Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Jews: A Really Useful Engine

Churchill and the Jews  by Martin Gilbert, part 1
There is a quote that occurs in the beginning and end of the book that is a good way to summarize Churchill’s impression of the Jewish psyche. 
“Reflecting on Jewish ethics when he was in Jerusalem in 1921, he declared: ‘We owe to the Jews in the Christian revelation 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. On that system and by that faith there has been built out of the wreck of the Roman Empire the whole of our existing civilization.’
In a newspaper article about Moses, published in 1931, he wrote of the Israelites in the desert: ‘This wandering tribe, in many respects indistinguishable from numberless nomadic communities, grasped and proclaimed an idea of which all the genius of Greece and all the power of Rome were incapable.’”
Churchill’s involvement with Zionism started early in his political career and it culminated as Churchill went into retirement. In between these years, England vacillated between support and antagonism with Jewish concerns, while Churchill remained constantly supportive. As a result, in my opinion, England lost potential blessings and if it were not for brave supporters such as Churchill, would have suffered even more under the pronouncements of Genesis 12:3.
“In January 1921 Lloyd George appointed Churchill as Secretary of State for the Colonies, with special responsibility for Palestine and Iraq. This included carrying out the terms of the Balfour Declaration and facilitating the establishment of a Jewish National Home. It was at this time that the legendary Lawrence of Arabia became Churchill’s Arab Affairs advisor. The presence of Lawrence of Arabia was of inestimable benefit to Churchill in his desire to help the Jews of Palestine. Lawrence, like Churchill, saw virtue in the Zionist enterprise. His friendship with the Arab leaders with whom he had fought during the Arab Revolt was paralleled by his understanding of Zionist aspirations, and his keenness to see the Zionists help the Arabs forward in Palestine - and elsewhere in the Middle East - to modernity and prosperity... 
On the first anniversary of the Balfour Declaration in November 1918, Lawrence had told a British Jewish newspaper: ‘Speaking entirely as a non-Jew, I look on the Jews as the natural importers of western leaven so necessary for the countries of the Near East.’”
As I went through the book, highlighting and underlining paragraphs and sentences that I found important, I kept seeing a theme. It is the reclamation of the desert that Churchill saw as a differentiator between Jews and Arabs. It caused me to think of another English example that I see acted out with my Grandchildren: Thomas and Friends on the island of Sodor. Thomas is a little blue train engine that was created more than 50 years ago by an English clergyman, Reverend Wilbert Awdry. You can see the episodes on public TV or on video. The train system on Sodor is run by Sir Topham Hatt, nicknamed "the Fat Controller" who is the manager of the North Western Railway.
A compliment that every engine wants to receive from Sir Topham Hatt is that they are a “really useful engine.” This insight into British efficiency is mirrored in how Churchill viewed the desert in the Middle East. Here are just a few quotes from the book: 
“If a National Home for the Jews is to be established in Palestine, as we hope to see it established, it can only be by a process which at every stage wins its way on its merits and carries with it increasing benefits and prosperity and happiness to the people of the country as a whole. And why should this not be so? Why should this not be possible? You can see with your own eyes in many parts of this country the work which has already been done by Jewish colonies, how sandy wastes have been reclaimed and thriving farms and orangeries planted in their stead.
‘Why is there harsh injustice done, if people come in [Jews] 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.”
“If the Jewish experiment in Zionism succeeds, and in proportion as they do succeed year by year, such success can only be accompanied by a general diffusion of wealth and well-being among all the dwellers in Palestine and by an advance in the social, scientific and cultural life of the people as a whole.”
“Churchill concluded his remarks to the Arabs (in a reply to an Arab deputation) by urging them to grasp the positive prospects: ‘If instead of sharing miseries through quarrels you will share blessings through cooperation,’ he told them, ‘a bright and tranquil future lies before your country. The earth is a generous mother. She will produce in plentiful abundance for all her children if they will but cultivate her soil in justice and in peace.”
In 1921 Churchill visited a Jewish agricultural colony in Palestine named Rishon le-Zion. “He was so impressed by the enthusiasm of its 2000 members that ten weeks later in the House of Commons, he said: “Anyone who has seen the work of the Jewish colonies which have been established during the last 20-30 years in Palestine will be struck by the enormous productive results which they have achieved.’ From the most inhospitable soil, surrounded on every side by barrenness and the most miserable form of cultivation,’ I was driven to 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.’"
Churchill was, like Sir Topham Hatt, one who could say that the Jews were a really useful engine in the world. His admiration for their accomplishments was consistent throughout his life. 
To be continued...

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