The Foundation for Constitutional Democracy


Churchill, the Jews, and the Arabs

Filed under: Islam & ArabPoliticiansZionism/Nationalism — eidelberg @ 5:08 am

Edited transcript of the Eidelberg Report, Israel National Radio, April 28, 2008.

Since anti-Semitism is sweeping cross England and Europe, I want to read some passages from England’s greatest statesman, Winston Churchill, who, more than any other man, saved England Europe from Nazi tyranny.

I propose to read passages from Churchill’s official biographer Sir Martin Gilbert, whose recent book, Churchill & the Jews (2007) is fascinating.

Before I begin, I want to point out that Churchill was first and foremost a British statesman, and his duties as a British statesmen must be taken into account in any assessment one makes of his attitude toward Jews and Palestine.

Despite the anti-Zionist attitude of many of his Conservative Party colleagues, Churchill was steadfast in his support of the Jews, as Gilbert thoroughly documents. Churchill was a life-long friend of Chaim Weismann, who, with David Ben-Gurion, regarded him as a champion of the Jewish cause. Of course, Churchill could not ignore Arab claims and pressure if only because millions of Muslims lived under British rule. Nevertheless, he opposed the 1939 White Paper, which curtailed Jewish immigration to Palestine when Jews were trying to escape Nazi Germany.

In March 1920, Churchill wrote an article saying: “We owe to the Jews … a system of ethics which, even if it were entirely separated from the supernatural, would be incomparably the most precious possession of mankind, worth in fact the fruits of all other wisdom and learning put together” (p. 38).

Elsewhere he said: “Some people like the Jews, and some do not. But no thoughtful man can deny that they are, beyond any question, the most formidable and the most remarkable race which has ever appeared in the world.”

Here is what he told the House of Commons about his visit to Palestine in 1921:

Anyone who has seen the work of the Jewish colonies which have been established during the last twenty or thirty years in Palestine will be struck by the enormous productive results which they had achieved.

He described how he had driven from

the most inhospitable soil, surrounded on every side by barrenness and the most miserable form of cultivation, into a fertile and thriving country estate, where the scanty soil gave place to good crops and good cultivation, and then to vineyards and finally to the most beautiful, luxurious orange groves. All created in twenty or thirty years by the exertions of the Jewish community who live there, (p. 65)

In 1929, armed Arabs attacked and murdered 133 unarmed Jews. In Jerusalem, four thousand Jews were driven from their homes. Churchill, then visiting the United States, was asked by reporters whether this killing of Jews and destruction of Jewish property would affect Britain’s pledge to allow continued Jewish immigration. Churchill replied, the Arabs had no reason to be against the Jews.

The Jews [he explained] have developed the country, grown orchards and grain fields out of the desert, built schools and great buildings, constructed irrigation projects and water power houses and have made Palestine a much better place in which to live than it was before they came a few years ago. The Arabs are much better off now … To Jewish enterprise the Arab owes nearly everything he has. Fanaticism and a sort of envy have driven the Arab to violence …” (pp. 91-92)

On March 12, 1937, the year after the beginning of the Arab uprising in Palestine, Churchill was called to give evidence to the Peel Commission. He was asked more than 100 questions since he was the author of the 1922 White Paper that enabled 300,000 Jews to enter Palestine.

Asked whether this influx of Jews constituted a harsh injustice to the Palestinian Arabs, he replied: “Why is there harsh injustice done if people come in and make a livelihood for more and make the desert into palm groves and orange groves? Why is it injustice because there is more work and wealth for everybody. There is no injustice. The injustice is when those who live in the country leave it to be a desert for thousands of years” (p. 113).

He rejected the contention that the Jews in Palestine constituted a foreign race. He pointed out it was the Arabs who had been the outsiders, the conquerors. “The [Jewish] population of Palestine,” he said, “was much greater when it was a Roman province.… When the Mohammedan upset occurred in world history and the great hordes of Islam swept over these places, they … smashed it all up. You have seen the terraces on the hills which used to be cultivated, [but] which under Arab rule have remained a desert” (pp. 115-116)

Churchill was asked whether the Arabs were right in saying the entry of the Jewish Home in Palestine prevented them from having self-governing institutions. He replied that “the Mandate limited the development of Arab self-governing institutions as long as they do not accept the spirit of the Balfour Declaration. The moment they accept that spirit, with all the pledges of their civil liberties, the question falls to the ground. [But the Arabs] resist and they do not want it.” Churchill then added: “If I were an Arab I should not like it, but it is for the good of the world that [Palestine] should be cultivated, and it will never be cultivated by the Arabs” (pp, 117-118). (Consistent with the Balfour Declaration, Churchill said civil liberties and made no mention of national rights.)

One Peel Commission member complained that the Jewish Agency—set up in 1930—has its representative in London, whereas the Arabs feel they are left in the cold. Churchill replied: “It is a question of which civilization you prefer.” (p. 119).

Peel said Britain “might have some compunction if she felt she was downing the Arabs year after year when they wanted to remain in their own country.” Gilbert comments that Churchill rejected this line of reasoning, and allowed himself to be drawn into a more contentious discussion. He quotes Churchill:

I do not admit that the dog in the manger has the final right to the manger, even though he may have lain there for a very long time. I do not admit that right. I do not admit, for instance, that that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America, or the black people of Australia. I do not admit that a wrong has been done to those people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher grade race, or, at any rate, a more worldly-wise race, to put it that way, has come in and taken their place” (p.120).

Churchill had no high opinion of Islam. In 1899, when he was in the British Army fighting Sudanese Muslims, Churchill wrote:

How dreadful are the curses which Islam lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries, improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement the next of its dignity and sanctity.

Churchill added:

The fact that in Islamic law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property, either as a child, a wife, or a concubine, must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men. Individual Moslems may show splendid qualities, but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Islam is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science, the science against which it had vainly struggled, the civilization of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilization of ancient Rome (pp. 53-54, emphasis added).

Allow me to conclude by saying, would that Israel had a mere fraction of a Churchill at the helm.