I’ve started reading “proud practising Jew and Zionist” Martin Gilbert’s book “Churchill and the Jews”. It’s quite disturbing to learn just how steeped in Jewry Churchill was. The Rothschilds were family friends. They and other wealthy Jews (especially one called Cassel) would give presents to Churchill throughout their lives.
Here are some extracts from the book below, with my comments in square brackets and italics.
While soldiering in India in 1897, Churchill was keen to find a newspaper willing to take him on as its war correspondent. ‘Lord Rothschild would be the person to arrange this for me,’ he wrote to his mother, ‘as he knows everyone.’ On his return from India in the spring of 1899, eager to embark on a political career, Churchill again found Lord Rothschild a willing facilitator.
…It was his father’s friend, Sir Ernest Cassel, who offered to look after Churchill’s finances after his father’s death. Churchill, having made his first earnings through his writing, told Cassel, ‘Feed my sheep.’ This the banker did, investing Churchill’s eventually considerable literary earnings both wisely and well. Cassel made no charge for his services.
In preparing to go to South Africa as a war correspondent in 1899, Churchill sought funds for his kit and provisions. Lord Rothschild gave him £150 and Cassel gave him E100: a total sum that was the annual income for many middle-class families. In 1902, Churchill’s second year in Parliament, Cassel secured him a £10,000 stake in a loan offered that year by the Japanese government. On that investment, Churchill wrote to his brotherJack, ‘1 hope to make a small profit.’ In 1905, Cassel furnished a library for Churchill’s bachelor flat in London’s Mayfair. Cassel’s help to Churchill was continuous. Bonds that he bought for Churchill in the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway in 1907 provided him with the salary he paid to his typist – twice over. When Churchill married in 1908, Cassel gave him and Clementine a wedding present of £500: some £25,000 in the money values of today.
[In 1850, there were only an estimated 35,000 Jews in Britain. Substantial Jewish settlement only occurred around the turn of the 19th/20th centuries. This provoked quite a bit of anti-Semitic comment at the time, mostly now forgotten. The role of Jews as revolutionary left-wing agitators in Russia was recognised and pressure for legislation that would keep them out began to grow. Churchill, literally acting on orders from Lord Rothschild, played a decisive role in defeating it.]
Churchill’s first political involvement in Jewish concerns came in 1904, when he was twenty-seven. That year, while still a Conservative Member of Parliament for Oldham, he had begun to support Liberal Party causes. His constituency Conservative Party at Oldham told him they would no longer support him. Needing a new parliamentary constituency, and a Liberal one, he accepted the invitation to stand for Manchester North-West, where a third of the electorate was Jewish.
The issue Churchill was called upon to take up at Manchester was a national one: the Conservative Government’s Aliens Bill, aimed at curbing the influx of Jewish immigrants from Tsarist Russia, fleeing persecution and poverty. One of Churchill’s principal supporters in the Manchester Liberal Party was Nathan Laski, a forty-one-year-old Manchester merchant, President of the Old Hebrew Congregation of Manchester, and Chairman of the ManchesterJewish Hospital, who enlisted Churchill’s support, as a matter of urgency for the Jews, in seeking to prevent the passage of the Aliens Bill through parliament.
In May 1904, Nathan Laski sent Churchill a dossier of papers relating to the Aliens Bill, which included official government immigration statistics. Churchill prepared a detailed criticism of the Bill, which he sent both to Laski and as an open letter to the newspapers. ‘What has surprised me most in studying the papers you have been good enough to forward me,’ Churchill wrote in his letter, ‘is how few aliens there are in Great Britain. To judge by the talk there has been, one would have imagined we were being overrun by the swarming invasion and “ousted” from our island through neglect of precautions which every foreign nation has adopted. But it now appears from the Board of Trade statistics that all the aliens in Great Britain do not amount to a one-hundred. and-fortieth part of the total population, that they are increasing only 7,000 a year on the average, and that, according to the report of the Alien Commission, Germany has twice as large and France four times as large a proportion of foreigners as we have. It does not appear, therefore, that there can be urgent or sufficient reasons, racial or social, for departing from the old tolerant and generous practice of free entry and asylum to which this country has so long adhered and from which it has so often greatly gained.’
Churchill’s critique of the Aliens Bill also concerned the powers that the Bill would confer on those responsible for enforcing it. He feared ‘an intolerant or anti-Semitic Home Secretary’, noting that the custom in England ‘has hitherto been to allow police and Customs officers to act and report on facts, not to be the judges of characters and credentials.’
Churchill had another objection, that an alien could be deported on the testimony ‘of the common informer — perhaps his private enemy or a trade rival.’ The whole Bill, Churchill concluded, looked like an attempt, on the part of the government, ‘to gratify a small but noisy section of their own supporters and to purchase a little popularity in the constituencies by dealing harshly with a number of unfortunate aliens who have no votes. It is expected to appeal to insular prejudice against foreigners, to racial prejudice against Jews, and to labour prejudice against competition.’ English working men, Churchill wrote, ‘are not so selfish as to be unsympathetic towards the victims of circumstances or oppression. They do not respond in any marked degree to the anti-Semitism which has darkened recent Continental history, and I for one believe that they disavow an attempt to shut out the stranger from our land because he is poor or in trouble, and will resent a measure which, without any proved necessity, smirches those ancient traditions of freedom and hospitality for which Britain has been so long renowned.’
‘Pray accept my personal thanks for your splendid letter received this morning,’ Nathan Laski wrote from Manchester. ‘You have won the gratitude of the whole Jewish Community not alone of Manchester, but of the entire country.’ 2 On 31 May 1904, the day Churchill’s letter with its critique of anti-Semitism was published, he formally left the Conservative Party and joined the Liberal opposition. The Jews of Manchester had acquired a courageous champion.
On 8 June 1904 Churchill made his first speech from the Liberal Opposition benches: opposing the government’s attempt to push the Aliens Bill through Parliament without a full debate. Despite his arguments, the Bill was sent — without scrutiny in the full House of Commons — to the far smaller Grand Committee, of which Churchill was one of four Liberal members; a daily and active participant in committee’s discussions.
Those Britons who opposed Jewish immigration appealed to popular anti-Semitic sentiment to make their case. The Sun newspaper alleged that Churchill’s opposition to the Bill was on the direct orders of Lord Rothschild. This was the first but not the last time that Churchill was to be accused by his political opponents, and by anti-Semites, of being in the pocket, and even in the pay, of wealthy Jews. The accusation almost certainly arose from a short news item in the Jewish Chronicle, reporting a meeting in Manchester at which ‘Mr Nathan Laski said he had interviewed Mr Winston Churchill, who had seen Lord Rothschild with reference to the Bill. The result of the interview was that Mr Churchill was practically leading the attack on the Bill in Grand Committee.
The Aliens Bill had eleven clauses, totalling 240 lines. Its opponents challenged each clause, however minor, with Churchill either proposing or seconding each of the many amendments. Major Williams Evans-Gordon, one of the Grand Committee members who opposed Jewish immigration, declared that Churchill ‘was faithfully carrying out the instructions he had received from the party for which he was acting,’ and hastened to add, defensively, that he ‘did not say for anybody in particular.’ This thinly veiled insinuation that he was acting on instructions from the Jews brought Churchill angrily to his feet. He then referred to the suggestion made in the Sun newspaper that he was acting under instruction from Lord Rothschild, telling the committee that he ‘regretted that so foul a slander should be repeated here.’
So determined were Churchill and his three fellow-Liberal opponents of the Bill on the committee to challenge its every word that, by the seventh day of the committee’s deliberations, only three lines of a single clause had been discussed. A further ten clauses and 233 lines remained to be examined. Anxious to avoid the continuation of such thorough scrutiny, the government abandoned the Bill.
Churchill had supported the Jews, and prevailed. He had helped forestall legislation that would have posed a serious impediment to large numbers of Jews seeking to enter Britain; Jews who within a few decades were to make their contribution to Jewish life in Britain, and to the defence of Britain in both world wars, the second under Churchill’s leadership.
Source “Churchill and the Jews” by Martin Gilbert