Monday, May 09, 2022


May 8th was Victory in Europe Day (VE Day) commemorating the Allied triumph over Nazism in 1945. It was also the beginning of the end of Winston Churchill’s political career. As soon as the war in Europe was won, British voters sent him packing. Why?

Back Story

He had taken over in May 1940 from fellow Conservative prime minister Neville Chamberlain whose signature policy of appeasing Hitler, embodied in the September 30, 1938, Munich Pact, had come unraveled.

The pact had given Hitler a chunk of Czechoslovakia. On March 15, 1939, the Führer gobbled up what was left. A rearmed Germany had already annexed Austria on March 12, 1938. And on September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland triggering World War II. To make matters worse for Poland, on September 17, 1939, the Soviet Union invaded Poland from the east. 

The country was divided between Hitler and Stalin just as the two dictators had previously and secretly conspired.

On September 3, 1939, Chamberlain announced, “This country is at war with Germany.” 

Charitable observers say that Chamberlain’s appeasement policy was rooted in the trauma of WWI and in his desire to buy time so that Britain could rearm. Regardless, it was clear he was not cut out to be a wartime prime minister. Meanwhile, though, he was prime minister. Chamberlain dispatched a British Expeditionary Force to France but not much happened until April 9, 1940, when British troops engaged with the Germans in Norway. The battle did not end well.

Chamberlain had to go. No election was held. The politically dominant Conservative Party selected Churchill as its new leader, and he became prime minister on May 10, 1940. After all, he had been the leading Conservative voice against appeasement. Labour was no alternative; the party, too, had advocated appeasement until 1938. 

It was a gloomy time. Britain was alone. 

Churchill formed an all-party War Cabinet and famously declared, “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat.” He saw the country through the most intense German air bombing of London. The worst of the Blitz happened between September 7, 1940, and May 11, 1941. Fear of a German invasion was palpable. 

Only when Germany declared war on the United States on December 11, 1941, and America was compelled to enter the war in Europe did Churchill have a reason for genuine optimism. 

And the rest is history.


The mood after the victory

Now, fast forward to May 8, 1945, the day the war in Europe ended. There had not been a general election since 1935 when Stanley Baldwin led the Tories to victory. Baldwin resigned in May 1937 and Chamberlain took over without an election. So by the time WWII ended, Parliament had been sitting for almost ten years. The political parties in the war coalition began bickering. He hoped not, but Churchill recognized that there would probably have to be new elections. In April 1945, the Tories suffered a spectacular defeat in a by-election at the hands of a left-wing candidate. 

Clementine Churchill urged her husband not to run again, not to risk his reputation for the Tories – they were not worth it. He had never won a general election. He was tired. Ahead was Potsdam, which would further sap his energies. FDR was dead (on April 12, 1945).

The Tories had nothing worthwhile to offer except Churchill. And the diplomat Harold Nicolson, a confidante, thought even Churchill’s personal popularity would decrease once he had navigated Britain to victory.

Meanwhile, Churchill hoped against hope that Labour would stay in his government until Japan was defeated. Labour leader Clement Attlee and his deputy Ernest Bevin signaled that was their plan too. As Deputy Prime Minister from 1940 to 1945, Attlee was efficient and low-key in the crucial committee work of the wartime government. For his part, Churchill was willing to accommodate Attlee on social security and full employment.

Then came the "Let Us Face the Future," Labour Party Conference in Blackpool. On May 21, Attlee telephoned Churchill to say that Labour had a change of heart and did not want to stay in the government until the Japanese were defeated. The Liberals also quit.

So, on May 23, 1945, the parliamentary wartime coalition broke up. Churchill had held office for five years and 13 days. He went to Buckingham Palace for an audience with King George VI at which he tendered his resignation and humbly withdrew. Summoned, he returned to the palace four hours later, and the King asked him to head a Conservative government during the six-week election campaign. The monarch and his first minister had grown close during the war, with the sovereign writing to Churchill as “My dear Winston.”

Churchill formed a new government because he had to replace the Labour and Liberal members who had quit. He loved being prime minister and he was not going to give up the position without a fight.

Churchill appealed to the public to let him finish the job and defeat Japan. His approval rating had never fallen below 78 percent and in May 1945 stood at 83 percent. 


A bestseller no one read

Back on December 1, 1942, Sir William Beveridge, an economist, had written a turgid yet bestselling book that advocated Britain become a welfare state. Paradoxically the Conservative Party, not Labour, had conceived of a National Health Service scheme and a massive state-funded housebuilding program. What 17-year-old Margaret Thatcher thought about all this I do not know. When it came to social welfare Churchill was, by no means, a small-government conservative. Nonetheless, in the public's eye, he was not perceived as a sufficiently passionate campaigner for social welfare.

In contrast, the Labour election manifesto, “Let Us Face the Future,” promised nationalization, centralized economic planning, full employment, and, yes, national health insurance. Atlee further promised housing, state retirement pensions, and disability benefits.

Going Over the top against socialism

In the political campaign, rather than accentuate domestic concerns and his proven commitment to social welfare, Churchill went on an over-the-top ideological attack against socialism. He warned that socialists would rob citizens of their liberty and create Gestapo-like secret police: “No socialist government conducting the entire life and industry of the country could afford to allow free, sharp, or violently worded expressions of public discontent. They would have to fall back on some form of Gestapo, no doubt very humanely directed in the first instance. And this would nip opinions in the bud; it would stop criticism as it reared its head, and it would gather all the power to the supreme party and the party leaders….”

Maybe this was psychological displacement on Churchill's part redirecting his revulsion of Stalinism onto Attlee’s mild-mannered democratic socialism. Churchill may also have been influenced by  Friedrich Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom which he'd recently read. It is a sort of gospel to free-market conservatives. Churchill's flirtation with economic libertarianism did not last but it was in full swing at this stage. In reality, it was absurd to claim that Attlee, who had served as his deputy over the past four years, was anything like the Soviet dictator.  

Churchill's campaign theme was that socialism “and the abject worship of the State” were inseparably interwoven with totalitarianism. If the Labour Party socialists took power, they would prescribe where people could work, “where they may go, and what they may say; [and] where their wives are to queue up for the state ration.”

By dissolving the wartime government before Japan could be defeated, Churchill declared, “our socialist and Liberal [Party] friends [had] put party before country.” Telling voters to “leave these socialist dreamers to their utopias or their nightmares,” he promised food and housing for demobilized soldiers. 

Yet, his economic recovery plan sounded vague and half-hearted.


Divided attentions

Churchill did not give himself over entirely to the election campaign. 

He kept one eye on a possible US pullback in liberated Germany, fearing with good cause that the Soviets would cast their shadow across the entire continent. They had the most enormous army in Europe (the US was still engaged in the Pacific). If Stalin wanted to take control of Poland and Eastern Europe, Britain alone would be powerless to stop him. 

Meanwhile, the Americans were testing the atomic bomb. Churchill wrote President Harry S Truman asking for an update. He had already given his consent for its use against Japan. Though Stalin wasn’t told about the Bomb until Potsdam, Soviet spies and American and British fellow travelers had been keeping him well informed.

Winston Churchill was tired but campaigned in spurts up and down the UK, sometimes holding six events in one day.

He was also feverishly preparing to meet Truman and Stalin at the Potsdam conference outside Berlin set for mid-July 1945. He had lobbied -- unsuccessfully -- against a pre-meeting without him between Truman and Stalin as a slap in the face to Britain.


Election Day & the Opening of Potsdam

Polling took place on July 5, but the results would not be tallied for three weeks so that the votes of the armed forces scattered around the globe could be counted. Meanwhile, it was business as usual. A weary Churchill and an optimistic Attlee – after short vacations – journeyed to Potsdam. It was magnanimous to bring Attlee, now the opposition leader, but he wanted him to be up to speed on the negotiations in the event of a Labour victory.

Churchill had previously met with Stalin and FDR in Teheran in November 1943 and at Yalta in February 1945. FDR died on April 12, as noted, and Churchill had yet to meet Truman. 

The prime minister arrived in Berlin on July 15, 1945, accompanied by Anthony Eden, his Foreign Secretary.  The wide-ranging discussions involved how Germany would be divided among the victors, whether Poland would become a Soviet satellite, and even how Vietnam would be partitioned.

Shortly after he arrived in Berlin, Churchill was taken to see the ruins of Hitler’s chancellery and the bunker in which the Fuhrer had shot himself. He saw the spot where Hitler’s corpse had been incinerated.

The prime minister, at last, met the new president on July 16. He later described him as “a man of immense determination.” 

The Potsdam conference opened on July 17 and lasted until August 2.

It was paused on July 25 so that Churchill and Attlee could return from Germany to await the British election results. Some members of Churchill’s staff didn’t bother to pack all their things figuring they’d soon be back.


The man himself

As readers of biography and history, we often imagine Churchill as a larger-than-life character, iconic, if perhaps one-dimensional: He was Victorian, patrician, educated at Harrow and Sandhurst, and his command of the English language was unparalleled if sometimes archaic.

He craved the love of his American mother, who was too infrequently present while he was growing up. His father was distant, cold, and emotionally unstable. Winston was desperate for his approval but never got it.

We know that he could be kind to his staff or so rude as to make them cry. He could behave like a spoiled child but could also be unbelievably big-hearted. He was recklessly fearless in the face of danger. He was seriously ill on more than several occasions during WWII. He was quick to tear up when his emotional strings were pulled.

Lady Pamela Lytton (died 1971), a member of his circle, said: “The first time you meet Winston, you see all his faults, and the rest of your life you spend in discovering his virtues.”

In July 1945, the question for voters was whether this complicated, flawed, charismatic wartime leader was suited to lead the country at a point when domestic issues were taking center stage. 

Had Churchill overplayed the anti-socialism card by warning that the placid Attlee, who, after all, had been in his War Cabinet, had it in him to become a socialist dictator? 


The votes are counted 

Churchill flew from Germany into Northolt, an airport in west London, where Clementine, his brother Jack, good friend Lady Mountbatten, and Jock Colville, a civil servant long assigned to him, were waiting. They headed to the Number 10 Annexe (Number 10 Downing Street had been damaged by German bombing), where they were greeted by Churchill’s son Randolph and senior Conservative party figures.

The assembled group was expecting to win. Churchill met with the King to brief him on Potsdam in the evening. Lord Beaverbrook, confidante, former cabinet member, and newspaper publisher, was waiting at No 10 Annex when he got back from Buckingham Palace.

He dined with Clementine, Randolph, daughter Mary Soames, and brother Jack. Mary was full of confidence. Daughter Diana and her husband, MP Duncan Sandys, who arrived after dinner, were grim because it looked like Sandys would lose in his constituency. Brenden Bracken, another cabinet member and founder of the Financial Times, joined the group. Daughter Sarah who sometimes accompanied Winston on trips abroad was also present.

Most observers were predicting a 100-seat Conservative majority in the House of Commons. Of all his advisers, only Bracken, who was also a member of the “Other Club” (the dining society co-founded in 1911 by Churchill), thought his friend would lose.

“That night Churchill worked until 1.15 a.m., then went to bed ‘in the belief,’ as he later wrote ‘that the British people would wish me to continue my work,’” according to his authorized biographer Martin Gilbert.

Perhaps. But Andrew Roberts, his latest biographer, reported that at lunch with the King on June 20, Churchill predicted that young men and women of the armed services would not vote for him. In fact, as it would transpire, soldiers voted overwhelmingly for Labour, desiring the welfare state that had been promised in the 1942 Beveridge Report.

Just before dawn, Churchill awoke suddenly with a sharp stab of almost physical pain and the subconscious conviction that he was about to go down in defeat. He went back to sleep. On the morning of July 26, he worked in bed for an hour. Then, his military aid and keeper of maps (military and now electoral), Captain Richard Pim, came to his bedroom suite to report the first losses for the Conservatives.

Churchill, who had been bathing, got dressed quickly and came down to the map room wearing his blue jumpsuit. The ticker tape machine clattered rhythmically in the background. With each result, constituency by constituency, it became plain that the socialists were winning in a stunning landslide. 

At 1 p.m., the BBC declared Labour the overwhelming victor. Anthony Eden telephoned Churchill from his constituency to commiserate.

Labour, with 393 seats, won its first-ever absolute majority in the 650 seat House of Commons. (The Liberals got 12 seats.) The Conservatives dropped to 213 from 585. Churchill handily won his own constituency (which had been slightly redrawn), but Randolph and Duncan lost their places. 

Lunch at 1:30 was a joyless affair. As Mary recalled: “Pappa struggled to accept this terrible blow.”

“It may be a blessing in disguise,” Clementine offered.

“At the moment, it seems quite effectively disguised,” he replied.

His doctor Lord Moran grumbled that the British people were ungrateful. “Oh, no,” Churchill answered. “I wouldn’t call it that. They have had a very hard time.”

He did not try to hold on until after Potsdam or until Parliament reconvened. He decided to resign immediately. He wrote to “my dear Attlee” that he would “tender my resignation to the King at seven o’clock this evening. On personal grounds, I wish you all success in the heavy burden you are about to assume.”

Downstairs in the kitchen, Mrs. Landemere, Churchill’s long-time cook and housekeeper, was making comfort food – honey sandwiches – while bemoaning the defeat and declaring that she didn’t know what the world was coming to. On the way out of the building for the palace, Churchill thanked her for taking such good care of him.

At 7 p.m., the King accepted Churchill’s resignation – they had, as mentioned, grown close. The King echoed the sentiment in Churchill's camp that the people were very ungrateful after the way they had been led in the war. Churchill declined the King’s offer of an honour. He did arrange honours for some of his aides – Captain Richard Pim, for instance, would get a knighthood.

He returned to the annex no longer PM to issue a press statement saying he regretted not being able to finish the job, meaning Japan. He thanked the British people for their support during the war. That night he dined at the Annexe with family, Eden, and Bracken. 

Abruptly, one of the busiest people in the world had no pressing duties. No dispatch boxes. No meetings in which lives hung in the balance. “Thirty years of my life have been passed in this room,” he told Eden earlier as they left the Cabinet chamber for the last time. “I shall never sit in it again. You will. I shall not.”

He bade farewell to the three military chiefs of staff, his private secretaries, and to the cabinet. The day that had started with sanguinity ended in tears.


Prime Minister Attlee 

Attlee went back to Potsdam and took Churchill’s seat next to Truman and Stalin. The Soviet leader pressed him to rationalize Churchill’s defeat. Attlee’s reply: “One should distinguish between Mr. Churchill the leader of the nation in war and Mr. Churchill the conservative party leader...a reactionary party which would not carry out a policy answering to peace requirements.”

Truman was also caught by surprise. He thought Churchill perhaps long-winded yet eloquent and likable. In contrast, Attlee and Bevin struck him as a bunch of sourpusses.

Attlee wrote Churchill to acknowledge that “my having been present from the start was a great advantage...”



What explains Churchill’s loss and the seeming ingratitude of the British public for their adored prime minister? At least 10 possibilities have been offered by scholars:

* War-weariness may have been a factor.  Churchill was seen as a war leader; three months after the shooting stopped, the people wanted a prime minister to win the peace. Voters vented against the government they associated with the lead-up to the war and its execution.

* Churchill had not devoted himself wholeheartedly to campaigning. He was planning for -- or away in -- Potsdam.

* His shrill attacks against Attlee as a prospective socialist dictator boomeranged with the electorate.

*  Labour offered change and a more precise domestic blueprint. It promised massive housebuilding to nationalize critical industries: steel, coal, electricity, railways, the Bank of England, civil aviation, and road transport.

* Labour leaders had become known to the public and were trusted thanks to their wartime roles in Churchill’s government.

*  Working people were bitter at the Tories for their policies on housing, coal, and the high cost of living.

* While Churchill was popular, he was perceived for what he was: an old Victorian, paternalistic and elitist.

* Martin Gilbert, Churchill’s authorized biographer, speculated that voters were belatedly punishing the unpopular Conservative Party of Chamberlain for its appeasement policy – and Churchill was in a sense collateral damage.

* Britain was getting more interested in equal opportunity. Labour offered egalitarianism over class distinctions.

* The British system is parliamentary -- neither proportional nor presidential. So, Churchill’s popularity over Attlee so the Tories could not win on Churchill's coattails. 


At the time of his defeat, Churchill was just short of his 71st birthday. He stayed on as the Conservative leader. 


WWII ends

On July 27, Japan rejected calls to surrender. The Allies, again and again, warned Japan that it would be subject to a fierce bombardment – they reiterated these warnings by leaflet.

On August 5, the US dropped the A-bomb on Hiroshima. The USSR then declared war on Japan.

On August 9, the Americans dropped another A-bomb, this time on Nagasaki. Both cities were obliterated.

On August 10, Japan pleaded for the Allies to accept its surrender. On Aug 14, the war in the Pacific was over, and so was WWII. 


Out of Office

Churchill was personally wounded over the loss of Number 10, and it took him time to gain his bearings. He did not exactly become a recluse. However, his mood was not great, and he was constantly bickering with family and friends.

On Sept. 15, 1945, he began an extended vacation flying to Lake Como in Italy, and returning to London in October.

He gave some speeches and spent most of his time at Chartwell, his dilapidated country home, purchased in 1922, located about 90 minutes south of London. He also began working on his multi-volume history of WWII.

At Harry Truman’s urging (“This is a wonderful school in my home state. If you come, I will introduce you. Hope you can do it.”) Churchill gave the commencement address at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, on March 5, 1946.

“From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the continent.” 

The London Times was critical of the speech. But then, it did not like Churchill and had urged him to retire sooner rather than later after Germany surrendered in 1945.

Incidentally, Churchill had not invented the phrase “Iron Curtain” as it related to the Bolsheviks, nor was this the first time he’d used it. Still, his expression branded the essence of communist totalitarianism and the Cold War decades ahead.


Whatever else Attlee & Bevin were -- they were bad for the Jews

History is full of “what ifs,” but one thing is clear – for Zionism, Attlee’s win (he was in office from 1945 to 1951) was a blow. The out-of-office Labour Party had not been especially anti-Zionist, but in-office Atlee was very much so.

At Potsdam, Truman had appealed to Churchill to admit 100,000 Jewish DPs to Eretz Israel. The prime minister implied he’d think about it -- but then lost the elections to Attlee. 

Truman then tried to persuade Attlee (think Jeremy Corbyn with a pipe) to allow European Jewish refugees from the Holocaust into Palestine. It is worth pointing out that Truman was himself not ready to bring 100,000 Jews into America, he was ambivalent about Zionism, and his secretary of state, Dean Acheson, was unenthusiastic.

In contrast, Churchill was a Philosemite and a Zionist sympathizer since the 1917 Balfour Declaration. That's what he told Gen. Dwight Eisenhower -- certainly no Zionist enthusiast.

Epilogue: The Sun Sets on the British Empire

In one sense, Churchill was fortunate to have lost the 1945 election. He would have had great difficulty presiding over the demise of the Empire.

Abroad, Attlee yanked Britain out of India (1947) and Palestine (1948). Both had become emotionally draining, violent, and way too costly for a near-bankrupt Britain to manage. In both instances, departure and subsequent partition were bloody affairs in part due to British policies.

In Palestine, Attlee had pursued a pro-Arab and anti-Jewish policy. In November 1945, for example, to appease the Arabs he had limited Jewish entry to 1,500 people per month. 

Attlee's number two, Ernest Bevin was Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. Neither he nor Attlee had been known as hostile to Jews or Zionism until they came into office. Bevin probably did not hate Jews any more than was necessary. As the Mandate was being phased down, he said: “There has been agitation in the United States, and particularly in New York, for 100,000 Jews to be put in Palestine. I hope I will not be misunderstood in America if I say that this was proposed with the purest of motives. They did not want too many Jews in New York.”  

He viewed European Jews as “pushing to the front of the queue” in wanting to leave the DP camps.

For all that, Attlee's evacuation of British military personnel from Palestine was supported by the public in Britain.



In 1950, the Conservatives, still led by Churchill, narrowly lost the general election.

Truth be told, Labour had done much of what it promised. Abroad, it oversaw the dissolution of the Empire.  At home, constructively, it has created the infrastructure for a welfare state as promised.

Bevin died in 1951. 

The party was plagued by Soviet spy scandals. 

The treasury was close to broke. 

Attlee seemed to have run out of steam.

Last hurrah 

He called for new elections. On October 25, 1951, the Conservatives won 321 seats to Labour’s 295, and Churchill (against the wishes of Eden), at age 77, became prime minister again, feeling much vindicated. This was his first-ever general election win!

It was his government that ended rationing. By July 4, 1954, restrictions on the sale of meat and bacon were lifted – having been introduced 14 years earlier. 

In foreign policy, he tried to reengage with the Soviet Union and negotiate an end to the Cold War.

When he was 80 years old and not in great health -- he had suffered a series of mini-strokes over the years -- Churchill finally retired on April 5, 1955. 

And Anthony Eden long waiting in the Conservative wings took over (until 1957).


Churchill lived another 10 years and died on January 24, 1965, age 90, on precisely the same date as his father’s death in 1895 and the day that he had predicted for his own death.

This blog is based on a talk I gave at T.E.A.M Rehovot on May 9. 

Further reading

Churchill: Walking with Destiny by Andrew Roberts - a new one-volume biography

The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill by William Manchester - an old favorite in three-volumes

Winston S. Churchill: Never Despair, 1945–1965 (Volume VIII) by Martin Gilbert  the final volume of the authorized biography

Thursday, April 28, 2022

What this Curmudgeon Takes Away from the Holocaust

This is the first Yom HaShoah after my father's death. He died on August 25, 2021 (17 Ellul 5781) at age 98.

On the whole, our family was comparatively fortunate. The Pater endured forced labor in Romania, and his sister Golda lived to tell about her experiences at Auschwitz. A brother Chaim Yitzhak survived probably by reaching Soviet lines.  

Their youngest sibling Sarah died at Auschwitz. Probably of starvation.

My paternal grandfather Eliahu was killed during the war under unknown circumstances.

The surviving siblings – my father Anshel, Golda, and Chaim Yitzhak all tried to pick up the pieces of their lives. Anshel and Golda made it to New York City from a DP camp in Germany despite opposition from an anti-immigration Congress. Maybe thanks to Golda's husband Naftali, who had a relative who sponsored them. However, Naftali was a shattered man. He opened a pocket-size candy store on the lower east side. He died under tragic circumstances leaving Golda poor and widowed with two traumatized young children.

My father was also in no mental shape to make it in America despite my mother's valiant efforts. So, he left when I was a boy for Israel, where he ensconced himself in an insular haredi enclave in B'nei Brak. We reconnected 30 years later.

Chaim Yitzhak reached Israel after independence and married a widow who had several children and died before I had the chance to meet him. I do not know where in Israel he was buried.

As I say, we were relatively lucky. My father remarried and had two daughters. So as a grownup, I discovered that I was not, after all, an only child. At his death, the Pater was blessed with grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Yet he remained forever haunted. Fortunately, he derived succor from his intense and genuine piety.

Many of my contemporaries – and most of the kids I grew up with on the Lower East Side – have their own second-generation Holocaust stories. We all process our experiences in our own ways.

I find it helpful to draw political lessons from the Shoah.

1.  On January 30, 1933, Hitler came to power fair and square (more or less) in a democratic election. Lesson: the masses are asses.

2.  Once the war broke out – the allies instituted an absolute ban on Jewish immigration from Germany. The British kept the gates of Palestine closed to Jews. Lesson: A safe and secure national homeland for the Jewish people in Palestine must always be a haven for persecuted Jews. As a beacon of decency, we must offer provisional asylum to others in desperation.

3.  In July 1938, the international community at Evian abandoned the Jews to their fate. Lesson: do not rely on multilateralism.

4.  The Allies warned the Nazis in December 1942 that their atrocities would be punished. But then, no concerted efforts were undertaken by the Allies to stop the atrocities. Lesson: Israel must maintain sufficient might to do whatever needs to be done to protect the national homeland of the Jewish people.

5.  On March 23, 1941, Himmler wrote to Hitler: "I hope to see the very concept of Jewry completely obliterated." Lesson When Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei refers to Israel as a "cancerous tumor" that "must be eradicated" take this miscreant at his word. Follow the Talmudic dictum -- "If someone comes to kill you, rise up and kill him first."

6.  The Allies had confirmation by March 1942 and again in the Riegner telegram of August 11, 1942, of the industrial and systematized destruction of European Jewry and took no action. Lesson: Don't rely on the goodwill of humanity. It is otherwise engaged.

7.  Jewish tribalism made cooperation even during the Holocaust difficult or impossible.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett noted that in the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising "two Jewish organizations that fought the Germans did so not as one body but rather as two competing organizations which failed to cooperate amongst themselves. Those two organizations were the Jewish Military Union, which belonged to the right-wing revisionist movement, and the Jewish Fighting Organization, which belonged to the left-wing socialist movement."   Lesson: Those who today play up our schisms and turn their backs on elemental partnership, who stoke divisions, who claim smug religious or ethnic supremacy within our civilization, or who aid and abet the enemy as "useful idiots," are repeating the bitter mistakes of history. Damn them to hell.

8.  Leaders like Churchill, sympathetic to Jews, were stymied in their efforts to alleviate Jewish suffering. While Roosevelt, Eisenhower, and countless others up and down the ranks of the State Department, military high command, Foreign Office, etc. (and later Attlee and Bevin between 1945-1948) were either outright Jew-haters or indifferent to Jewish survival. Lesson: Israel must rely only on its own power for survival.

9.  The Holocaust only technically ended on May 8, 1945, with the liberation of the last concentration camps. Afterward, Britain refused to open the gates of Palestine and America dragged its feet in opening the immigration doors to its shores, forcing some Holocaust survivors to remain in European DP camps (including in Germany) until as late as 1950. Lesson: A secure and safe Israel is the only reliable haven for Jews.  

10. The New York Times and other newspapers buried news of Nazi atrocities because of its anti-Zionism, out of Jewish self-hatred (the owners were then assimilationist Jews), and staff antisemitism. Lesson: The Times' legacy, metamorphosized, lives on in the progressive anti-Zionist media. 

Let me add one more lesson: Stop universalizing the Holocaust. Don't pedestrianize the Holocaust. 

Don't shove Holocaust education down anyone's throat.

Of course, there are universal lessons to be learned from the Holocaust. But Jews don't need to be in the vanguard of teaching about the Shoah to non-Jews. It is a waste of time.

Nonetheless, what's most crucial and where we should devote our energies is helping young Jewish people learn the Zionist lessons of the Holocaust.  

That is not something you can do at a museum abroad that deemphasizes the Zionist message. 

Thursday, April 07, 2022

The Government Crumbles Like a Matzah & the 'Party of God' Alignment Yeastily Rises


Where there is bad will, there is a way.

They say that Arabs love matzah, but Muslim and Christian Arabs have no obligation to eat it during Passover under Jewish law. On any given day, many doctors, patients, and staff in Israeli hospitals are Arabs.

Should they be deprived of pita on Passover while in hospitals?

The reality is that Israel’s annual matzah crisis is more about obdurate Jews like those at the Secular Forum and its New Israel Fund backers who insist that asking citizens to refrain from bringing bread products into hospitals and IDF bases during Pesach is a knock against their civil liberties.

To which the reactionary Party of God Alignment responds: God is Great! And Netanyahu is his Messenger.

Some of the Party of God Alignment may not otherwise be halachically punctilious, but on matzah, they see a wedge issue to get Netanyahu and the clerics back into power. Some in the Party of God Alignment who are halachically fastidious may not be ethically and morally finicky, but plainly draw the line on contraband breadcrumbs.

Those who assert to want a more tolerant Israeli society may now have set the stage for a more coercive demagogic government by overplaying their hand. Self-styled liberals at the Secular Forum and doctrinaire justices at Israel’s Supreme Court fail to understand that tolerance is a two-way street that requires consideration of religious sensibilities. Respecting societal norms regarding Passover food traditions in the public domain is both politic and common decency. 

The justices serially forget they are squandering the only capital that matters – political legitimacy.

Celebrity. Fame. Stardom. It is Idit Silman whose defection from Bennett’s Yamina Party that has caused the current crisis. Her picture is all over the front pages and Internet. Like the rest of us, she's seen how for weeks now, childlike squabbling between DM Gantz, FM Lapid, and PM Bennett revealed they cannot manage their egos for the sake of the nation.

The Lady now-famous has been apoplectic that Minister of Health Nitzan Horowitz of Meretz cheerily (as opposed to reluctantly?) agreed to enforce a Supreme Court ruling that blocks hospitals and IDF bases from preventing chometz on their property during Passover. 

She and the Parties of God Alignment along with the intolerant progressives at the Secular Forum – not to mention our La La Land Supreme Court justices – have just created another period of political deadlock in Israel. 

Thanks for nothing.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

How to Understand the Spike in Palestinian Arab Terror (in less than 500 words)

This week’s wave of Arab terror against the Zionist enterprise is part of a 100-year-plus war to uproot the national homeland of the Jewish people everywhere in Palestine.

It is not about “occupation” or “apartheid” or “settlements.” Antony Blinken is wrong. The progressive media is wrong. 

The attackers are incited by messages of hate they’ve learned in school, at mosques, and, more lately, on social media. The hate is taught by the Palestinian Authority, in UN-funded schools around the Middle East, by Hamas, and other Islamist organizations. The messages of hate are contemporized for each generation but fundamentally they restate the line of Haj Amin al-Husseini: I declare a holy war, my Muslim brothers! Murder the Jews! Murder them all.

International diplomatic, military and financial support comes from Iran (for Hamas, Hezbollah, and Islamic Jihad) and elsewhere. Turkey offers Hamas a base, for example. The EU and the US fund the PA and since money is fungible this largesse allows the PA to subsidize terrorism.

We always ask where the Arab moderates are. Over the past 100 years plus, there have been Arab moderates; they’ve been silenced, intimidated, or killed. That is the perspective for understanding that as Arab regimes normalize relations with Israel, as some Israeli Arab leaders join an Israeli government, the formidable agitated rejectionist camp (led by Palestinian Arab players and Iran) will intensify their efforts to strangle normalization.

Their tools to stifle normalization range from BDS to bullets. "Useful idiot" Jews and others think BDS is something new -- but it is a follow-on of the Arab Boycott initiated in 1945 by the Arab League.

The only genuine denunciation of this week's terrorism from a significant Palestinian Israeli figure came from Mansour Abbas. He heads the United Arab List in the Knesset and serves in the Israeli cabinet.

The censures mumbled from Ramallah’s Muakta --  the headquarters of PLO/PA leader Mahmoud Abbas -- were scripted at Foggy Bottom and are vacuous as the PA will now – as it has done in the past – pay lifetime pensions to this week’s killers and their families.

The condemnation from the Joint List faction (a six-seat Knesset alliance of four radical anti-Zionist parties) was even more half-hearted, conditional, and hollow.

Those on our side who offer easy answers or magic solutions do not know what they are talking about. This wave of terror has no headquarters and no command and control, so it will take time to uproot. And this requires upping our game in intelligence (human and cyber).

Retaliation against innocent Arab civilians anywhere in the Land of Israel is unethical and without value. It “deters” people who do not need deterring and it may incite those sitting on the sidelines.

There is never a good time for Israeli demagogues to inflame the arena. But now, especially with the approach of Ramadan (always a violent period often involving internecine Muslim bloodletting from Pakistan to Yemen), is decidedly not the time for Religious Jewish ultra-nationalist (Hardel) lunatics (several of whom are Knesset members) to parade on the Temple Mount.

Like all religious fanatics, Jewish extremists think they are soldiers of the Party of God.  

Religious Jewish ultra-nationalist (Hardal) fanaticism from the street theatre in Jerusalem’s Shiekh Jarrah to illegal activities in Judea and Samaria has not helped the atmosphere. “Settler violence” did not ignite these attacks, yet that doesn’t mean brutality from our side is moral or acceptable. It is indeed illegal. It surely undermines Zionist sovereignty in Eretz Israel.

This is a time for self-discipline and for fortitude.

We will not be uprooted from this Land.