NEW YORK (Jan. 21)
The Jewish communities of Britain, United States, Israel and other countries throughout the world were anxiously watching today the latest medical bulletins on Sir Winston Churchill, the great statesman known also as a great defender of Jewish causes and who, as British Prime Minister, publicly declared himself a “lifelong Zionist.”
It was recalled that in 1943, during the critical Cairo and Teheran conferences of the Allied leaders, he said at a press conference held at the British Embassy in Cairo–at which there were quite a number of Arab journalists among the 150 newspaper correspondents from all parts of the Allied and neutral world–that: “I personally have always been a Zionist.” He remarked that the Jews in Palestine “have made the desert bloom” and expressed his conviction that it would be “madness” for the people in the Arab countries to cut themselves off from the benefits of this Jewish effort.
In 1930, after the British Labor Government issued its Pass field White Paper–which recommended suspension of Jewish immigration into Palestine until a census was taken the following year and suggested curtailment of land purchases by Jews in Palestine–Churchill Joined in world wide protests against the document. He wrote a special article for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency on the implications of the White Paper issued by Lord Pass field, then the British Colonial Secretary, and took sharp issue with the recommendations in it. He called upon the British Government to return to the basic principles of the Balfour Declaration which pledged the establishment of a Jewish National Home in Palestine.
His interest in the Jews and in the Zionist movement goes back to the years of World War I when, as member of the British Cabinet, he met with Dr. Chaim Weizmann, the leader of the World Zionist movement and one of the world’s outstanding chemists. Backed by David Lloyd George, who was then Britain’s Minister of Munitions, Churchill entrusted to Dr. Weizmann the development of acetone on a large scale which was needed for the Allied war effort. Dr. Weizmann’s success in developing this important material led to his entry into the highest British governmental circles and ultimately to the pronouncement of the historic Balfour Declaration.
After World War I, in 1921, Churchill delivered an address on Mount Scopus, first site of the Hebrew University campus in Jerusalem, declaring: “My heart has throbbed with Zionism for many years.” With that pledge, he kept faith throughout his long life.
ENABLED ESTABLISHMENT OF JEWISH BRIGADE DURING WORLD WAR II
During the darkest days of the Nazi era, even before Hitler unleashed his war on the democratic world, Churchill missed no occasion to strongly condemn Nazi brutalities against Jews and the Nazi anti-Semitic propaganda. During World War II, he stood up against the opposition of members of the British Government to give the Jews a role in the actual fighting against Hitler and, as Prime Minister and Allied war leader, decided in 1944, to establish a Jewish Brigade as part of the British military forces.
The Brigade was established and contributed gloriously to the defeat of the Nazi army. Only the unchallenged authority of Churchill could have broken down the residence to the establishment of a Jewish Brigade displayed by the majority of the British Cabinet. Members of the Brigade were among the first to enter the conquered Nazi Germany and to liberate Jews from Nazi camps. They also formed the basis of the Israeli Army when Israel was proclaimed an independent state.
After World War II, when the British people voted the Churchill Government out of office, and Clement Attlee became Prime Minister while Ernest Bevin took over as Foreign Minister, Churchill’s voice was one of the major factors in the House of Commons to plead, urge and demand justice to the Jewish cause in Palestine. At the very beginning of the new Labor Government, when King George delivered his address to Parliament and failed–due to the Atlee-Bevin policy to mention Palestine, it was Churchill who openly accused the new Government of involving itself in “a war with the Jews in order to give Palestine to the Arabs amidst world execration.”
FOUGHT BEVIN ON PALESTINE: URGED BRITISH RECOGNITION OF ISRAEL
It was Churchill who first mentioned the possible withdrawal of Britain from Palestine. He told Parliament; “If we cannot fulfill our promises to the Zionists, we should, without delay, place the Palestine Mandate at the feet of the United Nations and give notice of our impending evacuation.” Later, in 1947, he warned again that “we are fighting the Jews (in Palestine) in order to give the country to the Arabs.”
After Israel had been established in 1948, Churchill described the rebirth of the Jewish State as an outstanding event in world history, upbraided the Labor Government for its “sulky boycott” of Israel, demanded urgently that a British representative be sent to Israel “immediately.” Summing up the Jewish achievements in Palestine, he told Parliament:
“The Jews have driven out the Arabs from a larger area than contemplated under the (United Nations) partition decision; they have established a Government which functions efficiently; they have a victorious army at their disposal; and they have the support of both the Soviets and the United States.” He warned the Labor Government against aiding Jordan in the latter’s fight against Israel, and urged instead the formation of a federation of Israel and the Arab states in order to achieve peace in that area.
Still later, in 1949, Churchill took the lead in accusing Foreign Minister Bevin of “prejudice” against the Jews in Palestine. “The Foreign Secretary,” he thundered in the House of Commons, “was wrong in facts, wrong in methods, wrong in results. We have lost the friendship of the Palestine Jews for the time being.” He insisted that Israel, as well as the Arabs, must be given access to the shipping lanes in the Gulf of Akaba.
In answer to a Bevin statement, accusing the Palestinian Jews of “invading” Egypt, Churchill noted that Egypt invaded Israel first, and charged Bevin with making Israel into “a mockery and scapegoat.” Over and over again, Churchill demanded in Parliament that Israel be recognized by Great Britain- an aim finally achieved.