Manfred and Anne Lehmann Foundation

Winston Churchill as a Zionist

Whenever the question arises -- Do great men make history or are they the products of history? -- the name of Winston Churchill comes up. For without doubt, it was for Churchill and Churchill alone that Great Britain continued its fight against Hitler’s Germany in 1940 when it looked entirely hopeless to continue fighting the German dictator alone.

Churchill’s dogged determination has often been likened to that of a bulldog. Of course, Franklin D. Roosevelt was equally important in mobilizing the free world to carry on the fight until the final, full victory, but had not Churchill carried on until the end of 1941, the United States would probably have lost the war or would have given in to the Axis powers of Germany, Italy and Japan. History would have certainly turned out differently!

Churchill was also a most gifted orator and writer. He got his Nobel Prize as a writer, not as a peacemaker! His many books on the conduct of World War II are classics that every student of world history must read and master. His five-volume work, "The Second World War," gives us many glimpses of another phase of Churchill’s rich personality: his strong support for Zionism.

Churchill had been in every war since the defense of Khartoum for General Gordon 100 years ago. Later he participated in the Boer War in South Africa as a war correspondent, the First World War as Cabinet minister, and, finally, the Second World War as prime minister. This first-hand experience of an enormous span of history had given Churchill an uncanny grasp on world events. He said at one point at the end of World War II: "I have not become His Majesty’s first minister to preside over the dissolution of the British Empire." Yet that is what actually did take place in his lifetime. Colonialism reached its end in the 1950s, and with its demise, so did the British Empire.

Churchill had a feeling throughout the war that a Jewish homeland in Palestine was highly desirable. On August 9, 1942, he wrote to President Roosevelt, "I am strongly wedded to the Zionist policy of which I was one of the authors."

During the War, Zionists led by Chaim Weizman clamored for the right to organize a Jewish army to fight for the defense of the Allied cause in the Middle East. The anti-Zionists in London, however, spread propaganda to the effect that a Jewish army would arouse Arab opposition and that in the end Jews and Arabs would join together to fight against Great Britain.

Churchill scoffed at this idea and had full faith in Jewish superiority: "If left to themselves, the Jews will best the Arabs" (from his diary entry of January 25, 1944). He supported the idea of a Jewish army, as "the Jews, properly armed, would free our forces to fight in Egypt." He also wrote: "I wished to arm the Jews at Tel Aviv, who, with proper weapons, would have made a good fight against all comers." These Jewish soldiers would be assigned the defense of Palestine, Churchill wrote, "for this purpose the Jews hold be armed in their own defense, and properly organized as speedily as possible. We cannot leave them unarmed when our troops leave."

Churchill’s support for a Zionist homeland was of greatest importance. It is a pity that his deep knowledge of the Arab world and the Arab mind was not brought to bear in the years to come. His own realistic assessment of the future of a Jewish State was brilliantly set forth in one of his speeches in the House of Commons: "The progress of Jews in their own homeland will impress the Arab population that the Zionists are their friends and helpers, not their expellers and expropriators. I am told that the Arabs would cultivate their land by themselves. Who is going to believe that? Left to themselves, the Arabs of Palestine would not in a thousand years have taken effective steps toward the irrigation and electrification of Palestine."

Churchill’s Early Zionism

Churchill’s love for Zionism went back to his early years as a parliamentarian who, in Manchester, socialized with several prominent Jews, including the writer Israel Zangwill and Baron Nathan Rothschild. In 1908 he wrote to a leader of Manchester Jewry: "I am in full sympathy with the historical traditional aspirations of the Jews. The restoration to them of a center of true racial and political integrity would be a tremendous event in the history of the world, Jerusalem must be the only ultimate goal. When it will be achieved is vain to prophecy, but That it will be achieved is of the few certainties of the future!"

In the years before World War I, Churchill had supported the Balfour Declaration, which assured the Jews a national homeland in Palestine. This Declaration was reconfirmed by the League of Nations after the war and covered the entire area, which today is called Israel and Jordan. As Minister in charge of colonies, Churchill visited Palestine in 1921 and reported to Parliament: "Anyone who has seen the work of Jewish colonies will be struck by the enormous productive results which they have achieved ... The fanatical attacks from the Arabs come from Arabs outside Palestine, while the Arabs in Palestine have benefited greatly by the progress of the Zionist pioneers."

Churchill as Colonial Secretary

After Churchill had installed a Jew, Herbert Samuel *in Hebrew Menachem ben Aisle), to be the first British high commissioner in Palestine, the grand mufti of Jerusalem -- Amin el-Husseini, the great hater of England and of Jews and ancestor of today’s Arafat el-Husseini and Feisal el-Husseini - - aroused Arab mobs to violence that lasted for more than a year. Meanwhile, there was also trouble in Syria, which originally had been granted to Britain but which the French were aspiring to possess.

Although Churchill continued to be a Zionist enthusiast, his policies were undermined in the Colonial Office, where the Arabists -- including the fabled Lawrence of Arabia -- had plans to strip the League of Nations mandate of “Palestine” of all its eastern or Trans-Jordanian territory and award it to the Hashemite family of local rulers. The effect was to turn the attention of the Hashemites from Syria and, instead, satisfy themselves with the governorship over Eastern Palestine. The eastern province of Palestine was called Trans-Jordan Palestine, while the Western part was called Cis-Jordan Palestine. It was meant to be a temporary arrangement, with the Trans-Jordan part soon to be restored to the rest of Palestine.

Fate, however, intervened, when Churchill was relieved of his post as colonial, secretary before he could restore the full territory of Palestine. His successors conveniently forgot about the temporary nature of Churchill’s portion of the Mandate. As we know, the eastern province was never restored to Palestine - the name continued to be Trans-Jordan. Only in 1946, 24 years later, was the first part of the hyphenated name dropped. Churchill, the great Zionist would never have agreed with this development, especially as "Jordan" was also largely populated by Palestinians from the western part of the mandate.

To those who know the history, it is evident that a Palestinian state has already existed for 73 years. There is, on the basis of historical fact, no justification for another "Palestinian State," which only exists in the minds of radical Arabs who are intent on continuing the ferocious attacks on the Jewish State and see in the establishment of yet another Palestinian political entity, a way to take over the small remnant of the original territory of "Palestine."

Churchill’s Zionist Vision

Churchill never lost sight of his great, Zionist vision for the Jewish people. In this he was seconded by Lord Balfour himself, who said this in the House of Lords in 1922: "Send a message to Jews scattered around the world that Christians are not oblivious of their faith, are not unmindful of the service they rendered to the great religions of the world and most of all to Christianity and that we desire to give them that opportunity of developing, in peace and tranquillity, those great gifts which hitherto they have been compelled to bring to the fruition in countries that know not their language and belong not to their race." Churchill opposed the White Paper, which just before the Second World War would have restricted Jewish emigration into the Jewish homeland. He had full faith in the Balfour Declaration.

In many of his speeches, Churchill minimized the threat from the Arabs, and put his full faith in the ability of the Jews to defend their own homeland. Churchill’s vision and conviction in the Justice and truth of Zionism should be a beacon of light to the many confused and hostile voices we hear today! No doubt Churchill molded history, while being a tool of the Almighty’s providential protection of the ultimate visions for the Jewish people.




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