|Balfour, Churchill and the Rewriting of Israel's History|
As can be expected, these and similar events have intended to rewrite the history of the founding of Israel. In fact, efforts to rewrite the history have been associated with the so-called New Historians, a group of Israeli historians which included Benny Morris, Ilan Pappe and Avi Shlaim. Palestinian scholars have welcomed the Israeli academics because it legitimized their own narrative. The War for Palestine: Rewriting the History of 1948, published in 2001, was a case in point. The book included a chapter by Rashid Khalidi "The Palestinians and 1948: the causes of failure"; Benny Morris "Revisiting the Palestinian exodus of 1948"; Avi Shlaim "Israel and the Arab coalition in 1948"; and chapters by Laila Parsons; Eugene Rogan; Charles Tripp; Fawaz Gerges; Joshua Landis; and Edward Said wrote the "Afterword: the consequences of the 1948 war".
The book synopsis highlighted the contribution of the Israelis. "Since the late 1980s, however, a group of 'new historians' or revisionist Israeli historians have challenged many of the claims surrounding the birth of the State of Israel and the first Arab-Israeli war. The present volume was conceived as a contribution to the ongoing debate about 1948. The War for Palestine brings together leading Israeli new historians with prominent Arab and Western scholars of the Middle East who revisit 1948 from the perspective of each of the countries involved in the war. The resulting volume offers new material and new insights that add to our understanding of the historical roots of the Arab-Israeli conflict."
In a review of the book, Prof. Efraim Karsh noted that by Rewriting the history of 1948, the "Israeli academics and journalists who call themselves the 'New Historians' have been pushing this theme since the late 1980s... adds little new or original to these efforts except that they have invited some sympathetic Arabists and Arab academics, including Edward Said and Rashid Khalidi, to join in their efforts. The contributors whitewash the violent Palestinian attempt to abort the United Nations resolution of November 1947. They downplay the pan-Arab invasion of the newly-established state of Israel in May 1948." Khalidi speaks on the Arab side: "the Palestinian people were victims, regardless of what they might have done differently in this situation of formidable difficulty, and of the sins of omission or commission of their leaders." According to Karsh, "Khalidi and Said make no use whatsoever of archival source material and instead engage in sweeping and misconceived assertions about the origin and scope of the Palestinian exodus; others, such as Rogan and Fawaz Gerges, quote the odd docum'ent in support of their case." Avi Shlaim claims to have "overturned the myth of the Arab Goliath" during the 1948 War "but there is nothing here from the archives of the Israeli Defense Forces or its pre-state precursor, the Haganah. Benny Morris makes the IDF and Haganah foremost culprits of the Palestinian exodus but has not consulted the archives of these two military organizations." Karsh quoted Morris as saying, "when writing The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem 1947-1949 in the mid-1980s, I had no access to the materials in the IDFA [IDF Archive] or the Haganah Archive and precious little to first-hand military materials deposited elsewhere. Nonetheless, the new materials I have seen over the past few years tend to confirm and reinforce the major lines of description and analysis, and the conclusions, in The Birth and in a subsequent volume, 1948 and After, published in 1990." Karsh didn't mince words, "Morris inadvertently reveals the falsehood of 'new historian' scholarly pretensions. This group insists on tracing its origin to the opening of Israeli state archives in the late 1980s but now its foremost member admits to having written the single most influential 'revisionist' work without the use of the most important archives". Karsh mocked Morris who "made no use of the Israeli archives due to his own ignorance," after Morris admitted to "some of the material relating to the [Palestinian exodus] may have been open to researchers in the early and mid-1980s, when The Birth was written, but I was not then aware of its existence."
Likewise, Shlomo Sand, another revisionist, stated that "Winston Churchill is said to have stated that 'An anti-Semite is one who hates the Jews more than is necessary'." Sand admits there was no proof it was Churchill," but according to Avi Shlaim it was Isaiah Berlin who coined the term: "What is anti-Semitism? Isaiah Berlin defined an anti-Semite as 'someone who hates Jews more than is strictly necessary!'" Sand attributed to Churchill another statement, "It is, however, true that he wrote about Jews in 1937, that 'they are inviting persecution...they have been partly responsible for the antagonism from which they suffer…The central fact which dominates the relations of Jew and non-Jew is that the Jew is 'different'. He looks different. He thinks differently'". But according to Churchill's official biographer Sir Martin Gilbert, it was not Churchill who wrote this but Adam Marshall Diston, the author of "How the Jews Can Combat Persecution." Churchill briefly employed Diston to write rough drafts for the popular press. Diston's membership in Sir Oswald Mosley's fascist party suggests his sentiments. However, Gilbert noted that Churchill refused to have Diston's article published because it was not his work and did not reflect his views, as Diston has too drastically departed from the guidelines Churchill had sent him earlier. Churchill's assistant wrote a note, "Mr.Churchill thinks it would be inadvisable to publish the article."
Such disregard for facts among the pro-Palestinian academics should not be surprising. They assert that the "official" version of events is part of the "hegemonic" narrative of history, which gives more weight to the Jews and other "hegemons" at the expense of the indigenous populations such as the Palestinians. Hence, they feel obligated to "correct" the record, notably by distorting history and pushing outlandish interpretations of other facts. Regrettably, this radical revisionism has created a narrative in the study of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict whereby the "Jews cannot do anything right and the Palestinians cannot do anything wrong."
A network for Jewish members of the Labour Party
Three Major Conferences on the Centenary of Balfour Declaration and its Consequences
Liverpool Friends of Palestine, Liverpool
Liverpool, Saturday 21st October 2017 10am – 4.15pm (arrive from 9.30am for prompt start)
Joint National Education Union – NUT Section and Palestine Solidarity Campaign Conference
London, Saturday 7 October 201, 10am-4.30pm
Middle East Monitor
London, Saturday 7th October 2017, 09:30 – 17:30
1. Britain and Palestine 1917-2017 One hundred years of broken promises
Liverpool: Saturday 21st October 2017 10am – 4.15pm (arrive from 9.30am for prompt start)
This free conference in the heart of Liverpool will explore the history and lasting legacy of Britain’s role in Palestine / Israel since the Balfour Declaration of 1917. It will be for all those who would like to know more about Britain’s role, both in its promised support for a national home for Jews on land belonging to the Palestinian people, and in how we arrived at the current tragic situation. Everyone is welcome.
Venue: Quaker Meeting House School Lane, L1 3BT (Tel: 0151 709 6957) (about 6 minutes walk from Lime Street Station)
Ilan Pappe Israeli citizen, historian, Professor at Exeter University, Director of the European Centre
for Palestine Studies, author of many books on Palestine
Ben Jamal British born Palestinian, Director of Palestine Solidarity Campaign
David Cronin Journalist, Deputy Editor of Electronic Intifada and author of “Balfour’s Shadow” (2017)
Chair: The Very Revd. Nicholas Frayling
Rector of Liverpool 1987-2002, Dean Emeritus of Chichester and Trustee of the Balfour Project
There will be a bookstall courtesy of News from Nowhere and other stalls. Coffee, tea, biscuits and lunch provided for which donations will be welcome.
Liverpool Friends of Palestine have organised a major day conference under this title on Saturday, October 21st at the Quaker Meeting House in central Liverpool. We have some very experienced and knowledgeable experts who will speak during the morning and then participate in the discussions and decisions of the afternoon.
Ilan Pappe is one of the foremost Israeli “new historians” who have gone to Israeli government docu'ments to trace the events during the tumultuous years leading up to and following the foundation of the State of Israel. His conclusions and activism caused him to leave his native Israel to become a professor at Exeter University where he is also the Director of the European Centre of Palestine Studies. He is a prolific author of both books and articles.
Ben Jamal is partly from Palestinian descent, son of an Anglican priest, his great uncle having been the secretary to a year-long delegation lobbying Churchill for justice as early as 1921, which was ultimately unsuccessful. Ben is a leading activist for Palestinian rights in this country.
David Cronin, Irish in origin, is a journalist specialising in European politics. He is an associate editor of the on-line Electronic Intifada and author of several books including his latest – “Balfour’s Shadow – a Century of Support for Zionism and Israel”.
Chair for the day is an Anglican clergyman well-known in Liverpool, The Very Rev. Nicholas Frayling, who went on from the church of Our Lady and St. Nicholas on the waterfront to become Dean of Chichester Cathedral. Now retired, he is a member and trustee of The Balfour Project, founded “to promote justice, security and peace for both Israelis and Palestinians”.
This conference has been planned to mark the centenary of the Balfour Declaration which was the statement issued by the then British Foreign Secretary, Arthur Balfour, promising to ‘view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people’. It went on to say, ‘it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine’. The Declaration was the start of the process which led to the founding of the State of Israel and a continuing disaster for the Palestinian people. Britain’s responsibility is onerous and unfulfilled.
We hope the conference will be of interest to all who want to know more about this little- known period and place of our colonial history; to those who know about Britain’s crucial role during those years of colonial rule and are therefore concerned at the failure to bring about the justice that was promised to the Palestinian people; and to those who want to discuss ways forward in what appears such an intractable conflict. After listening to the speakers in the morning we shall break into smaller discussion groups in the afternoon so all who attend will have an opportunity to input their ideas and concerns. Finally we shall reconvene in plenary, when we hope that it will be possible to formulate an agreed list of positive proposals about the way forward.
Liverpool Friends of Palestine look forward to you for a stimulating and thought-provoking day on 21st October.
2. Balfour and Palestine – 100 years of British responsibility
Joint National Education Union – NUT Section and Palestine Solidarity Campaign Conference
London Saturday 7 October 2017
Hamilton House, Mabledon Place, London WC1H 9BB
This year PSC is working with a range of partners including key Palestinian community organisations to mark the centenary of the Balfour Declaration. We are organising a conference on the 7th October, and a national march and rally in central London on Saturday the 4th November, to raise public awareness of Britain’s central role in the dispossession of the Palestinian people, and for Britain to fulfil its role and responsibilities as a key member of the international community. Britain has a particular responsibility for ensuring that Palestinian human rights are protected and respected.
For the past 100 years Palestinian rights have been disregarded. As we approach the centenary of the Balfour Declaration – on the 2nd November – which built the path for their dispossession, we are demanding justice and equal rights for Palestinians now.
The conference will feature panel sessions on:
Tariq Ali is a British Pakistani writer, journalist, historian, film maker and political activist. He is a member of the editorial committee of New Left Review and Sin Permiso. Among the publications he contributes to are the Guardian, CounterPunch and the London Review of Books. He is the author of a number of books. He is well known for his contribution to the anti-imperialist movement over many years, and a popular speaker at demonstrations and meetings.
David Cronin is a contributing editor with The Electronic Intifada, a website focused on Palestine. His latest book is Balfour’s Shadow: A Century of British Support for Zionism and Israel (Pluto, 2017). His earlier books are Europe’s Alliance With Israel: Aiding the Occupation (Pluto, 2011) and Corporate Europe: How Big Business Sets Policies on Food, Climate and War (Pluto, 2013).
Badia Dwaik is a human rights and peace activist from Hebron. He obtained a degree in Social Work from Al Quds Open University before being arrested and serving 3 years in Israeli jail in his twenties. Badia Founded the Human Rights Defenders, a group that exposes the daily atrocities committed against Palestinians. It teaches Palestinian civilians how to understand when human rights abuses have been committed against them and how to report them. Badia has also co-founded a number of additional campaigns and projects including Youth Against Settlements, the Capturing Camera Project training students in docu'menting of human rights abuses and the Free Shireen Issawi campaign.
Yara Hawari is a British Palestinian scholar-activist, a PHD candidate in Palestinian Studies at the University of Exeter. Originally from Galilee, she has spent her life between Palestine and the UK. She is an Al-Shabaka Policy Analyst and Member. Yara has written for a number of publications, including the Independent, Morning Star, Open Democracy, The Electronic Intifada, and Al-Shabaka.
Dr Ghada Karmi is a Palestinian doctor of medicine. She was born in Jerusalem, and forced to leave her home in 1948. She held a number of research appointments at SOAS and the Universities of Durham and Leeds. She was an Associate Fellow of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. She is currently a Research Fellow and the University of Exeter. Ghada is the author of a number of books, and one of the best known Palestinian campaigners in Britain, as well as a Patron of PSC.
Ken Loach is an internationally renowned film maker with credits for directing, writing and producing. His provocative and socialist perspective has garnered 98 awards and 75 further nominations. His work has been honoured at festivals in Berlin, Cannes, Dublin, Havana, Rio de Janeiro, Seville, Stockholm, Sydney, Venice, Vancouver and many other places. His recent “I, Daniel Blake” won a BAFTA for “Outstanding British Film of the Year”. Ken is a Patron of PSC and a supporter of BDS, and every penny from the sale of “I, Daniel Blake” for Israeli distribution is given to grassroots Palestinian organisations.
Lowkey is a rapper and political activist of Iraqi and British descent. He has released a number of albums and singles including “Long Live Palestine”. He has performed his work on Palestinian demonstrations in Britain. After taking a number of years out for his studies, he has returned to recording and touring. He has visited refugee camps in the West Bank, and was detained by Israeli police. He was involved in bringing medical aid to Gaza and was detained again in 2010. Lowkey is a patron of PSC.
Ben Jamal is Director of Palestine Solidarity Campaign, and a previous member of its executive committee. His father’s family was driven out of Jerusalem and into exile in 1948 when Israel was created in the land they had called home for generations. Ben was the Chair and an activist in the Kingston and Richmond branch of PSC for many years.
Leanne Mohamad is a British Palestinian, school student, public speaker and human rights activist. Her speech “Birds not Bombs” won the Redbridge borough final in the Jack Petchey “Speak Out” Challenge, subsequently she was subjected to a campaign of on-line abuse.
Andrew Murray is Chief of Staff for Unite the Union. He was seconded to Labour Party Headquarters for the recent General Election. He was Chair of Stop the war Coalition from 2001 – 2011, and again from 2015-16. He is author of a number of books on national and international politics. A long standing supporter of the Palestinians, he has played an important role in many of the major mobilisations of recent years.
Bernard Regan is Visiting Research Fellow at St.Mary’s University. He was a founding member of PSC and is currently a member of the Executive Committee. He is a long standing trade union activist, currently NUT Trustee. He is National Secretary of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign. His book “The Balfour Declaration : Empire, Mandate and Resistance in Palestine” is due for publication this autumn.
Professor Jonathan Rosenhead Emeritus Professor of Operational Research, LSE; Chair since 2008 of British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP); Advisor to the Venezuelan Minister of Planning and Finance Minister 2000-2014; Trustee of the Science and Society Trust, and the Human Nature Trust.
Maz Saleem is an anti-war and anti-racist campaigner. She is the daughter of Haji Mohamed Saleem, who was murdered in Birmingham by a far-right terrorist. She is an officer of the Stop the War Coalition. She has written for a number of publications including the Independent, Middle East Eye, 5 Pillars, Counterfire and Stop the War website.
Chairing the panel sessions will be:
, President NEU-NUT Section,
Kiri Tunks, Vice Chair PSC & Vice President NEU-NUT Section , Hugh Lanning, Chair PSC
3. Palestine, Britain & the Balfour Declaration 100 years on
Middle East Monitor, London 7th October 2017
2017 is the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration.
The 1917 Balfour Declaration is widely regarded as one of the most formative and far-reaching docu'ments in the modern history of the Middle East. It was the cornerstone of the Zionist project to transform Arab Palestine into a ‘Jewish state’. The Declaration and subsequent events changed not only the demographic map of the region but also its political, social and military configuration as well.
How did it come about; and what were the consequences of this pivotal docu'ment?
Join Middle East Monitor on the 7th of October at the British Library in Central London to learn more about and discuss the declaration, how it came about, it’s legal standing and consequences, and to look at Britain’s role in the continued oppression of Palestinians.
Prof. Avi Shlaim, renowned Israeli historian and professor of International Relations at the University of Oxford
Clare Short, former cabinet minister serving as the Secretary of State for International Development (DFID)
Prof. Penny Green, professor of Law and Globalisation at the University of London (Queen Mary)
Peter Oborne, Associate Editor of the The Spectator, and a columnist for the Daily Mail and Middle East Eye
Prof. John Dugard, former UN Special Rapporteur of Human Rights in Palestine, and a judge at the International Court of Justice
Dr Basheer Nafi, a senior research fellow at the Al-Jazeera Centre for Studies and a regular columnist for several publications
Prof. Jonathan Schneer, a celebrated author and a modern British historian at the Georgia Institue of Technology
Dr Peter Shambrook, is a Historical Consultant to The Balfour Project, as well as an author and academic.
Dr Victor Kattan, author of the critically acclaimed book From Coexistence to Conquestand a senior research fellow at the Middle East Institute
Salma Karmi-Ayyoub, a criminal barrister and legal consultant for the Palestinian human rights organisation Al-Haqq
Dr Mohsen Saleh, General Manager of Al-Zaytouna Centre for Studies and Consultations, and Editor-in-Chief of the Palestinian Strategic Report
David Cronin, author, journalist and political activist, as well as a contributing editor with the Electronic Intifada
Dr Jacob Cohen, a former member of the Zionist youth movement, and now an author and commentator on French-Israel relations
Churchill was not an anti-Semite
British leader did not write the alleged anti-Semitic article, nor did he publish it. Churchill Center responds
Richard M. Langworth
Published: 15.03.07 , 18:12
A lifelong supporter of Zionism and the Jewish people, Winston Churchill is now being accused of anti-Semitism on the strength of an alleged article of his, making the rounds on the internet.
Informed of a 1937 article draft in the Churchill Archives, accusers say it proves Churchill's lifelong sympathy for the Jews was hypocrisy - that Churchill was, ipso facto, a closet anti-Semite.
The allegations began with an article in Britain's The Independent: "Uncovered: Churchill's Warnings About the 'Hebrew Bloodsuckers'" on 11 March 2007.
"The 1937 docu'ment, 'How the Jews Can Combat Persecution,' was unearthed by Dr. Richard Toye, a Cambridge University historian," The Independent states. "Written three years before Churchill became Prime Minister, the article has apparently lain unnoticed in the Churchill Archives at Cambridge since the early months of the Second World War.
"Churchill criticised the 'aloofness' of Jewish people from wider society and urged them to make the effort to integrate themselves... Churchill says: 'The central fact which dominates the relations of Jew and non-Jew is that the Jew is "different." He looks different. He thinks differently. He has a different tradition and background.'
"He then goes on to criticise Jewish moneylenders: 'Every Jewish moneylender recalls Shylock and the idea of the Jews as usurers. And you cannot reasonably expect a struggling clerk or shopkeeper, paying 40 or 50 per cent interest on borrowed money to a "Hebrew Bloodsucker," to reflect that almost every other way of life was closed to the Jewish people.'"
"Dr Toye said: 'I nearly fell off my chair when I found the article. It appears to have been overlooked....It was certainly quite a shock to read some of these things and it is obviously at odds with the traditional idea we have of Churchill.'"
We at The Churchill Center would have fallen off our chairs too - if Churchill had written such words. But Churchill did not write them. Nor did he publish them. Nor did he approve of them.
Now, the facts
"How the Jews Can Combat Persecution" has not "lain unnoticed since the Second World War." It was "unearthed" nearly thirty years ago by Oxford historian and Churchill biographer Sir Martin Gilbert, poring through the million docu'ments in the Churchill Archives Centre.
Twenty-six years ago, Gilbert actually reprinted the letter conveying the draft of this article to Churchill, in Winston S. Churchill, Companion Volume V, Part 3, The Coming of War: Docu'ments 1936-1939 (London: Heinemann, 1982), page 670.
The author of "How the Jews Can Combat Persecution" was Adam Marshall Diston (1893-1956), whom Gilbert's volume identifies on page 190:
"Born in Scotland. Served in a Highland Regiment, 1914-18. Joined the Staff of Amalgamated Press after the war; subsequently Assistant Editor of Answers, and acting Editor (1934).... A Socialist, he joined Sir Oswald Mosley's New Party in 1931. Unsuccessful New Party Candidate for Wandsworth Central in the 1931 election (where he polled only 424 votes out of a total of 11,647, and lost his deposit); he never stood for Parliament again."
Churchill briefly employed Diston to write rough drafts for the popular press. While drafts for Churchill's weighty histories, such as Marlborough and A History of the English Speaking Peoples, were prepared by distinguished historians such as Bill Deakin and Keith Feiling, Diston drafted some of what Churchill called his "potboilers," which supplied much of his income in the 1930s. Indeed, says Sir Martin Gilbert, this article "was the only serious subject Diston was asked to tackle, in which he went over the top in the use of his language."
Diston's membership in Mosley's fascist party suggests his sentiments. Indeed, in his letter conveying the draft to Churchill, he recognized them: "Mrs Pearman (Churchill's secretary) did not tell me for what paper it was wanted. If it is for a Jewish journal, it may in places be rather outspoken. Even then, however, I do not know that that is altogether a bad thing. There are quite a number of Jews who might, with advantage, reflect on the epigram: 'How odd, Of God, To choose, The Jews.'"
Diston's draft departed drastically from the article guidelines Churchill had sent him only three weeks earlier: "Obviously there are four things. The first is to be a good citizen of the country to which he belongs.
The second is to avoid too exclusive an association in ordinary matters of business and daily life, and to mingle as much as possible with non-Jews everywhere, apart from race and religion.
The third is to keep the Jewish movement free from Communism.
The fourth is a perfectly legitimate use of their influence throughout the world to bring pressure, economic and financial, to bear upon the Governments which persecute them." (Companion Volume 5, Part 3, 654). All those sentiments are typical of Churchill. and certainly do not smack of "Shylock," or people who "look different." Winston Churchill was among the least conscious of how people looked of anyone in his generation.
Interviewed March 11th by London's The Sunday Times, Sir Martin Gilbert said Churchill refused to have Diston's article published because it was not his work and did not reflect his views. Gilbert added that Dr. Toye, the lecturer who "found" the article and includes it in a new book, Lloyd George and Churchill, must have failed to consult Companion Volume V, Part 3, which describes it: "I'm amazed. My book would have been on the same shelf in the same library. I immediately recognised the name of the article."
Not only did Churchill not write about "Hebrew Bloodsuckers." He refused even to subject Diston's draft to his usual heavy editing and revision, which he traditionally did before submitting an article to a publisher. (See footnotes on the drafting of "King George VI," Companion Volume 5, Part 3, 519.)
Subsequent correspondence in the Churchill Archives, from March 1940, has Charles Eade, then Churchill's editor for his war speeches, suggesting that Diston's "rather provocative" article be published in the Sunday Dispatch. Kathleen Hill, forwarded his proposal to Churchill with a note: "I cannot trace that this article on the Jews has ever been published. You originally wrote it for the American Magazine Liberty about June 1937....However, the article was not published as Colliers objected to any of your articles appearing in a rival magazine." (Churchill Archives, CHAR 8/660/32.)
It has been suggested that the piece was not published only because of Colliers' objections. But that opinion was Mrs. Hill's, not Churchill's. While she might have remembered Collier's objections, Churchill was never one to fail to place a good story. Yet, after reading Mrs. Hill's memo, Churchill himself wrote across the bottom: "better not." Mrs. Hill in turn informed Eade: "Mr.Churchill thinks it would be inadvisable to publish the article." (Churchill Archives, CHAR 8/660/31.)
Clearly, both in 1937 and 1940, Churchill did not want this article published. As William Manchester wrote, Churchill "always had second and third thoughts, and they usually improved as he went along. It was part of his pattern of response to any political issue that while his early reactions were often emotional, and even unworthy of him, they were usually succeeded by reason and generosity." (Manchester, The Last Lion vol. I, Boston: Little Brown, 1982, 843-44).
The feet of clay school
Not long from now, we may assume, The Independent's story or portions of the Diston draft will be dredged up out of context as proof of Churchill's hypocrisy. There is an element in modern discourse that seeks always to deconstruct time-proven institutions, societies and leaders. No matter how positive their record, their least peccadilloes are seized upon as proof that revered institutions and individuals are no better than the villains of history: that "we" are no better than "they." Call it the Feet of Clay School.
Winston Churchill is particularly susceptible to such accusations. Thanks to the massive archive he left us, ably marshalled and made available to one and all by the faithful Churchill Archives Centre in Cambridge, Churchill is in the relatively unique position of being subject to criticism not only for his most personal thoughts in his most private letters, but even for articles he never wrote.
Leave aside Churchill's lifelong support of Zionism. Forget his legion of Jewish friends, from Sir Ernest Cassel to Henry Strakosch to Bernard Baruch, who stuck by him when it took courage to do so, often bailing him out of financial misfortune. Omit the fact that his official biographer is also a leading Holocaust and Jewish historian. Churchill was a friend of the Jews because, as a moral man, his sense of justice was revolted by persecution. "How can any man be discriminated against," he once asked, "purely because of how he was born?"
But Churchill was not an uncritical friend. He once observed that most Bolsheviks were Jews, but added (in a phrase usually omitted by the Feet of Clay School) that the reason for this was that they were also the most persecuted minority in Europe. (See notes on Churchill's 1920 article "Zionism vs. Bolshevism," Finest Hour 128, page 43.)
In November 1944, Churchill was outraged by the killing of his friend Lord Moyne (Walter Guinness), the Minister Resident in Cairo, by members of the terrorist Stern Gang.
In a statement to Parliament, Churchill said: "If our dreams for Zionism are to end in the smoke of assassins' pistols and our labours for its future to produce only a new set of gangsters worthy of Nazi Germany, many like myself will have to reconsider the position we have maintained so consistently and so long in the past. If there is to be any hope of a peaceful and successful future for Zionism, these wicked activities must cease, and those responsible for them must be destroyed root and branch." (See Gilbert, Winston S. Churchill vol. VII Road to Victory, 1050).
An under-appreciated quality of Churchill was his consistency. If his principles were offended, the offenders were chastised, no matter who they were. He never paid the slightest attention to "public opinion"; Political Correctness would be lost on him. And yet Churchill could always be counted upon, at the end of any debate, to come down on the side of justice, right and freedom.
"I never felt that he was going to spring an unpleasant surprise on me,"
said Sir Martin Gilbert, reflecting on his forty years of biographical research with the historian Max Hastings (Finest Hour 65). "I might find that he was adopting views with which I disagreed. But I always knew that there would be nothing to cause me to think: 'How shocking, how appalling.'"
Richard M. Langworth is the editor of Finest Hour, The Journal of Winston Churchill
Home > Publications > Finest Hour > Finest Hour 135 > Myth and Reality – What Did Churchill Really Think About the Jews?
Myth and Reality – What Did Churchill Really Think About the Jews?
Finest Hour 135, Summer 2007
Myth and Reality – What Did Churchill Really Think About the Jews?
Someone else’s opinions, in an unpublished article which never appeared in print under Churchill’s name, cannot be laid at Churchill’s door.
By Sir Martin Gilbert CBE
Professor Gilbert is official biographer of Winston Churchill, a CC honorary member, and a contributor to Finest Hour. His book, Churchill and the Jews, was published in Britain in June by Simon and Schuster, and will be published in the USA by Holt in October.
In a press release announcing a book by Richard Toye on Churchill and Lloyd George, Cambridge University Press put its main emphasis on the discovery of a previously unknown article written by Winston Churchill in 1937, containing considerable anti-Semitic imagery.
The 1937 article, “How the Jews Can Combat Persecution,” was “unearthed by Dr. Richard Toye, a Cambridge University historian,” according to The Independent. “Written three years before Churchill became Prime Minister, the article has apparently lain unnoticed in the Churchill Archives at Cambridge since the early months of the Second World War.
“Churchill criticised the ‘aloofness’ of Jewish people from wider society and urged them to make the effort to integrate themselves….Churchill says: ‘The central fact which dominates the relations of Jew and non-Jew is that the Jew is “different.” He looks different. He thinks differently. He has a different tradition and background.’ He then criticises Jewish moneylenders: ‘Every Jewish money-lender recalls Shylock and the idea of the Jews as usurers. And you cannot reasonably expect a struggling clerk or shopkeeper, paying 40 or 50 per cent interest on borrowed money to a “Hebrew Bloodsucker,” to reflect that almost every other way of life was closed to the Jewish people.’”
In fact, this article has not “lain unnoticed,” and not one word of it was written by Churchill. Nor did the article ever appear in print, either under his name or that of any other. The article was written in its entirety by a British journalist, Adam Marshall Diston (1893-1956).
This fact was unknown to Dr. Toye, in whose new book on Churchill and Lloyd George the article appears as if written by Churchill. After the press release, I pointed out to Dr. Toye that not a single word of the article was by Churchill, and gave him Diston’s name. He replied: “Thank you for drawing my attention to what I hadn’t been aware of about the article.”
It is astonishing that a professional historian should not be aware of the name of the actual author, a name that first appeared in the relevant volume of the Churchill biography, Winston S. Churchill, Companion Volume V, Part 3, The Coming of War: Docu'ments 1936-1939 (London: Heinemann, 1982), page 670, which showed that the article was written in full by Diston.
Churchill, who was then writing on average an article a week, paid Diston—a journalist, a member of Sir Oswald Mosley’s New Party in its pre-fascist days, and a would-be Labour Party parliamentary candidate in 1935—to draft certain articles. Some of Diston’s other drafts were amended by Churchill and published with his amendments; a few were published unam'ended.
The article in question, “How the Jews Can Combat Persecution,” was however not published at all. This was fortunate, as it was offered for publication three times: twice in 1937, shortly after Diston wrote it, and once in 1940. Some have claimed the act of offering it to a publisher means that Churchill approved of it—but this was not the way his articles were offered.
In 1937, Churchill himself would not have offered the article personally. His private office did that, and was always most efficient. It is not clear that Churchill even read either the original or the retyped Diston article: neither have any markings on them by him, which suggests that he had not, since other Diston drafts are copiously red-penned.
In 1940, the then-editor of his war speeches, Charles Eade, unearthed the article and suggested he publish it. But Churchill, alerted to its anti-Semitic overtones by secretary Kathleen Hill, would not permit publication.
Someone else’s opinions, in an unpublished article, which never appeared in print under Churchill’s name, cannot be laid at Churchill’s door.
What were Churchill’s actual views on the Jews? In 1982 I published Churchill’s written instructions to Marshall Diston on what the article should cover. Churchill wrote: “Obviously there are four things. The first is to be a good citizen of the country to which he belongs. The second is to avoid too exclusive an association in ordinary matters of business and daily life, and to mingle as much as possible with non-Jews everywhere, apart from race and religion. The third is to keep the Jewish movement free from Communism. The fourth is a perfectly legitimate use by the Jews of their influence throughout the world to bring pressure, economic and financial, to bear upon the Governments which persecute them.”*
Churchill had always urged the Jews to be good citizens, while retaining their faith and culture. His advice to his Manchester Jewish constituents in 1907 was: “Be good Jews.” He explained that he did not believe a Jew could be “a good Englishmen unless he is a good Jew.”
A year later, at the first public meeting he attended with his wife Clementine, a few weeks after their marriage, he told those gathered to open a new wing of the Manchester Jewish Hospital that he was “very glad to have the experience of watching the life and work of the Jewish community in England; there was a high sense of the corporate responsibility in the community; there was a great sense of duty that was fostered on every possible occasion by their leaders.”
Avoiding “too exclusive” an all-Jewish association was another consistent theme. Churchill welcomed Jews as part of the wider British community, and was impressed by how many accepted that challenge. His friend Rufus Isaacs became (as Lord Reading) both Viceroy of India and Foreign Secretary. But he was worried when Lloyd George wanted to include three Jewish Cabinet Ministers among the seven Liberals in his 1918 administration, writing to the Prime Minister: “There is a point about Jews which occurs to me—you must not have too many of them. Three Jews among only seven Liberal Cabinet Ministers might I fear give rise to comment.”
Keeping “the Jewish movement” free of Communism was another consistent theme. The prominence of individual Jews in senior positions in the Communist revolutions in Russia, Bavaria and Hungary had alarmed Churchill since the 1917 Bolshevik revolution. Writing about this in 1920 he urged the Jews to abandon Communism, and either enter into the national life of their own countries, as in Britain—“while adhering faithfully to their own religion”—or opt for Zionism.
Churchill regarded Zionism as “a very great ideal,” writing in 1920: “If as may well happen, there should be created in our own lifetime by the banks of the Jordan a Jewish State under the protection of the British Crown, which might comprise three or four millions of Jews, an event would have occurred in the history of the world which would, from every point of view, be beneficial.”
Churchill’s 1922 White Paper established that the Jews were in Palestine “of right, and not on sufferance.” During the Second World War he suggested appointing the Zionist leader, Dr. Chaim Weizmann, as British High Commissioner for Palestine (in 1910, as Home Secretary, Churchill had signed Weizmann’s naturalization papers).
Fighting persecution was also Churchill’s consistent advice to the Jews, at a time when he himself was being abused by Nazi newspapers in Germany for his outspoken criticism of Nazi racial policy. Some of his most powerful words in the House of Commons after Hitler came to power were denunciations of the cruelty of Nazi anti-Semitic policies.
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 this writer that “Churchill was too fond of Jews.”
Following the King David Hotel Jewish terrorist bombing 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.”
These were Churchill’s consistent, and persistent beliefs. As he remarked when his criticisms of Jewish terrorism in Palestine were being discussed: “The Jewish people know well enough that I am their friend.”
This was indeed so.
EDITOR’S NOTE: We trust that readers will appreciate that the painful quotations from this article are neither ours nor Sir Martin Gilbert’s, but come from press reports and releases.
Reflecting on his four decades as official biographer in Finest Hour 65, Sir Martin said something we should never forget about Churchill: “I never felt that he was going to spring an unpleasant surprise on me. I might find that he was adopting views with which I disagreed. But I always knew that there would be nothing to cause me to think: ‘How shocking, how appalling.’” No. Never. RML
* Martin Gilbert, ed., Winston S. Churchill, Companion Volume V, Part 3, The Coming of War: Docum'ents 1936-1939, London: Heinemann, 1982; Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1983, 654. See also Gilbert’s notes on the Diston draft of “King George VI,” page 519.
LONDON — An article from 1937 under the name of Winston Churchill that blamed Jews for their own persecution has ruffled a long-held view among Britons of their wartime leader's pro-Jewish sentiments.
Some experts on the history of British Jews dismissed the article, saying its existence has been well-known and it had never been published because Churchill rejected the views of the ghost-writer who composed it.
Cambridge University said over the weekend that the article had been unearthed by Richard Toye, a lecturer at Homerton College who had been conducting research at the university's Churchill archive.
Accounts of the article were reported Sunday in several British newspapers, triggering a modest debate over the extent to which it broke new ground in explaining Churchill's feelings about Jews.
The article was written four years after Hitler's rise to power in Germany, two years before the outbreak of World War II and three years before Churchill became prime minister to lead Britain in the fight against Nazism.
In an interview with The Sunday Times, Toye said: "I don't want to say he was anti-Semitic, but this sheds fascinating new light on his views about Jews, which were very inconsistent." At the same time he said most people would accept that Churchill was not anti- Semitic.
The article, entitled "How the Jews can combat persecution," was not published when it was written in 1937 and when a newspaper sought permission to print it in 1940, Churchill's office refused, saying publication was "inadvizable."
The article spoke of the wave of anti- Semitism in Europe and the United States in the 1930s.
"It would be easy to ascribe it to the wickedness of the persecutors, but that does not fit all the facts," the article said. "It exists even in lands, like Great Britain and the United States, where Jew and Gentile are equal in the eyes of the law, and where large numbers of Jews have found not only asylum, but opportunity. These facts must be faced in any analysis of anti-Semitism. They should be pondered especially by the Jews themselves.
"For it may be that, unwittingly, they are inviting persecution — that they have been partly responsible for the antagonism from which they suffer."
The article continued: "The central fact which dominates the relations of Jew and non-Jew is that the Jew is 'different.' He looks different. He thinks differently. He has a different tradition and background. He refuses to be absorbed."
But it also urged support for Jews "suffering from persecutions as cruel, as relentless and as vindictive as any in their long history."
Geoffrey Alderman, a British historian who is a columnist for The Jewish Chronicle in London, said in an interview Sunday that "we have known about this for some time" because the article appears in a collection of Churchill's writings compiled by Martin Gilbert, Churchill's official biographer, that was published in the 1980s.
Alderman added: "It does not challenge" the prevailing view of Churchill as supportive of the Jews. "I think it's a flash in the pan."
But Toye said Churchill had sought to publish the article in 1937 in Britain and the United States. Churchill "was apparently happy to put his name to this article in 1937" and was "happy to endorse sentiments contained in articles that were written for him," Toye said.
Gilbert said Churchill had refused to permit the article to be published. He identified the ghost-writer as Adam Marshall Diston, a member of Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists. It was not clear why Churchill commissioned him to write an article in his name. Both Toye and Gilbert are planning to publish new books about Churchill in the next few weeks or months.
Churchill, Livingstone and all the rest: Reflections on anti-Semitism and the left by Shlomo Sand
Winston Churchill is said to have stated that “An anti-Semite is one who hates the Jews more than is necessary”. There is no proof of the Conservative leader uttering such a statement. It is, however, true that he wrote about Jews in 1937, that “they are inviting persecution...they have been partly responsible for the antagonism from which they suffer…The central fact which dominates the relations of Jew and non-Jew is that the Jew is 'different'. He looks different. He thinks differently". In spite of these erroneous and misleading words, Churchill was no anti-Semite. Ken Livingstone and his friends in the Labour Party nowadays are also no anti-Semites. However, one must admit that in both cases there is verbal inflation and even, one suspects, an essentialism which one should not hesitate to criticize. But before one does so, it would be appropriate to pay attention to several nasty details.
The onslaught on the Labour Party regarding Israel and Zionism is not innocent. It is a part of a deliberate defamation campaign against the left wing heading the party now. This time, the onslaught was also a part of an aggressive election campaign. And if, in the past, patriotism was the last refuge of the scoundrel, there is hardly any doubt that for many in Britain, as well as in other Western countries, accusing political opponents of anti-Semitism has become the convenient refuge of the common pro-Zionist conservative. What is especially evident and troubling in this debate is the continuous conflation of criticism of Israeli policy with the hatred of Jews. Imposing an embargo on Iran for its intentions of arming itself with nuclear weapons is, as we all know, an action for peace. A call for demilitarizing the entire Middle East of all nuclear weapons is, apparently, propaganda in the service of anti-Semites. Imposing sanctions on Russia for the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula, whose inhabitants overwhelmingly support the move, is an action for democracy. Supporting sanctions against the Israeli occupation of a Palestinian population, deprived of all civil rights for nearly fifty years, is an anti-Jewish action. In France, even activism for the boycot of Israeli settlement products is now a criminal offense. In the British Labour Party, one is expected to continue Tony Blair’s policy on Israel rather than break with it, lest one be considered an avid Jew-hater.
Is anti-Semitism intensifying in the Western world, as argued incessantly by the Israeli government and its supporters? Anyone making this claim is downplaying and blurring the intensity of Judeophobia in the Christian civilization throughout centuries and its intensification during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Since the 1950s, animosity towards Jews has ceased to constitute lucrative political potential. One cannot be a respectable journalist, TV broadcaster, fashion designer, filmmaker, popular politician or MP (or even a member of the Labour Party) while voicing anti-Jewish views. If one looks at the extreme right wing, such as UKIP or the Front National in France, which had historically been Judeophobic, one sees this right wing courting Jewish votes and supporting Israel in recent years. Foolish and dangerous anti-Semitic ignorance surely exists on the social margins. However, one must recognize that its roots are different, the central one being the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The perpetuation of this conflict is poisoning numerous frustrated young people, who are witnessing the hypocrisy and double standards as to Israel’s presence in the Occupied Territories on the one hand, and the desperate Palestinian struggle on the other hand.
And this is a good reason to meticulously follow a wiser, more prudent politics with respect to Zionism and Israel. Naz Shah was no Judeophobe when, during the last Gaza war, she raised, bitterly and humorously, the possibility of relocating little Israel into the vast area of the US. One can assume that at least 80% of Israelis (not the Zionists residing in the UK) would agree with her wholeheartedly. However, alongside that, she should have stressed that, in spite of Israel’s colonizatory origin, this ironic proposal casts no doubt as to its right to exist nowadays in the Middle East. Ken Livingstone was not factually mistaken when he made his comments as to the ties between the Zionist agency in Germany and Hitler. But even if Livingstone is a brave politician, he is still a bad historian. When German Zionists reached an agreement with the Nazis in 1933, regarding the removal of Jews from Germany, their intention was to save them from the claws of anti-Semitism rather than persecute them. Zionist ethnocentric nationalism regarding the Jewish people-race surely has a lot in common with the Nazi tenet of exclusive nationalism. But the two are in no way identical: The former is ethno-religious while the latter is ethno-biological. The Zionist project, in spite of its colonizatory exclusive nature, did indeed reject any notion of assimilation into the indigenous other, but has never developed in the direction of the cruel idea of total extermination of that other. And if one wants to resort to analogies: the conduct of British imperialism towards indigenous populations often resembled Nazi conduct towards occupied populations in Europe, but differed from it at the same time. An automatic conflation of the two would also be a historical mistake.
The left wing of the British Labour Party does not really have a Jewish problem. But sometimes it does have the problem of being anti-Zionist “more than is necessary”, a politics which is cynically exploited by Israel’s vociferous followers. However, one should make things clear: Although overstated anti-Zionism may harm, and does harm, the struggle for the Palestinians, this does not mean that one should cease to demand from Israel a withdrawal from all occupied territories. This does not mean that boycott and sanctions should not be imposed on Israel until it finally recognizes the Palestinian people’s right to full self-sovereignty. This does not mean that one should recognize the State of Israel as a state belonging to the Jews of the world rather than as a democracy belonging to all its Israeli citizens. Being anti-Zionist “more than is necessary” means failing to stress, alongside these legitimate views, that the struggle against Zionism is not intended to destroy Israel, but rather, among other things, to save it from itself.
Translated by Ofer Neiman
The War for Palestine: Rewriting the History of 1948
Co-edited by Eugene L. Rogan and Avi Shlaim
Table of content:
||The Palestinians and 1948: the causes of failure
|2. Benny Morris
||Revisiting the Palestinian exodus of 1948
|3. Laila Parsons
||The Druze and the birth of Israel
|4. Avi Shlaim
||Israel and the Arab coalition in 1948
|5. Eugene Rogan
||Jordan and 1948: the persistence of an official history
||Iraq and the 1948 war: mirror of Iraq’s disorder
|7. Fawaz Gerges
||Egypt and the 1948 war: internal conflict and regional ambition
|8. Joshua Landis
||Syria and the 1948 war
||Afterword: the consequences of the 1948 war
The Arab-Israeli conflict is one of the most intense and intractable international conflicts of modern times. This book is about the historical roots of that conflict. It re-examines the history of the 1948 war, in which the newly born state of Israel defeated the Palestinians and the regular Arab armies of the neighboring states so decisively. The book includes chapters on all the principal participants, on the reasons for the Palestinian exodus, and on the political and moral consequences of the war. The chapters are written by leading Arab, Israeli and Western scholars, who draw on primary sources in all relevant languages to offer alternative interpretations and new insights into this defining moment in Middle East history. The result is a major contribution to the literature on the 1948 war. It will command a wide audience of students and general readers with an interest in the region.
Israelis call the 1948 war "The War of Independence" while Arabs call it al-Nakba or the disaster. The conventional Israeli version portrays 1948 as an unequal struggle between a Jewish David and an Arab Goliath, as a desperate, heroic, and ultimately successful battle for survival against overwhelming odds. In this version all the surrounding Arab states sent their armies into Palestine to strangle the Jewish state at birth and the Palestinians left the country on orders from their own leaders and in the expectation of a triumphal return.
Since the late 1980s, however, a group of "new historians" or revisionist Israeli historians have challenged many of the claims surrounding the birth of the State of Israel and the first Arab-Israeli war.
The present volume was conceived as a contribution to the ongoing debate about 1948. The War for Palestine brings together leading Israeli new historians with prominent Arab and Western scholars of the Middle East who revisit 1948 from the perspective of each of the countries involved in the war. The resulting volume offers new material and new insights that add to our understanding of the historical roots of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Link to the publisher: Cambridge University Press
The War for Palestine
Rewriting the History of 1948
Edited by Eugene L. Rogan and Avi Shlaim. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001. pp. 234. $54.95.
Reviewed by Efraim Karsh
King's College, London
Middle East Quarterly
"Rewriting the history of 1948" is rather misleading, for the essays in question do not so much rewrite history but rather endorse the standard Arab narrative – the one in which Palestinians and other Arabs are on the receiving end of predatory Zionist aggression. Israeli academics and journalists who call themselves the "New Historians" have been pushing this theme since the late 1980s and The War for Palestine adds little new or original to these efforts except that they have invited some sympathetic Arabists and Arab academics, including Edward Said and Rashid Khalidi, to join in their efforts. The contributors whitewash the violent Palestinian attempt to abort the United Nations resolution of November 1947. They downplay the pan-Arab invasion of the newly-established state of Israel in May 1948 (euphemized as the "entry of Palestine" by Arab armies).
There seems to be a general consensus among the book's contributors (and also the publisher) that the Arab narrative needs no serious rethinking. Khalidi speaks for them when he justifies the absence of Palestinian "new historians" to shatter the "myths" on the Arab side: "It is not a myth … that as a result of [Israeli aggression] the Palestinian people were victims, regardless of what they might have done differently in this situation of formidable difficulty, and of the sins of omission or commission of their leaders."
Most of the contributors are oblivious to the Palestinian version having little to do with reality, as best that can be reconstructed through contemporary accounts and reaffirmed by the millions of records in Israeli and Western archives. While the declassification of those docum'ents constitutes the alleged raison d'être of the entire genre of Israeli "new history," little of this large body of evidence is tapped by the volume's contributors. Khalidi and Said make no use whatsoever of archival source material and instead engage in sweeping and misconceived assertions about the origin and scope of the Palestinian exodus; others, such as Rogan and Fawaz Gerges, quote the odd docu'ment in support of their case.
Avi Shlaim claims to have "overturned the myth of the Arab Goliath" during the 1948 War but there is nothing here from the archives of the Israeli Defense Forces or its pre-state precursor, the Haganah. Benny Morris makes the IDF and Haganah foremost culprits of the Palestinian exodus but has not consulted the archives of these two military organizations.1
1 There is more than meets the eye here. In The War for Palestine, Morris concedes that "when writing The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem 1947-1949 in the mid-1980s, I had no access to the materials in the IDFA [IDF Archive] or the Haganah Archive and precious little to first-hand military materials deposited elsewhere. Nonetheless, the new materials I have seen over the past few years tend to confirm and reinforce the major lines of description and analysis, and the conclusions, in The Birth and in a subsequent volume, 1948 and After, published in 1990." Morris inadvertently reveals the falsehood of "new historian" scholarly pretensions. This group insists on tracing its origin, indeed its raison d'être, to the opening of Israeli state archives in the late 1980s but now its foremost member admits to having written the single most influential "revisionist" work without the use of the most important archives.
To make matters worse, Morris also admits that "some of the material relating to the [Palestinian exodus] may have been open to researchers in the early and mid-1980s, when The Birth was written, but I was not then aware of its existence." In other words, Morris made no use of the Israeli archives due to his own ignorance.