower in 1956.

These were not mere opportunistic claims, aimed at securing for himself a place in Jewish sacred history. To understand Churchill’s involvement in Zionist policy is to understand how the letter written by Foreign Minister Arthur Balfour to Lord Lionel Walter Rothschild on November 2, 1917 (the year Weizmann became president of the Zionist Federation of Great Britain), known somewhat deceptively as “the Balfour Declaration”, became such a cornerstone of that policy.

The terms of Balfour’s letter, resulting from tense preliminary discussions with the Zionists, were deliberately ambiguous: the British government, Balfour wrote, “view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.” What that meant had always been understood in different ways. On the one side, there were those who claimed, like Prime Minister Lloyd George in 1938, that the idea was “some form of British, American or other protectorate to give Jews a real center of national culture.”[3]

On the opposite side were those who insisted that a “national home” could only mean a state. Churchill’s unwavering goal has been to enforce the second interpration. And he had not hesitation at saying loud what others would have preferred to keep implicit: that the pledge to support the Zionist agenda had been made in exchange for the Zionists’ commitment to mobilize public opinion in the United States in favor of America joining the war. Since the Zionists had fulfilled their part of the deal, Churchill insisted, Great Britain was obliged to fulfill hers.

He declared during the House of Commons debate on the Palestine Mandate, on July 4, 1922:

“Pledges and promises were made during the War, and they were made not only on the merits, though I think the merits are considerable. They were made because it was considered they would be of value to us in our struggle to win the War. It was considered that the support which the Jews could give us all over the world, and particularly in the United States, and also in Russia, would be a definite palpable advantage.”

When on March 12, 1937, Churchill was called before the Palestine Royal Commission, headed by Lord Peel and known as the Peel Commission, he repeated the argument:

“I insist upon loyalty and upon the good faith of England to the Jews, to which I attach the most enormous importance, because we gained great advantages in the War. We did not adopt Zionism entirely out of altruistic love of starting a Zionist colony: it was a matter of great importance to this country. It was a potent factor on public opinion in America and we are bound by honour…”

Churchill further explained that he had always believed that the intention of the Balfour Declaration was that Palestine might in the course of time become “an overwhelmingly Jewish State.”[4]

In a memorandum that he wrote for the War Cabinet on Christmas Day 1939, Churchill expressed his opposition to the restrictions on Jewish immigration to Palestine by reminding his Cabinet colleagues that:

“it was not for light or sentimental reasons that Lord Balfour and the Government of 1917 made the promises to the Zionists which have been the cause of so much subsequent discussion. The influence of American Jewry was rated then as a factor of the highest importance, and we did not feel ourselves in such a strong position as to be able to treat it with indifference.”

With a Presidential election only a year away, Churchill went on to say, “and when the future is full of measureless uncertainties, I should have thought it was more necessary, even than in November 1917, to conciliate American Jewry and enlist their aid in combating isolationist and indeed anti-British tendencies in the United States.”

Churchill’s Zionist policy

In 1921 Churchill was appointed Secretary of State for the Colonies, with special responsibility for Britain’s two Mandates, Palestine and Mesopotamia (Iraq). That is when, according to Gilbert, “Churchill’s own efforts to help establish a Jewish national home in Palestine were at their most intense.”[5] Churchill was instrumental in obtaining from Hussein’s eldest son, Emir Feisal, that he abandon all claims on Palestine.

Thirty-four years later, in 1955 his friend James de Rothschild, recalling “our stay in Jerusalem in 1921”, he wrote:

“you laid the foundation of the Jewish State by separating Abdullah’s Kingdom from the rest of Palestine. Without this much-opposed prophetic foresight there would not have been an Israel today.”

In 1922, Churchill issued a White Paper which was ostensibly meant to reassure the Arabs, whose apprehensions, it said, “are partly based upon exaggerated interpretations of the meaning of the [Balfour] Declaration. By “a Jewish National Home in Palestine,” the Declaration “does not mean a Jewish government to dominate Arabs. […] We cannot tolerate the expropriation of one set of people by another.” Yet that White Paper imposed no limitation to Jewish immigration in Palestine, nor to the purchase of lands by Jews, which were the great concerns of the Arabs. It simply said, in terms alarmingly vague:

“For the fulfilment of this policy it is necessary that the Jewish community in Palestine should be able to increase its numbers by immigration. This immigration cannot be so great in volume as to exceed whatever may be the economic capacity of the country at the time to absorb new arrivals. It is essential to ensure that the immigrants should not be a burden upon the people of Palestine as a whole, and that they should not deprive any section of the present population of their employment. Hitherto the immigration has fulfilled these conditions.”

Moreover, if Churchill’s White Paper said that Jews will not rule over Arabs, it could be understood to mean that they will rule in a land free of Arabs. It was, therefore, “Carte Blanche” for the Zionist plan.

In 1939, a new Labour majority undermined Churchill’s influence in Parliament. A new White Paper was voted for by a large majority, which limited Jewish immigration to 75,000 for the next five years, with the stated purpose of preserving an Arab majority in Palestine. This was a serious reversal of policy regarding Zionism: the 1939 White Paper was unequivocally against letting Palestine become a Jewish State. This provoked not only a strong protest from Ben-Gurion’s Jewish Agency, but also the mobilization of military groups (Haganah, and its offshoot the Irgun) against the British authorities in Palestine.[6]

Churchill fought relentlessly against this 1939 White Paper, which he regarded as a betrayal of Great Britain’s commitment to the Balfour Declaration. During a debate in the House of Commons on 1 August 1949, he would say:

“I have never altered my opinion that the White Paper constituted a negation of Zionist policy which, the House must remember, was an integral and indispensable condition of the Mandate. That is the view which I hold today.”

In Gilbert’s words, Churchill “refused to allow the 1939 White Paper, despite its passage into law by an overwhelming majority of Members of Parliament, to come into effect. This was certainly unconstitutional.” In a secret memorandum dated 19 May 1941, Churchill expressed his hope for the establishment after the war of a “Jewish State of Western Palestine” with the fullest rights for immigration and development, and with provision “for expansion in the desert regions to the southwards which they would gradually reclaim.”[7]

In December 1939, as Weizmann was planning a trip to the USA, the Foreign Office sent a telegram to the British Ambassador in the USA, Lord Lothian, reiterating the guidelines of the new White Paper. Churchill protested to his War Cabinet colleagues that this would undermine Weizmann’s mission to mobilize American Jewry in favour of the war:

“I am sure that it is his whole desire to bring United States opinion as far as he possibly can on to our side, but the line indicated in the draft telegram may well make his task impossible, and he will find himself confronted with the active resentment of American Jewry. Their anger may become public and be readily exploited by all unfavourable elements in the United States. This may do us great harm there; and when the repercussions of this outcry reach this country the Government will have to face a debate in the House of Commons which will be not only embarrassing, but dangerous and damaging to our common interest.”

Churchill and Weizmann had, obviously, decided to reiterate the winning strategy of the deal which led to the Balfour Declaration. On 10 September 1941, Weizmann wrote to Churchill (in a letter not mentioned by Gilbert):

“I have spent months in America, traveling up and down the country […]. There is only one big ethnic group which is willing to stand, to a man, for Great Britain, and a policy of ‘all-out-aid’ for her: the five million American Jews. […] It has been repeatedly acknowledged by British Statesmen that it was the Jews who, in the last war, effectively helped to tip the scales in America in favour of Great Britain. They are keen to do it—and may do it—again.” [8]

Weizmann went on to suggest the formation of an official “Jewish Army” among the Allied troops. This “Jewish Army” had been an idea of Vladimir Jabotinsky for WWI, which he renewed in his 1940 book The War and the Jew.[9] The purpose, of course, was to use this official Jewish army after the war as an argument for the foundation of Israel, for whoever has an army must necessarily have a state.

In 1930, Jabotinsky had been imprisoned then banished from Palestine by the British for the illegal militaristic activity of his “Zionist Revisionist” movement. This did not prevent Churchill from meeting Jabotinsky at James de Rothschild’s Waddesdon Manor in July 1937. Churchill would endorse Jobotinsky and Weizmann’s idea of enlisting a Jewish regiment for the war.

In September 1939, after Neville Chamberlain appointed Churchill First Lord of the Admiralty, Churchill dined with Weizmann dined and asked him to prepare “a list of requirements” with regard to the participation of the Palestinian Jews in the British war effort. Weizmann said that 75,000 young Jewish men and women were ready to fight as part of the British armed forces. Churchill proposed to arm them, but his proposal was rejected by the War Cabinet.

In 1940, Churchill was again supportive of Weizmann’s proposal for a Jewish division of about 12,000 men, with its own insignia and flag. In February of that same year, he told the War Cabinet that “the sound policy for Great Britain at the beginning of the war would have been to build up, as soon as possible, a strong Jewish armed force in Palestine.” In this way, he explained, the Jews would “be capable of providing for their own defence” against the Arabs.

In 1945, Churchill was defeated by a Labour majority. The new Prime Minister, Clement Attlee, appointed Ernest Bevin as Foreign Secretary, a man not well disposed toward Zionism. Churchill understood that the British new government will stick by the 1939 White Paper, and that the hopes of Zionism now rest on the USA.

He then took a stand for the UK to give up on “a responsibility which we are failing to discharge and which in the process is covering us with blood and shame,” and to return the Mandate to the United Nations.

This the British Labour Government did on January 31, 1947. As soon as the British handed the Mandate back to the UN, the Zionists declared the founding of the State of Israel, immediately recognized by the US and the Soviet Union.

Churchill then attacked the British Government’s continual refusal to recognize the State of Israel. Speaking in the House of Commons on 10 December, he said:

“The Jews have driven the Arabs out of a larger area than was contemplated in our partition schemes. They have established a Government which functions effectively. They have a victorious army at their disposal and they have the support both of Soviet Russia and of the United States. These may be unpleasant facts, but can they be in any way disputed? Not as I have stated them. It seems to me that the Government of Israel which has been set up at Tel Aviv cannot be ignored and treated as if it did not exist.”

In 1955, Churchill supported a suggestion by James de Rothschild that Israel, the nation that had ousted Great Britan from Palestine by terrorism in order to gain its independence, should now be admitted to the British Commonwealth: “It would be a wonderful thing”, he said during a lunch at Buckingham Palace.  “So many people want to leave us; it might be the turning of the tide.”

He also supported the desire of the Jews to have Jerusalem as their capital, although the United Nations had ruled that it should be an international city. He even became one of the very few non-Jewish subscribers for a large ornamental candelabra in front of the new parliament building in Jerusalem.


Resources:

  • [1] Catrina Stewart, “Sir Winston Churchill: Zionist hero,” The Independent Online, November 3, 2012, www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/sir-winston-churchill-zionist-hero-8277918.html
  • [2] Unless stated otherwise, all quotes are from Martin Gilbert, Churchill and the Jews: A Lifelong Friendship, Henri Holt & Company, 2007, kindle edition.
  • [3] Alfred Lilienthal, What Price Israel? (1953), Infinity Publishing, 2003, p. 21, 18.
  • [4] Martin Gilbert, “Winston Churchill and the foundation of Israel,” May 2, 2016, www.martingilbert.com/blog/winston-churchill-and-the-foundation-of-israel/
  • [5] Martin Gilbert, “Winston Churchill and the foundation of Israel,” May 2, 2016, www.martingilbert.com/blog/winston-churchill-and-the-foundation-of-israel/
  • [6] Alan Hart, Zionism, vol. 1, op. cit., p. 115-116, 155-159.
  • [7] Martin Gilbert, “Winston Churchill and the foundation of Israel,” May 2, 2016, www.martingilbert.com/blog/winston-churchill-and-the-foundation-of-israel/
  • [8] David Irving, Churchills War, vol. 2: Triumph in Adversity, Focal Point Publications, 2001, p. 76-77.
  • [9] Vladimir Jabotinsky, The War and the Jew, Dial Press, 1942 (archive.org).


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2 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you for what you brought here .

    the ” Jews ” had overwhelmed the British by the time Oliver Cromwell came around , so IF the Monarchy had resisted giving away Palestine to the ” Jews ” then the Monarchy itself would have been outdated by a ” British Spring ” ……. get it ?

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