27 Jul Winston Churchill: a True Friend of Zion
One of the most recognizable names among world leaders in the 20th century is that of Winston
Churchill, who as prime minister of Britain inspired and rallied his people in their fight against the Nazi German enemy during the darkest hours of World War II.
Less well known is the role that Churchill played in his long career in the British government as an outspoken advocate of Jewish settlement in what was then known as Palestine. While many, indeed most, senior figures in the British leadership were at best indifferent or even hostile to the Zionist cause of Jewish renewal in the Land of Israel, Churchill was an enthusiastic and sympathetic promoter of that cause.
In a private letter from 1906, Churchill wrote of his Zionist sympathies: “I recognize the supreme attraction to a scattered and persecuted people of a safe and settled home under the flag of tolerance and freedom.” In another letter, two years later, he wrote in a far-seeking manner about the reestablishment of a Jewish homeland with Jerusalem at its core: “Jerusalem must be the only ultimate goal. When it will be achieved is vain to prophesy: but that it will someday be achieved is one of the few certainties of the future.”
Churchill’s achievements in regard to the Zionist cause have been well documented in various articles and books. Indeed, he is one of the outstanding figures recognized in the Hall of Visionaries gallery in the Friends of Zion Museum in Jerusalem for his outspoken sympathies for the Jewish people and a Jewish homeland.
Churchill believed that the British mandate over Palestine should be maintained for such a period until the Jewish population there will be of sufficient strength and level of development so as to assume independent rule over the land. Churchill did not hesitate to express his views to the Arab leadership in Palestine, who vehemently opposed any concept of an independent Jewish homeland. Churchill told them in 1921: “They (the Jews) were in Palestine many hundreds of years ago. They have always tried to be there. They have done a great deal for the country. They have started many thriving colonies and many of them wish to go and live there. It is to them a sacred place.”
In May 1941, in a secret memorandum, he wrote of his hope for the establishment after the war of a “Jewish State of Western Palestine” with not only the fullest rights for immigration and development, but also with provision “for expansion in the desert regions to the southwards which they would gradually reclaim.”
Churchill’s electoral defeat at the end of World War II meant that he could not carry out the policies he had outlined and had to watch powerless as the Labour government’s Palestine policy was put into effect, severely restricting Jewish immigration there and preventing many thousands of Jewish survivors from the Holocaust of World War from reaching its shores.
In honor of Churchill’s memory, a major boulevard in Jerusalem is named for him, and a bust of his unforgettable personage is on display in a central location of the city.