Thursday, February 16, 2012

Churchill and the Jews - Post 3

p 144
The cabinet was convinced that a quiescent Arab and Muslim world was essential for Britain, and that if appeasement was required to secure that quiescence, the government’s commitments to the Jews in Palestine were an obvious sacrifice. The fate of the Jews in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv had become vulnerable to pressure exerted in Delhi, Karachi, Cairo, Baghdad and Riyadh; pressure that was proving all-too effective.
In March 1938 Germany annexed Austria . The Swastika flag was raised over the Austrian parliament building and Hitler entered Vienna in Triumph. The persecution of the Jews began from the first days of the new regime... In response to the shooting of a German diplomat, the Germans on November 11 began a violent anti-Jewish pogrom throughout Germany (later known as Kristallnacht.) More than a thousand synagogues and places of worship were set on fire, several thousand homes ransacked, hundreds of Jews savagely beaten, and more than ninety murdered. Within a few days, 30,000 Jews were arrested: scholars, doctors, lawyers, engineers, bankers, shopkeepers, teachers, men who had once played a leading part in German national and civic life.. were all sent to concentration camps.
Churchill learned of a secret speech that Hitler gave to the German Foreign Ministry. The notes began: ‘He wanted to eliminate from German life the Jews, The Churches, and suppress private industry. 
In a House of Commons debate on 24 November, Churchill made a forceful speech. The picture that he painted with regard to Britain’s stewardship of Palestine was dire. “There is tragedy in Palestine,’ he declared. “Blood is shed, murders are committed, executions are carried out, terror and counter-terror have supervened in the relationship between the Jews and the Arabs, both of whom have a right to dwell in the land which the Lord hath given them.
With anger born of impotence to influence policy, Churchill told the House - with its large majority of loyal government supporters - I accuse His Majesty’s Government of having been, for more than three years, incapable of forming a coherent opinion upon the affairs of Palestine.
The more Churchill warned about Hitler’s aggressive intentions in Europe, and called for accelerated British rearmament, the more Neville Chamberlain and the Conservative Party machine belittled his arguments and his judgement.
Churchill’s bitterness  was strong. He had been kept out of the decision-making process for so long. His warnings about Naziism had been clear and detailed, but to no avail. While Chamberlain and his Cabinet did not want Churchill in their inner circle, a larger and larger segment of the British public was calling for him to be given a place. 
Neville Chamberlain stressed that it was of “immense importance” with regard to British strategy ‘to have the Moslem world with us. Chamberlain added, ‘If we must offend one side, Let us offend the Jews rather than the Arabs.’ 
The McDonald White Paper - known to the Jews as the Black Paper - laid down a final limit to Jewish immigration of a total of 75,000 Jews during the coming five years.
The White Paper was made public on 19 May, 1939. During the second day of the debate [about the Paper], Churchill spoke with force and bitterness against what he believed was both a betrayal of the Balfour Declaration, and a shameful act of appeasement.
Chamberlain commented on the persecution of the Jews of Germany in a letter to one of his sisters: ‘I believe the persecution arose out of two motives: A desire to rob the Jews of their money and a jealousy of their superior cleverness. No doubt Jews aren’t a lovable people; I don’t care about them myself; but that is not sufficient to explain the Pogrom.’ With such an attitude at the highest level of government it was a misfortune for the Jews that Churchill, their most articulate and passionate defender, was out of political office. 
On 3 September 1939, two days after the German invasion of Poland, Britain and France declared war on Germany. That day, Neville Chamberlain brought Churchill back into the Cabinet after ten years exclusion, appointing him First Lord of the Admiralty, the post he had held on the outbreak of war in 1914.
Churchill saw Weizmann again on 17 December. ‘Mr Churchill was very cordial. Weizmann said that ‘after the war the Zionists would wish to have a state of some three or four million Jews in Palestine.’ To this Churchill replied, ‘Yes, indeed, I quite agree with that.’
This was to be Churchill’s theme throughout the war; that no permanent restriction on Jewish immigration should be imposed, but that the future of Palestine should be determined at a peace conference after the war.
On 10 May 1940, German forces struck simultaneously at Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg and France, Chamberlain agreed to resign. Far away in Tel Aviv, the news reached a gathering of Jews. Everyone in the large hall stood up and cheered wildly. 
With Churchill at the helm there was now hope for the Jews of Palestine.
On 8 August Ben-Gurion wrote to his wife again: ‘And how great is this nation that found a suitable leader in this terrible hour - and at the right moment, and one could say that if England - and with it all of humanity, were to survive the Nazi disaster - it would be due to the rule of democracy and freedom that has taken root so deeply.
Note: My rewrite of Luther's Baggage is taking shape and I'll resume posts after this "book report" is through.

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