"Churchill and the Jews" by Martin Gilbert

Bookshelf: recommended readings
I am writing these words at one of the darkest moments in the history of the Jewish people. We are in the midst of a war provoked by one of the most brutal terrorist attacks in the 21st century, a war that will bring us to a new chapter of Middle Eastern civilization. Who knows, maybe it will be a new chapter in global history as well. We are yet to discover the long-term implications of events taking place right now and right here.
Much has been written in the recent couple of months about the outburst of anti-semitism in its new and most villainous shapes following the attack of Hamas terrorists on Israel and the Jewish people. It is in times like this that I find comfort in reading biographies and historical monographs that, I believe, can shed some light on some occurrences of our dark epoch.
Winston Churchill has been at the centre of my personal interest for quite some time now. It started with his monumental book, The Second World War, which has completely restructured my perception of the history of the XXth century and eradicated the remnants of Soviet education, which I didn’t even know I had.
It is in this uneasy moment that I feel that the search for effective communication keys is most crucial, and their possession is essential for survival. Churchill is an example of a historical figure who clearly had these keys and knew how to use them to shape public opinion that, in multiple periods of his political career, was not in his favour. It is his ability to distinguish what path to follow and to defend relentlessly and intrepidly his choices and opinions that doesn’t cease to fascinate me and deserves, in my opinion, the most close attention in our current reality.
Churchill and the Jews is a scurpulous study of a British historian and Churchill’s official biographer, Sir Martin Gilbert, dedicated to the origins, consequences, and significance of Churchill’s commitment to Jewish rights and Zionism, as well as his vocal stance against anti-semitism. Reading it now was especially significant for me, granting some hope amid the tumult of the current war.
I strongly recommend it to everyone who loves history.
Churchill’s contribution to the establishment of the State of Israel, as well as his undeniable and continuous fight against anti-semitism are the focal points of this book.
Here, I would like to highlight some extracts from the book I found most impressive, but of couse, the book provides a much deeper perspective.
Churchill visited Jerusalem in 1921, and reflecting on the Jewish ethics, he said, “We owe to the Jews in the Christian revelation of a system of ethics which, even if it were entirely separate from the supernatural, would be incomparably the most precious possession of mankind, worth in fact the fruits of all other wisdom and learning put together. On that system and by that faith there has been built out of the wreck of the Roman Empire the whole of our existing civilisation.” (Gilbert, 2007)
His article, "Moses," published in 1931, was personally presented to Ben Gurion’s 75th birthday as a present, signifying Churchill’s respect. Ben Gurion wrote in reply to that: “My dear Sir Winston,... I cherish as a precious possession your book of essays, which includes that on Moses. I hold you in esteem and affection, not only - not even mainly - because of your unfailing friendship to our people and your profound sympathy with its resurgence in our ancient homeland.” (Gilbert, 2007)
In his early years, Churchill became highly impressed by the spirit of communal life in the Manchester Jewish community before the First World War, a memory he would return to multiple times throughout his career. He mentioned that “the Jews were a lucky community because they had the corporate spirit of their race and faith,” and possessed a “special driving power that would enable them to bring vitality into their institutions, which nothing else would ever give”; he mentioned that “there was a high sense of the corporate responsibility in the community; there was a great sense of duty that was fostered on every possible occasion by their leaders.””(Gilbert, 2007)
After Britain’s victory in the First World War and the establishment of the British Mandate in the lands that previously belonged to the Ottoman Empire (that took the side of Germany in the war and was defeated by the Allies), the idea of establishment of the Jewish State started gaining more power, and was fully supported by Churchill.
As Colonial Secretary, he personally enabled the immigration of 300,000 Jews to Palestine over a period of fourteen years. (*‘The word Palestine derives from Philistia, the name given by Greek writers to the land of the Philistines, who in the 12th century BCE occupied a small pocket of land on the southern coast, between modern Tel Aviv–Yafo and Gaza. The name was revived by the Romans in the 2nd century CE in “Syria Palaestina,” designating the southern portion of the province of Syria.’ (Bickerton, Ian J. et al, Dec. 2023)
Churchill's 1922 White Paper affirmed that the Jews had a legitimate presence in Palestine, based on their rightful claim rather than mere tolerance. In the Second World War, he proposed the appointment of Dr. Chaim Weizmann, a Zionist leader, as the British High Commissioner for Palestine. Notably, back in 1910, when Churchill served as Home Secretary, he had personally authorized Weizmann's naturalization papers.
Churchill’s support for the Jewish Home in Palestine was often against the political spirits of his opponents in Britain. Since the end of the First World War and until his last days, he spoke numerous times in defence of Great Britain’s pledge to the Jews. The pledge was a result of “great advantages in the War” that were attained thanks to the involvement of Jewish community. “We did not adopt Zionism entirely out of altruistic love of starting a Zionist colony: it was a matter of great importance to this country /Britain/. It was a potent factor on public opinion in America and we are bound by honour, and I think upon the merits, to push this thing as far as we can…” (Gilbert, 2007)
These and multiple other significant moments of history are reflected in this book. I find this reading essential to our deeper understanding of the epoch we are living in and to fostering our ability to defend our rights and our existence. Churchill contributed his part. So can we.


  1. Bickerton IJ, Brice WC, Albright WF, Fraser PM, Jones AHM, Faris NA, Kenyon KM, Khalidi WA, Bugh GR, Khalidi RI. Palestine. Encyclopedia Britannica. [Internet]. 2023 Dec 3. Available from: Accessed 2023 Dec 4.
  2. Gilbert M, editor. Winston S. Churchill, Companion Volume V, Part 3, The Coming of War: Documents 1936-1939. London: Heinemann; 1982. Boston: Houghton Mifflin; 1983. 654 p.
  3. Gilbert M. Churchill and the Jews: a lifelong friendship. New York: Holt Paperbacks; 2007.