Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A new book by Martin Gilbert claims that Churchill, contrary to common opinion, was a fierce supporter of Zionism who spoke and acted against antisemitism insistently and consistently. Some of Churchill's quotes cited by Gilbert could be made today with perfect acuity, which is sort of depressing.


Anti-Semitism was anathema to Churchill. In a letter to his mother he described the French anti-Semitic campaign against Dreyfus as ‘a monstrous conspiracy’. His main criticism of the Conservative government’s Aliens Bill in 1904 was that the proposed immigration controls could be abused by an ‘anti-Semitic Home Secretary’.

When, in the House of Commons in 1921, Churchill spoke in favour of Jewish land purchase in Palestine, a fellow Member of Parliament warned him that, as a result of his advocacy, he would find himself up ‘against the hereditary antipathy which exists all over the world to the Jewish race’. This was indeed so: in 1940 a senior Conservative gave as one reason for Churchill’s unsuitability to be prime minister his ‘pro-Zionist’ stance in Cabinet, protesting against the Chamberlain government’s restrictions on Jewish land purchase.

During the second world war, Churchill suggested the removal of ‘anti-Semitic officers’ from high positions in the Middle East. This led one of those officers, his friend General Sir Edward Spears, a Liberal MP, to warn me, as Churchill biographer, that ‘Churchill was too fond of Jews’.

Following the Jewish terrorist bombing of the King David Hotel in 1946, at a time of strong anti-Jewish feeling in Britain, Churchill told the House of Commons: ‘
I am against preventing Jews from doing anything which other people are allowed to do. I am against that, and I have the strongest abhorrence of the idea of anti-Semitic lines of prejudice.’


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