Ron Cohen on Churchill, the Jews and the State of Israel

June 16, 2016

Israeli Ambassador to Canada Rafi Barak was conscious of the friendship that Sir Winston Churchill had shown to Jewish community and the role that he had played in the creation of the State of Israel. Because he wished to know more of the details associated with that long relationship, he invited Ron Cohen, the president of the Sir Winston Churchill Society of Ottawa, to speak about the subject at Kinneret, the Residence of the Israeli Ambassador in Ottawa.

Cohen began by pointing out that Churchill’s wartime speeches had been an inspiration to Anne Frank, who had been born almost exactly 87 years before, and her family, who listened to them clandestinely in their secret annex. In March 1944, just five months before her family’s betrayal, she wrote in her famous diary that “It gets so boring, and it’s quite a job not to become a dull old stick oneself. … I must mention one shining exception — a speech by our beloved Winston Churchill is quite perfect.”

He told of Churchill’s early political days in Manchester, where he made the acquaintance of many important members of the Jewish community, and of his opposition to the Aliens Bill and ultimate support for the critical Balfour Declaration of November 2, 1917, which committed England to the creation of a national home for the Jewish people.

That support continued during his tenure as Secretary of State for the Colonies, with special responsibility for the two mandates in Mesopotamia and Palestine. His commanding address in the House on July 4, 1922 saved the Balfour Declaration. His constant warnings about Hitler through the 1930s and the Second World War itself solidified his attitude toward the Jews and the merciless atrocities of the Holocaust.

Churchill’s support for Israel had been unwavering.  He constantly referred to himself as “a Zionist from the days of the Balfour Declaration” and, in a letter to Weizmann just after his 1951 General Election victory, Churchill referred to himself in the following words: "“an old Zionist like me".”