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March 9, 2017 8:24 am

Yes, Churchill Really Was a Friend of Jews and Zionism

avatar by Daniel Mandel

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Winston Churchill. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Winston Churchill. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Revisionism is a long-standing cottage industry when  it comes to Winston Churchill. Now Michael J. Cohen, Professor of History Emeritus at Bar-Ilan University, has contributed the contention that Winston Churchill’s support for Jews and Zionism is a myth.

Cohen has a book devoted to this subject: Churchill and the Jews. His arguments clash with much of what is presented in the late Sir Martin Gilbert’s Churchill and the Jews: A Lifelong Friendship, and Michael Makovsky’s Churchill’s Promised Land: Zionism and Statecraft — all three of which I reviewed in detail for the Jewish Political Studies Review.

Having contributed to the discussion on this subject (twice on the History News Networkhere and here), it has been surprising to see Cohen pressing his view in the face of the evidence that emerged in Gilbert’s and Makovsky’s books.

In 2009, Cohen described Gilbert as the mythmaker of Churchill’s pro-Jewish and pro-Zionist reputation in a lengthy article in Modern Judaism (May 2006, vol. 26, no. 2). Now, he has reiterated his charges in an opinion piece in Haaretz, (“The Truth About Churchill and the Jews,” January 27).

Cohen wrote in the epilogue of his book that there is a “glaring anomaly” between Churchill’s wartime expressions of sympathy for the Jews, and the “absence, almost, of any practical measures on their behalf.” This strikes me as a false, defective verdict. I would argue that Churchill’s reputation as friend of the Jews and Zionism withstands scrutiny.

Despite some undoubted inconsistencies, the pattern is clear: Churchill admired the Jews, believed they contributed to Britain and Western civilization and sought to support their national aspirations. Cohen’s contrary case is marred by the neglect of important pieces of evidence that have emerged in recent decades, while emphasizing only selected ones of his choice.

Consider the following facts, none of which appear in Cohen’s book or latest opinion piece:

● In January 1939, Churchill urged Albania to accept Jews fleeing Germany and Austria. Unfortunately, promising developments in this effort were abruptly ended by Mussolini’s invasion and occupation of the country in April 1940.

● As First Lord of the Admiralty (1939-40), Churchill instructed Royal Navy vessels not to intercept ships suspected of bringing illegal Jewish immigrants to Palestine.

● In February 1942, Churchill argued successfully in the War Cabinet — and in the face of opposition from the new Colonial Secretary, Lord Moyne — to release from internment approximately 800 Jewish refugees from the Darien II, who had reached Palestine.

● That same year, Churchill overrode Foreign Office objections to a proposal for permitting 5,000 Bulgarian Jewish children to travel to Palestine. (The War Cabinet approved, but the move was blocked by German pressure applied on Bulgaria).

● In April 1943, Churchill pressured the Spanish ambassador to have the Franco regime reopen its border to Jewish refugees fleeing the Third Reich, something that occurred within a few days.

● In July 1943, in the War Cabinet, Churchill vigorously opposed plans for British naval searches of ships to find illegal Jewish immigrants.

● After the War Cabinet overrode Churchill by deciding to discourage illegal Jewish immigration to Palestine, Churchill devised a policy that bypassed it, by permitting all Jews who might arrive in Palestine to stay there. One result was that, in early 1944, 6,000 Jews from Romania and Bessarabia were permitted to proceed to Palestine on British passports.

● In 1943, Churchill succeeded in having the War Cabinet approve continued Jewish immigration to Palestine beyond the 1939 White Paper’s cut-off date March 1944 — up to the full limit of the 75,000 immigrants permitted by the White Paper. (Due to the Nazi success in cutting off escape routes, this quota was not filled until after the war ended).

● In early 1945, Churchill made abortive efforts to create a Jewish state within a larger Arab federation by unsuccessfully seeking to enlist — through financial inducements and other things — the support of Saudi King Saud.

In short, during the war, Churchill sought many avenues to provide refuge for Jews fleeing the Nazis, including in Palestine, despite great opposition from virtually all of his officials. It is true that the results of Churchill’s record of persistent, often lone, activism on behalf of Jews and Zionism were relatively meager, but this was not for lack of effort.

Indeed, such was the perception of Churchill’s solicitude for Jews among officials that, on at least two occasions, callous members of his own inner staff withheld from him Jewish requests out of fear that he would respond positively to them.

Some of the charges in Cohen’s latest opinion piece go even further than those leveled in his book.

For example, Cohen convincingly demonstrated in his book that, while immediately authorizing the aerial bombing of the railway lines leading to Auschwitz in July 1944, Churchill failed to follow up and ensure that his directive was implemented. Now, however, Cohen insists that Churchill also “rejected the bombing project” — something not borne out by the Churchill letter he cites.

Without doubt, Professor Cohen’s research on Churchill has produced some compelling evidence that attenuate Churchill’s record. But Cohen’s prosecutorial persistence in advocating his case, despite the contrary evidence that is so evident, remains a mystery.

This article was originally published by the History News Network.

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  • Abdul Sidat

    Churchill will burn in hell. He had no right to give away other peoples homes and land. Poetic justice is why England is what England is today.. Amen Lets giveaway the UK….oops its already gone to the dogs

  • Matt McLaughlin

    Google ‘sydenham dumping Jews’.
    Mostly small town athiest Russian Jews with Piccadilly Protestant promise who thought of Jews as a race

  • Matt McLaughlin

    Why not get rid of the Balfour altogether?

  • Keith James

    and, what rich Jew paid Churchill’s massive pre war personal debt? And, how did C/H direct the arm forces afterward?

  • What was the White Paper of 1922?

    British saw the inconvenience in allowing establishing a national home for Jews in Palestine soon after the issuance of Balfour Declaration. All the persons who had issued the declaration in 1917 weren’t in power. At the same time, Britain fell back on its word to give Syria under Arab rule as Arabs gave Syria to France according to the Sykes-Picot agreement. Due to the resentment created by the Palestine mandate, riots broke out in Palestine between 1920 and 1921. House of Lords and House of Commons raised motions to cancel the Balfour Declaration and although they were rejected, British wanted the oil rights in the Arab countries and violated international agreements, they realized that they would have to reach a compromise and take away territory allocated to the Jewish people sooner or later. Although, the Arabs received over 12 million sq. km. of territory with a wealth of oil reserves.

    Therefore, Churchill was given the task of violating agreements and reforming the mandate in such a way that it would pacify the Arabs while keeping Palestine away from French with their weapon being “establishment of a Jewish national home”. To ask for the consent of Jews and Arabs, Churchill circulated his proposed document to both before issuing it, to which Chaim Weizmann accented because he was pushed into a corner, while Palestinian representatives objected to it on the grounds that both the Balfour Declaration and the White Paper contradicted the promises made by.

    The British White Paper of 1922, also known as the Churchill White Paper was a document drafted by the British Colonial Secretary, Winston Churchill with the help of Sir Herbert Samuel and was issued on June 3, 1922 with the purpose of violating international agreements including the 1919 Faisal Weizmann Agreement modifying the terms of the Balfour Declaration and how the British revised the way they viewed it.

    According to the White Paper, British stood by the terms mentioned in the Balfour Declaration and that this declaration, which was approved at the San Remo Conference by all the members of the Supreme Allied Powers and in the Treaty of Sevres, would not change. The White Paper recognized the progress that the Zionist community was making but made it clear that they changed their mind and they do not support the idea of a Jewish national home in Palestine and would like to see it as only a community within Palestine. Moreover, in July 1922, the British illegally made a partition in the Palestine mandate by separating the territory lying east of the Jordan River which is over 77% of the territory allocated to the Jewish people, from the Jewish populated area and renaming it Transjordan, giving it to Emir Abdullah to rule. Moreover, all the Jews were expelled and their property including homes and land was confiscated.

    The document also stated that Arabs has misinterpreted the Husayn-McMahon Correspondence and British deny “that an independent national government should be at once established in Palestine”. The paper also stated that they do not wish that Palestine become “as Jewish as England is English”. A new stipulation for the immigration quota of Jews into Palestine in violation of the terms of the Mandate, was also established in the paper which confirmed that the maximum limit of immigration is not to exceed the absorptive capacity of economic state of the country.

    • Matt McLaughlin

      Yup, and the White Paper not debated in Parliament anymore than the Balfour was at a time Zionism was not the will of the world’s Jews. The first conflict 1917 where gas shells were used.

  • Efram Paul

    It is not like FDR who harbored very antisemitic views.

  • Efram Paul

    It is also important to note that Britain, British secret service, the British foreign office, etc. became virulently antisemitic in the 1920s. After having received their mandate to facilitate a Jewish nation state, they decided Arab oil was more important than their legal mandate. After the horrific Arab riots in 1929, British policy turned swiftly against Jewish immigration, while permitting unlimited Arab immigration, and creating the Israeli-Arab problem of today.

    As great as Winston Churchill was, he could not single handedly fight the rest of the British government.

  • RW

    Why was my last post not posted?