Churchill as anti-Semite?

John Broich

“Allied leaders were anti-Nazi, but not anti-racist. We’re now paying the price for their failure.” That was the headline on an April 29 Washington Post op-ed by John Broich, an associate professor of history at Case Western Reserve University. His beef with Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt was that, yes, they led the Western Allies to victory in World War II, but while they both delivered memorable wartime speeches in which they eloquently adduced the enemy’s evil, they “rarely attacked the core tenet of Nazism: the belief in a master race.” By way of defending this assertion, Broich explained that in a recent class on World War II,

I had my students pore through the speeches and letters of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill from the years around the war’s start in 1939, searching for his basis for opposing the Nazis. They found Churchill wanted to stand up to the Nazis’ expansionism, fight their anti-democracy posture and resist what he called (but largely left undefined) their anti-Christianity. What he did not do, however, was call for the destruction of the essence of Nazism: race supremacy.

FDR, too, according to Broich, “either failed to comprehend the basic nature of German fascism or chose not to rally Americans to oppose Nazism as Nazism. In his prewar correspondence, he made no secret of his dislike of Hitler and his belligerent regime, but like Churchill, he never framed his opposition to Germany as a rejection of race hierarchy or race nationalism.” Broich then went a step further, citing America’s racial segregation laws and FDR’s placement of Japanese-Americans in internment camps during World War II as evidence that when it came to racism set in system, Roosevelt’s America and Churchill’s Britain were scarcely better than Hitler’s Germany. Which, of course, is an obscene view to teach to college students or to preach to newspaper readers.

Let’s be clear: Jim Crow and Manzanar were deplorable. But even to hint at moral equivalence between the Western Allies and the Nazis is insipid.

Winston Churchill

After reading Broich’s article, we turned to Andrew Roberts’s recent bestseller Churchill: Walking with Destiny. The book’s first reference to Hitler appears on page 95, in a passage about Churchill’s attitude toward Jews. Churchill, Roberts tells us, was a “philosemite” – an active admirer of the Jewish people. In 1904, he denounced a bill that would have restricted immigration by Russian Jews because, in his own words, it sought “to appeal…to racial prejudice against Jews.”

Churchill’s philosemitism was not just a public stance but a private conviction: Roberts lists several Jewish causes to which Churchill generously contributed (and this at a time when he and his wife, Clementine, were having trouble making ends meet). It was, Roberts writes, Churchill’s deep respect for Jews that enabled him, in the 1930s, “to spot very clearly and early on what kind of a man Adolf Hitler was.” In other words, Churchill, far from being unaware of or indifferent to Hitler’s antisemitism, recognized his evil earlier than others did precisely because it expressed itself as Jew-hatred.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Broich’s charge against Churchill, then, is a calumny. As for FDR, it’s absolutely true that he was the president who rounded up Japanese-Americans, turned away Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany, and chose not to bomb the railroad line to Auschwitz. Yet while FDR was a Democrat and a so-called progressive, Broich made a point of linking his racist views and policies to the present-day American right, rather than to today’s left, whose obsession with group identity, fondness for segregation (e.g. gay-only and black-only dormitories), and mounting antisemitism (as reflected in the recent Nazi-style New York Times cartoon showing Donald Trump as a blind Jew and Benjamin Netanyahu as his guide dog) is very much in the “progressive” tradition.

Muhammed Najati Sidqi

Compounding the duplicity and offensiveness of Broich’s op-ed was his attempt to draw a moral contrast between, on the one hand, Churchill and FDR and, on the other hand, one Muhammad Najati Sidqi, “a Palestinian leftist activist” whom Broich praised for recognizing Hitler early on as a racial supremacist. In fact Sidqi wasn’t just a “leftist” – he was, though Broich omits to mention this fact, an out-and-out Communist – a devotee of a totalitarian ideology every bit as evil as Nazism. Sidqi studied in Moscow at the Communist University of the Toilers of the East (Ho Chi Minh’s and Deng Xiaoping’s alma mater), was a regular contributor to the Communist newspaper Mundo Obrero, and is today memorialized by the Najati Sidqi Competition, a literary prize awarded by the Palestinian Minister of Culture.

This is the man whom Broich held up as morally superior to Winston Churchill and FDR.

Interestingly, it was not until the end of his op-ed that Broich mentioned, parenthetically, our other wartime enemy, the Japanese Empire whose subjects, like Hitler’s, were guided largely by a conviction of their own racial superiority. Given that the orthodox view in today’s humanities departments is that all whites are racists and that non-whites can’t be racists, Broich deserves a thumbs-up for even daring to mention Japanese racism, however fleetingly. But what a low bar to have to clear!

Climbing to success by dragging Israel down: Peter Beinart

 

Peter Beinart

Peter Beinart’s 2012 book The Crisis of Zionism, which we examined last week, made headlines with its severe anti-Israeli line. But Beinart, as it turned out, was just getting warmed up. In a speech given in 2015 at a Los Angeles synagogue, he accused Israel of encouraging Palestinian violence – essentially suggesting that the Jewish state was asking for it. “Hard as it is to say,” he told his audience, “the Israeli government is reaping what it has sowed.” He even extended his logic to 9/11, describing it as a “response to American foreign policy, a foreign policy of support for Arab dictatorships and Israeli policies which produced tremendous suffering in the Arab world.”

Benjamin Netanyahu

Earlier this month, Beinart made headlines again when he was briefly questioned at Ben-Gurion Airport – an incident that led to apologies by both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Deputy Prime Minister Michael Oren. Writing in the Forward, Sandra Tamari, a Palestinian officer at the radical group Adalah Justice Project, expressed outrage at his hour-long detention. “Beinart’s account of his experience,” Tamari wrote,” sparked outrage from many liberal Jewish Americans who wondered why Israel would treat a Jewish supporter like Beinart with suspicion.” It was curious to see Beinart described simply as “a Jewish supporter” when the reality, of course, is somewhat more complicated than that.

Sandra Tamari

Tamari cited Israel’s treatment of Beinart as the latest proof of the intolerance and injustice at the heart of Israel, which, she maintained, “has always been discriminatory, anti-democratic, and illiberal when it comes to Palestinians.” Tamiri welcomed “the anxiety that Israel’s heavy-handedness against Jewish critics” such as Beinart had supposedly catalyzed. At no point in her article, which made numerous accusations against and demands of Israel, did Tamiri criticize any Palestinians for any action whatsoever or call on them to alter any of their philosophies, policies, or practices. But then again, Beinart never makes such criticisms of the Palestinians, either.

Caroline Glick

Jerusalem Post columnist Caroline Glick took a very different line. Noting Beinart’s support for the BDS movement, his “crass insensitivity towards Israeli Jews in Judea and Samaria,” and his efforts to mainstream “anti-Israel activists who reject Israel’s right to exist,” she recalled a July 2016 stunt by Beinart and other “radical Jewish anti-Israel activists” who staged “a confrontation with the IDF in Hebron.” Entering a closed military zone, they

trampled the land of a Palestinian farmer to film themselves looking brave. The farmer called the army to have them removed. A group of soldiers answered his call and removed Beinart and his comrades. They filmed themselves looking brave as they were being ejected from the land they trespassed on.

Glick observed that fanatical anti-Israeli groups supported by Beinart had not just encouraged criticism of certain Israeli policies at American universities, but had stirred up hatred toward Jewish students who did not share their politics. Beinart, in short, was empowering campaigns that sought “to trample the basic freedoms of Jews who support Israel.”

Owing to Beinart’s anti-Israeli antics, he had been barred – quite properly – from entry into Israel. He knew that he was. But he flew to Israel anyway, with the explicit intention of publicizing Israel’s response, whatever it might be, to his attempt to enter the country. “Israel’s apologies and hand-wringing were out of place,” argued Glick, noting that Beinart “is no mere ‘critic’ of Israel” but rather an activist out to “constrain the freedom of American Jewry and cause lasting harm to the Jewish state.” Indeed.

Gal Gadot loves a good Castro love story

Natalie Portman

It wasn’t long ago – in fact, it was as recently as May 1 – that we reported here on Israeli-American actress Natalie Portman’s refusal to travel to Israel to accept the Genesis Prize. As we noted, the Genesis Prize has been awarded annually since 2014 to “individuals who have attained excellence and international renown in their chosen professional fields, and who inspire others through their dedication to the Jewish community and Jewish values.” The prize has been given to zillionaire Michael Bloomberg, movie star Michael Douglas, violinist Itzhak Perlman, and sculptor Anish Kapoor.

Portman, who starred the movie Black Swan and lives in the United States, was named the 2018 laureate and apparently agreed to appear in Jerusalem to accept it, but later said she would not attend the awards ceremony. Why? Because she was “distressed by ‘recent events.’” Which recent events? Her answer basically came down to: Benjamin Netanyahu. This made no sense, of course, because Netanyahu has been Israel’s prime minister for nine years.

Gal Gadot

There was widespread anger at Portman for her snub to Israel. There was anger, too, at the Genesis Prize Foundation for picking Portman to begin with. “If the Genesis prize wanted to honor an actress,” said Farley Weiss, president of the National Council of Young Israel, “they should have honored Gal Gadot, who has repeatedly shown her pride in being Israeli, supporting Israel during times of difficulties and is married to a Jewish person raising Jewish kids.”

Who is Gadot? Born and raised in Israel, she was Miss Israel 2004, spent two years in the Israeli Defense Forces as a combat instructor, and went on to star as Wonder Woman in the film of that name as well as in other DC comics-based movies. This year she appears on Time Magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world. She has apparently been a

Lisa Howard and Fidel Castro

So Weiss’s proposal seemed to make sense. Flash forward a few weeks. On May 26 came a news report about Gal Gadot’s latest professional endeavor. Let’s just preface this by saying it’s a small world. Gadot, it turned out, had arrange to co-produce and possibly star in a film based on the Politico article “’My Dearest Fidel’: An ABC Journalist’s Secret Liaison With Fidel Castro.”

Yes, this is the same article we discussed here on May 22 and 24. It was about Lisa Howard, an ABC reporter who met Castro at a Havana nightclub in 1963. They talked for hours. She was bowled over by his “breadth of knowledge.” He was, it turned out, big on Camus. Months later, they met in a Havana hotel room. More hours of talk. Political discussion. She criticized his dictatorship. (It’s important in a romantic movie for there to be some cause of tension between the lovers.) Then came the moment that will presumably mark the end of the movie’s first act: Castro threw his arms around her. They kissed. They lay in bed together.

But there was no sex – not yet. It would “complicate” matters, Fidel said. Perfect – keep the suspense going, as the producers of Cheers did with Sam and Diane.

More on Thursday.

Why doesn’t Natalie Portman boycott the U.S., too?

Natalie Portman

As we saw on Tuesday, Jerusalem-born Oscar-winner Natalie Portman, who is a dual American and Israeli citizen, was supposed to go to Israel this summer to accept the Genesis Prize, which is known as the “Jewish Nobel” and which they presumably decided to give to Portman because they figured that movie stars don’t get enough awards. The other day, she showed her gratitude by kicking the Genesis Prize Foundation in the cojones. She holds an Israeli passport, but doesn’t want to set foot in Israel right now. When accused of buying into the BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) movement, she denied the charge, saying she simply doesn’t like Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. We suspect that she doesn’t care for Donald Trump either, but that doesn’t cause her to flee the U.S. No, somehow Israel is the only country that it’s cool to boycott. Not that it has anything to do with anti-Semitism, of course.

Benjamin Netanyahu

In a powerful op-ed, Ben-Dror Yemini wrote that her unwillingness to travel to the Jewish state “was seen, rightly, as a move aimed at reinforcing the boycott” and that “Israel’s haters haven’t received such a significant gift in a long time.” Whatever her specific motives, observed Yemini, the fact remains that “[a]nyone who boycotts Israel bolster our haters, the demonization campaign and the boycott movement, which opposes Israel’s actual existence.” Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz made the same point: “Natalie Portman has played into the hands of the worst of our haters and of the worst of the anti-Semites in the Middle East,” Steinitz charged. “Criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitism. Boycotting Israel has elements of anti-Semitism.” Would Portman boycott, say, China or Russia?

Caroline Glick

Columnist Caroline Glick cited a 2015 interview in which Portman, asked if she “was shaken” by the Charlie Hebdo massacre, “said toughly, ‘Listen, I’m from Israel.’” Glickman commented: “In other words, Portman, who moved with her family to the U.S. when she was 3, appropriated the toughness Israelis have been forced to cultivate in the face of their neighbors’ continuous aggression to cultivate a tough-girl image of herself.” Glick wondered: “If Portman cancelled her participation in the ceremony because she hates Netanyahu, why did her representative say she was distressed by ‘recent events’? Netanyahu didn’t assume power ‘recently.’ He’s been in office for nine years.” If her decision was motivated by Bibi-hatred, “the Genesis Prize Foundation should sue her for fraud since it means that she never intended to accept the prize and she deliberately sabotaged the foundation’s work.”

Gal Gadot

Meanwhile Farley Weiss, president of the National Council of Young Israel, didn’t criticize Portman – he criticized the Genesis Prize Foundation for picking her in the first place. “If the Genesis prize wanted to honor an actress,” he suggested, “they should have honored Gal Gadot, who has repeatedly shown her pride in being Israeli, supporting Israel during times of difficulties and is married to a Jewish person raising Jewish kids.” Good point. How did they come to pick Portman? “The selection of the Genesis Prize Laureate,” the Foundation’s website explains, “is a multi-step process.” It involves both a Selection Committee and a Prize Committee, both of which are tasked with ensuring that the winner has “a commitment to Jewish values,” is “proud of their Jewish identity,” and enjoys “a meaningful connection to the Jewish People and/or to the State of Israel.” Oops.

Boycotting Israel: Natalie Portman

Natalie Portman

The Genesis Prize, according to its website, “honors individuals who have attained excellence and international renown in their chosen professional fields, and who inspire others through their dedication to the Jewish community and Jewish values.” The prize, first given in 2014 and often called the “Jewish Nobel,” is awarded by the Genesis Prize Foundation and comes with a $1 million check. Winners have included New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, actor Michael Douglas, violinist Itzhak Perlman, and sculptor Anish Kapoor. This year’s laureate is – or was – actress Natalie Portman, who won an Oscar for Black Swan and more recently played Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in the movie Jackie. On its website, the Foundation also noted her humanitarian work with FINCA, a microfinancing program, and WE, a charity that “empowers youth.”

Portman in Jackie

The award was to be presented to Portman in June. But on April 19 came news that the prize ceremony was off. Portman had announced that she would not attend the event – because she refuses to set foot in Israel. This is particularly interesting news, given that Portman was born in Jerusalem and is a joint American and Israeli citizen. Her explanation: “Recent events in Israel have been extremely distressing to her and she does not feel comfortable participating in any public events in Israel.” Therefore “she cannot in good conscience move forward with the ceremony.” According to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, “Portman did not specify which events caused her distress, although the United Nations and the European Union recently called for investigations into the use of live ammunition by Israel’s military following clashes along the border with Gaza that have left dozens of Palestinians dead and hundreds wounded.”

Amos Oz

Portman’s action seemed unusual, given her record. In 2009, she stood up agains anti-Israeli calls for a boycott of the Toronto Film Festival. She wrote, directed, and starred in a 2015 Hebrew-language film adaptation of Amos Oz’s memoir A Tale of Love and Darkness, which deals in large part with the founding of Israel. After it was announced that she would be receiving the Genesis Prize, she expressed gratitude and pride in her “Israeli roots and Jewish heritage.” She has nothing but contempt, however, for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whom he has called a “racist.”

Miri Regev

After Portman’s turndown, Israel’s cultural minister, Miri Regev, stated what seemed to be obvious: Portman, she said, has “fallen like a ripe fruit into the hands of the BDS movement supporters.” In a reference to the title of Portman’s film version of Oz’s memoir, Regev lamented that Portman was “joining those who treat the story of the success and the miracle of Israel’s revival as a tale of darkness and darkness.” In response, Portman claimed that her refusal to go to Israel had nothing to do with the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement; she maintained, rather, that she didn’t want to share a platform with Netanyahu, who was scheduled to speak at the award ceremony. And then what happened? Tune in on Thursday.