Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Churchill and anti-Semitism again

The issue of Churchill’s attitude towards Jews has arisen again. The Observer has printed an article, based on a press release, referring to,

… a 70-year-old document in which the future Prime Minister wrote that Jews may 'have been partly responsible for the antagonism from which they suffer', inviting terms of abuse such as 'Hebrew bloodsucker'.

The Observer had the sense to check by referring the document to Churchill’s official biographer, Martin Gilbert. His response was,

… the article was not written by Churchill at all, but rather his ghost writer, Adam Marshall Diston. He added that Churchill's instructions for the article were different in both tone and content from what Diston eventually wrote, and pointed out that Diston was a supporter of Oswald Mosley, the notorious fascist and anti-Semite. Churchill had stopped its publication in a newspaper.

This is reminiscent of an earlier post of mine on an article by Maleiha Malik, prompting an interesting, constructive and friendly email discussion with the author.

At heart is an approach to historical research, especially in areas that are well known, of seeking the sensational and privileging a single contrary document against a lengthy and established historical record. Malik had used a single article, but responsibly, placing it in the context of an anti-Semitic and anti-Bolshevik campaign in the Times. However, the same article had been misused by Neo-Nazis to validate the idea of a Jewish world conspiracy.

This technique always reminds me of confession evidence in miscarriages of justice where the single confession under duress overrules the hundreds of previous and subsequent denials. It makes for a good article but poor history. The problem is publicists love things like this, especially when a new book is due out, regardless of the views of the author. As for Churchill, his profound admiration of the Jews and life-long Zionism may have, at times, been tinged with the condescension and prejudice of the age, but he was no anti-Semite.


Dr Hiding Pup said...

Presumably, there's new historical evidence that will support Richard Toye's assertion that the paper *is* by Churchill. His book, Lloyd George & Churchill; Rivals for Greatness, isn't out for another few days so perhaps we ought to reserve judgement until then?

Dr Hiding Pup said...

So, the bullets have been flying both ways on this controversy. Toye's prepared a six-page PDF, downloadable from his website, in his own defence...