Winston Churchill was Not a Zionist?

Winston Churchill was Not a Zionist?

WSC plant­i­ng a cer­e­mo­ni­al tree in Pales­tine, 1921.

The Churchill Soci­ety of Israel serves Israelis with an inter­est in Sir Win­ston Churchill, accord­ing to Rus­sell Roth­stein, quot­ed in the Jan­u­ary 9th Dai­ly Tele­graph“Churchill’s long-stand­ing sup­port of Zion­ism and friend­ship with the Jew­ish peo­ple make it par­tic­u­lar­ly appro­pri­ate that the mod­ern state of Israel have a local organ­i­sa­tion devot­ed to his mem­o­ry and to pre­serv­ing his thoughts, words and deeds for future generations.”

Sir Mar­tin Gilbert, Churchill’s offi­cial biog­ra­ph­er, added: “Churchill was very famil­iar with the Old Tes­ta­ment. He wrote about the Chil­dren of Israel who “under­stood and adopt­ed ideas which even ancient Greece and Rome, for all their pow­er, failed to com­pre­hend. He was famil­iar with the Zion­ist ide­al and sup­port­ed the idea of a Jew­ish state.”

“Not a Zionist?”

But Israeli pro­fes­sor Eli Shealtiel, who claims to be a Churchill schol­ar, dis­putes Churchill’s cre­den­tials: “He was no stranger to the latent anti-Semi­tism of his gen­er­a­tion and class….he lost inter­est in Zion­ism after his close friend Lord Moyne was assas­si­nat­ed by Stern Gang extrem­ists in Cairo in Novem­ber 1944.”

For a Churchill schol­ar, Pro­fes­sor Shealtiel offers lit­tle insight. Churchill had many close Jew­ish friends through­out life. He was a Zion­ist at least 1908, when he rep­re­sent­ed heav­i­ly Jew­ish Man­ches­ter North West. As Colo­nial Sec­re­tary in 1921 he pro­mot­ed a Jew­ish home­land in Pales­tine. (Few remem­ber the Man­date was 6/7ths Arab, com­pris­ing mod­ern Jor­dan and Israel). In the 1930s he stri­dent­ly spoke against Hitler’s pogroms and the British government’s anti-semit­ic Pales­tine White Paper. His speech­es from 1948 to 1955 were replete with pro-Israel sen­ti­ments. Ever the opti­mist, he hoped for rec­on­cil­i­a­tion between Arabs and Jews.

Britain’s Pales­tine Man­date includ­ed today’s Jor­dan as well as today’s Israel.

But Churchill was not an uncrit­i­cal friend. Out­raged when Lord Moyne (Wal­ter Guin­ness), Min­is­ter Res­i­dent in Cairo, was shot with his dri­ver by mem­bers of the ter­ror­ist Stern Gang (Lehi) on 5 Novem­ber 1944, Churchill want­ed Zion­ist leader Chaim Weiz­mann to ensure that the Jew­ish Agency “do all in their pow­er to sup­press these ter­ror­ist activ­i­ties.” Mar­tin Gilbert’s offi­cial biog­ra­phy, vol­ume 7, Road to Vic­to­ry, records his speech to the Com­mons at that time: “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.”


The Israeli E-zine Haaretz fur­ther quotes Shealtiel as say­ing “Churchill made a num­ber of anti-Semit­ic state­ments.” Which state­ments, and when? One can’t reply to this sort of unat­trib­uted, unspe­cif­ic, unsub­stan­ti­at­ed er, mishe­gas.

On his 75th birth­day Churchill received a mes­sage from David Ben-Guri­on, Israel’s first prime min­is­ter: “Your words and your deeds are indeli­bly engraved in the annals of human­i­ty. Hap­py the peo­ple that has pro­duced such a son.”

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