When it comes to stirring oratory, few speeches have the power to quicken the pulse like Winston Churchill’s “We shall fight on the beaches…” from June, 1940. Generations of British schoolchildren have learned how that voice, crackling over the airwaves, helped galvanise the nation to new heights of endurance in the struggle against an all-powerful foe.
Churchill’s grand aristocratic tones summoned up the spirit of British defiance from across the centuries. So British schoolchildren are taught anyway — and you still come across grey-haired veterans of those days who vividly remember where they were when they heard it on the wireless.
Shame then, that it was all a bit of a fraud. For the recorded version of the speech we are all familiar with, was not made until nine years later at his Chartwell country residence with the old boy rumbling into a microphone while sitting up in his bed. (The original speech in the House of Commons was not recorded — extracts were read out by newsreaders).
That is one of the milder revelations in a bunker-buster of a BBC television program called Churchill: When Britain Said No which told the story of how the victorious war time premier was overwhelmingly rejected at the 1945 general election.
Predictably, the keepers of the flame are outraged. The Winston Churchill Industry in both the USA and Britain have expressed their disgust that such a program could have been broadcast. A “hatchet job” opined Lee Pollock, director of the Winston Churchill Center in Chicago. In an article in The Spectator Mr Pollock wrote that “When Britain Said No is so one-sided and hysterical that it actually does a disservice to the revisionist cause.” Churchill’s family, too, were enraged and condemned the program as “designed to belittle Churchill’s record.”
You can easily understand the determination of the Churchill industry in wanting to protect the brand they have benefited from so handsomely. Winston Churchill Center chairman Laurence Geller received a CBE from Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, only three years ago.
But if anything, the BBC program was just too mild, for it ignored the far more important story in which Churchill’s name and reputation have been appropriated by the neoconservative cause. It ignored how his name has been used to smear President Obama, to hamper his attempts at an agreement with Iran, and to railroad the US into a war with Iran. It is the story of a massive public assault that has all the hallmarks of a co-ordinated media campaign.
But first let us look at the BBC program. The charge sheet against Churchill was a lengthy one and, this being the BBC, it was mainly from a left-wing perspective. There was his unabashed racism. And then there were his previous military disasters. There was his habit — at the height of the war — of being indisposed through drink. There was the deep hatred for him felt by the working class.
Quite the most arresting part of the program was newsreel footage of Churchill being booed off the stage at an election rally in East London two days before the 1945 general election. The police had to protect him from the crowd as he was sped away in a car.
In the end, Churchill’s achievement rests on five speeches in 1940 and 1941 and a determined refusal to consider repeated German offers of peace terms. It was this resistance to “appeasement” that the program returned to again and again as being the source of his greatness.
But here the program refused to acknowledge Churchill’s own act of appeasement — in allowing Stalin, the bloodiest dictator in modern history, to plunge much of Europe into communist tyranny. A despicable double-standard which most in Britain and the West have chosen to forget.
The final acid-tipped judgement went to historian John Charmley: “Churchill was the prime minister at the last time that Britain mattered to the world. He then spent the post-war years writing this up in a series of best-selling memoirs every page of which, incidentally, broke the Official Secrets Act, so no one else had access to the material to tell the story in a different way; so the combination of these two things make a virtually unassailable myth.” As Churchill himself said: “history will bear me out because I will write the history.” Churchill’s book The Second World War ran to six volumes.
Of course, none of this is news to students of revisionist history but to the general viewer, marinated in the received wisdom, it must have come as a shock. It is doubtful this program would have been broadcast even 10 years ago. The myth of Churchill and the “Good War” was too potent a symbol of the post-war liberal consensus.
But the BBC program stayed far away from the much more recent and politically controversial area. For as with the Holocaust, it is the way in which the symbolism of Churchill was appropriated and abused today that is more revealing.
It was Churchill’s official and most prolific biographer — and secular Jew — Sir Martin Gilbert, who died earlier this year, who, for many years, has wheeled out Churchill in the service of Israel. As Gilbert’s massive bibliography reveals, the main themes of his writing were Israel, the Holocaust, and Winston Churchill. He highlighted Churchill’s support for Zionism frequently.
But while Gilbert helped lay the foundation of Churchill’s new role as defender of Israel it is the neocons who have taken this to new heights. In recent years he has been adopted by the likes of Douglas Feith, Charles Krauthammer and Irving Kristol who regard him as a “founding father” of their movement.
Indeed, The Weekly Standard, edited by Bill Kristol (Irving’s son) anointed him Man of the Century and earlier this year compared him to that other warmongering statesman Benjamin Netanyahu.
This phenomenon was analysed by Michael Lind in The Spectator:
While most Americans think of Churchill as the foe of the Nazis, many right-wing Jews in the United States and Israel revere him for his role in promoting European-Jewish colonisation of Palestine at the expense of the Arabs. When he was colonial secretary in the early 1920s, Churchill hived off Jordan from the rest of the Palestinian mandate. For years, American neocons, disseminating the propaganda of the Israeli Right, have claimed that Jordan or the ‘Trans-Jordan’ is, or should be, the only ‘Palestinian’ state. This Likud party propaganda line is echoed by non-Jewish neocons including William Bennett, who wrote in an essay entitled ‘Standing with Israel’, ‘There is no reason Jews should not be able to live in the West Bank.’ The fact that the UN partition of Palestine in 1947–48 superseded all previous British decisions is ignored by radical Jewish and Christian Zionists in the US and Israel.
In a speech to the House of Commons on 26 January 1949, Churchill repeated the Israeli lie that the Palestinians had voluntarily fled the country: ‘All this Arab population fled in terror behind the advancing forces of their own religion.’ The Israeli historian Benny Morris, on the basis of Israeli archives, has shown how the Israeli government carried out a premeditated policy of deliberate ethnic cleansing during the war. When he turned 80 in 1954, the state of Israel sent Churchill a floral arrangement in the shape of a cigar.
It should be no surprise, then, that the neocon cult of Churchill flourishes in Israel as well as in the US. Shortly before he was appointed as senior director for Near Eastern and North African affairs at the National Security Council — a post that gave him responsibility for Israel/Palestine, Iraq, Syria and Iran — Elliott Abrams gave a speech comparing Ariel Sharon to Winston Churchill. ‘Sharon’s no Churchill,’ complained Don Feder, another neoconservative, on 15 March 2002. ‘Ariel Sharon has a split personality. He wants to be both Winston Churchill and Neville Chamberlain. His unilateral concessions, his unwillingness to treat Zion’s fight for survival as the war it is and the weakness he exhibits to a remorseless foe have his country on the edge of extinction.’ Yes, that’s right — Israel, in 2002, according to this typical American neocon, was on the edge of extinction! Fortunately, according to Feder, there was a Churchill in Israel: ‘Bibi [Netanyahu] waits in the wings….’ Whether or not Sharon or Netanyahu are Churchill, Yasser Arafat and any enemy of the state of Israel is Hitler — on that all neocons can agree.
The neocon cult of Churchill came in useful in providing cover during the slaughter of Palestinians during last year’s Operation Protective Edge as this Daily Telegraph article from mid-2014 shows.
But the comparison really began to appear with suspicious regularity beginning in January this year; then it built in intensity until March when Netanyahu addressed Congress. Gideon Rachman’s adoring account in the Financial Times was typical.
When Benjamin Netanyahu rises to speak in Congress later on Tuesday he will become the first foreign leader since Winston Churchill to speak before Congress three times. John Boehner, the Republican speaker of the House, apparently intends to mark the occasion by presenting the Israeli prime minister, with a bust of Churchill.
Noah Rayman made the same glowing comparison in Time. The Huffington Post, USA Today and others followed suit. In the Washington Post , Jennifer Rubin switched between the Churchill and Chamberlain comparisons depending on whether she was writing or tweeting. For Michael Barone in the Washington Examiner , the visit was an echo of Churchill. Jonathan Freedland in the New York Review of Books too saw the Churchill comparison. Bill Kristol tweeted the words
“Churchill and appeasement.” Charles Krauthammer never seems to tire of making this comparison and did it again in the Washington Post.
On and on it went, to be repeated in the New York Observer and the Jerusalem Post. A New York rabbi even took out an advert in the New York Times telling Obama ‘not to be like Chamberlain’. A congressman made the Churchill/Netanyahu comparison with the obvious implication for Obama. Even Sean Hannity repeated the same script. For Hannity, Netanyahu’s U.S. visit was on a par with the Second Coming of Jesus.
This wasn’t just lazy hacks taking the easiest spoon-fed angle. It seems to have been a co-ordinated attack designed to pressure the Obama Administration into war with Iran.
So, for some people Churchill has been more useful dead than alive. And it is not just in the US that Churchill’s name has been invoked in service of doubtful causes. In Britain we are suddenly learning that Churchill would have backed Britain’s absorption into the European Union.
This claim was first made by Professor Vernon Bogdanor and repeated by pro-EU voices such as the BBC and EU propagandists such as Jon Danzig who describes himself as formerly an “investigative journalist” at the BBC. However many prominent non-Jewish Conservatives have poured scorn on the idea.
Another organisation that burnishes the Churchill myth for its own ends is the Simon Wiesenthal Center. In 2011 they released their own documentary called Winston Churchill: Walking with Destiny.
It was the latest in a series of Holocaust-themed films which have been produced by the Center’s founder Rabbi Marvin Hier and narrated by big names, such as Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman and Richard Dreyfus. Unusually for a documentary, it had no trouble finding extensive distribution in movie houses across the USA.
The film was narrated by Ben Kingsley and focused very tightly on Churchill’s “support for the Jews” during the rise of Hitler. Churchill’s Jewish official biographer, Sir Martin Gilbert, served as a historical consultant and is featured prominently in the production.
So what is Winston Churchill’s real legacy for Britain? To get an answer, consider the words of Chinese politician Zhou Enlai who, in 1950, when asked what he thought was the outcome of the French Revolution, replied that it was “too early to say.”
Now, a mere 70 years since the end of World War II, we are beginning to clearly see the results of the triumphant liberal hegemony for which Winston Churchill made Britain safe. It took a couple of generations for the World War II generation to die off, but now liberal progressivism is getting into its stride and most of White Europe is reeling under waves of Third World immigration.
The real legacy of Winston Churchill is growing more visible on the streets of Europe every day. It is very obvious now that demolition of this man’s grotesquely inflated reputation and the “Good War” myth that goes with it, should be a priority for all who believe in the future of the West.