“Flabergasted”: A note on WSC

A British reader who describes himself as “Flabergasted” [sic] writes:

I must confess that this is the first time a website has created a negative impression and feel compelled to e-mail you. I am sure that you are all wonderful people, but as an Englishman I find your quote by the great Sir Winston Churchill to be deeply offensive and incorrect.
Your quote by him is right under a comment that you are proud friends of Israel. Historically Winston Churchill always supported a Palestinian homeland and your statement is clearly anti-Palestinian. You should not take pride in a state that treats those that used to live in that state in the sub-human way that they do. It is no wonder that the view of the arab world is so negative toward you Americans.
It would be nice to be proud of a former colony that had so much promise, but I for one am not at all proud of some of the bigoted and naive attitudes eminating from your country. Please refrain from giving the impression that one of the finest Englishmen ever to have lived had such reprehensible views.

There is of course much that could be said in response, particularly to the imputation of bigotry, the allegation of “sub-human” treatment, and the like. But most striking to me is the sheer ignorance of the implicit underlying assertion that Winston Churchill would not have supported the state of Israel. A little history is in order.
The citation of Winston Churchill in support of the crotchets of “Flabergasted” is amazing, though I suppose that the lack of any factual support linking Churchill to his crotchets should make it less so. He seems to be confused by modern Arab propaganda regarding a “Palestinian homeland,” not realizing that the “Palestinian homeland” Churchill supported was a “Palestinian homeland” for the Jewish people.
Need it be said that Churchill was not only a friend of the Jewish people, but that that he was also a famous supporter of the Balfour Declaration and its promise of a homeland for the Jewish people within the Palestine Mandate — the homeland of which we are proud friends?
Churchill famously replied to a Jewish delegation in Palestine during his trip to Jerusalem in March 1922: “I am myself perfectly convinced that the cause of Zionism is one which carries with it much that is good for the whole world, and not only for the Jewish people, and that it will also bring with it prosperity and contentment and advancement to the Arab population of this country.”
History has proved Churchill’s remarks prescient, but I suppose this is another quote that would knock “Flabergasted” to the floor. (Churchill’s 1922 trip to Jerusalem is described in fascinating detail in chapter 32 of the fourth volume of Martin Gilbert’s official multivolume biography of Churchill.)
In June 1922 Churchill issued the White Paper that restated the British position regarding the founding of a Jewish homeland within the Palestine Mandate. In the White Paper Churchill restated the dedication of the British government to the Balfour Declaration as follows:

Unauthorized statements have been made to the effect that the purpose in view is to create a wholly Jewish Palestine. Phrases have been used such as that Palestine is to become “as Jewish as England is English.” His Majesty’s Government regard any such expectation as impracticable and have no such aim in view. Nor have they at any time contemplated, as appears to be feared by the Arab delegation, the disappearance or the subordination of the Arabic population, language, or culture in Palestine. They would draw attention to the fact that the terms of the Declaration referred to do not contemplate that Palestine as a whole should be converted into a Jewish National Home, but that such a Home should be founded “in Palestine.” In this connection it has been observed with satisfaction that at a meeting of the Zionist Congress, the supreme governing body of the Zionist Organization, held at Carlsbad in September, 1921, a resolution was passed expressing as the official statement of Zionist aims “the determination of the Jewish people to live with the Arab people on terms of unity and mutual respect, and together with them to make the common home into a flourishing community, the upbuilding of which may assure to each of its peoples an undisturbed national development.”

Consistent with the views expressed in the White Paper, the state of Israel occupies a sliver of the Palestine Mandate.
That year Great Britain’s commitment to the Balfour Declaration came under ferocious attack in Parliament. Exercising his rhetorical virtuosity to the hilt, Churchill singlehandedly saved the British commitment to the Balfour Declaration from rejection. (For a compelling account, see David Fromkin’s A Peace to End All Peace at pages 525-526.)
During the Second World War, Churchill reiterated his support for the founding of a Jewish homeland in Palestine several times. At a meeting with Chaim Weizman and Clement Attlee in October 1943, for example, Churchill stated that, after Hitler had been crushed, a homeland for the Jews would have to established “where they belong…I have had an inheritance left to me by Balfour and I am not going to change.”
After the war, matters were complicated by attacks by Palestinian Jews on British troops prior to the establishment of the state of Israel. So far as I know, Churchill never expressed opposition to the establishment of the state of Israel.
On the contrary, in Parliament in 1949, within months of the establishment of Israel, he criticized the British government in the strongest terms for tarrying in its recognition of the state:

This is an event in world history. How vain it is to compare it with the recognition, or the claims to recognition, by certain countries, of the Communist banditti which we are resisting in Malay or of the anarchic forces which the Dutch are trying to restrain in Indonesia.

Churchill said that he had “always had in mind” that the Jewish National Home in Palestine “might some day develop into a Jewish state.”
Nine days later England recognized the state of Israel. Churchill responded to a telegram expressing the gratitude of Israel’s first president — Churchill’s old friend Chaim Weizman — stating, “I look back with much pleasure on our long association.” He added, in his own handwriting, “The light grows.”


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