Sunday, February 5, 2012

Part 2 - Churchill and the Jews - A Lifelong Friendship

p. 53 “It was twenty-two years since Churchill had last been in a Muslim setting, when he had been part of the British Army fighting the Sudanese Islamic K=khalif. His views on Islam had been formed then, and were not favourable. In his book, The River War, first published in 1899, he had written: ‘How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism 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.’ 
‘The fact that in Mohammedian 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 paralyzes the social development of those who follow it.
‘Churchill then expressed his view of the difference between the Jewish and Arab positions in Palestine. The Jews have a far more difficult task than you. You only have to enjoy your own possession; but they have to try to create out of the wilderness, out of the barren places, a livelihood for the people they bring in. They have to bring them in under conditions which make for the general good of the population, and which supplant no one, and deprive no one of their rights and liberties.’ p.72
p.81 ‘Critics of the Rutenberg concession [A plan to bring electricity to Palestine by harnessing the water power of the Jordan and Yarkon rivers] had insisted that it was for the Arab majority to develop the economic wealth of Palestine. Churchill sought to rebut this argument: “I am told that the Arabs would have done it themselves. Who is going to believe that? Left to themselves, the Arabs of Palestine would not in a thousand years have taken effective steps towards the irrigation and electrification of Palestine. They would have been quite content to dwell - a handful of philosophic people - in the wasted sun-scorched plains, letting the waters of the Jordan continue to flow unbridled and unharnessed into the Dead Sea.’
“In 1929 the Conservatives were defeated by Labour at the General Election and Churchill, while remaining a member of Parliament, was out of office...While he was traveling (to America) there was an upsurge of Arab attacks on Jews throughout Palestine... During the attacks, by armed Arabs against unarmed Jews, 133 Jews were killed. In Jerusalem 4,000 Jews were driven from their homes. [When asked about this] Churchill replied, ”The Arabs had no reason to be against the Jews, he said, “The Jews 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 than before the Jews came and it will be a short time only before they realize it.”
“To Jewish enterprise, ‘Churchill stressed, ‘the Arab owes nearly everything he has. Fanaticism and a sort of envy have driven the Arab to violence, and for the present the problem is one of proper policing until harmony has been restored.’”
“Churchill made the same points in an article in the New York magazine. Praising the work of the Zionists in Palestine, he wrote of 'Rishon le--Zion, the wine-making town he had visited eight years earlier, that out of the blistering desert, patience, industry, and civilized intelligence have created  green, smiling fields and vineyards and delicious shady groves, the home of thriving, happy, simple communities who, even if there had been no Balfour Declaration, would deserve the strong protection and the sympathies of free and enlightened people in every quarter of the globe.’”
"As for the Arabs of Palestine, Churchill wrote, they had been brought, as a result of the Jewish presence there, ‘nothing but good gifts, more wealth, more trade, more civilization, new sources of revenue, more employment, a higher rate of wages, larger cultivated areas, a better water supply - in a word, the fruits of reason and of science.’
p.95  “Churchill had long been fascinated by Jewish history, by the Jewish involvement with the events of the time, and above all by the Jew’s monotheism and ethics. These seemed to him a central factor in the evolution and maintenance of modern civilization. He published his thoughts about this on 8 November 1931, in an article in the Sunday Chronicle about Moses.”
“Noting that the Biblical story had often been portrayed as myth, Churchill declared; “We reject, however, with scorn all those learned and laboured myths that Moses was but a legendary figure upon whom the priesthood and the people hung their essential social, moral and religious ordinances... Moses himself, was the greatest of the prophets, who spoke in person to the God of Israel, he was the national hero who led the Chosen people out of the land of bondage, through the perils of the wilderness, and brought then to the very threshold of the Promised Land; he was the supreme lawgiver, who received from God that remarkable code upon which the religious, moral, and social life of the nation was so securely fastened. Tradition lastly ascribed to him the authorship of the whole Pentateuch, and the mystery that surrounded his death added to the prestige.’
Thirty years later, Churchill gave a copy of this essay to the Israeli Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion.”
My commentary:
Churchill was consistent in his support for Zionism and of the Jews. Unfortunately, many of his countrymen did not share this attitude. As Hitler’s menacing presence threatened the continent, Churchill had to deal with evil on many fronts... More on that next time.

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