Eretz Israel is our unforgettable historic homeland...The Jews who will it shall achieve their State...And whatever we attempt there for our own benefit will redound mightily and beneficially to the good of all mankind. (Theodor Herzl, DerJudenstaat, 1896)

We offer peace and amity to all the neighbouring states and their peoples, and invite them to cooperate with the independent Jewish nation for the common good of all. The State of Israel is ready to contribute its full share to the peaceful progress and development of the Middle East.
(From Proclamation of the State of Israel, 5 Iyar 5708; 14 May 1948)

With a liberal democratic political system operating under the rule of law, a flourishing market economy producing technological innovation to the benefit of the wider world, and a population as educated and cultured as anywhere in Europe or North America, Israel is a normal Western country with a right to be treated as such in the community of nations.... For the global jihad, Israel may be the first objective. But it will not be the last. (Friends of Israel Initiative)

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Obliterating ‘that terrible word “Jewish”’: More “Absurd and Damaging Antics” of Britain’s Palestine Censor

Remember my post last month, in which I showed how, in 1940, Britain’s Palestine Censor mutilated a Christmas message written for the Palestine Post by the Scottish clergyman Dr Norman Maclean to rid it of all references to Christianity’s debt to Jews?

Well, being too pro-Jewish for the liking of the British authorities, Dr Maclean was silenced by the Censor again. To quote Professor Elliott Horowitz:
‘The connection between the world’s soul and the Jewish people had concerned Rev. Maclean ... well before his arrival in Jerusalem, which he first visited in 1934. During the First World War, while still serving at St. Cuthbert’s [Edinburgh] he contributed a foreword to Leon Levison’s The Jew in History (1916) which opened with the words: “The world owes its soul to the Jews.” In consonance with that position Maclean shared the hope of Levison, his Safed-born brother in Christ, that the war’s end “may be the resoration of the Jews to Palestine,” which Maclean saw as “the only lasting reparation that Christendom can make for centuries of wrong,” adding that “it was a disgrace that the holy places of Christianity should be in the hands of the Mohammedans.”
Not surprisingly, Rev. Maclean, whose views were not quite in consonance with those of Britain’s Mandatory representatives, did not last very long at St. Andrews in Jerusalem. Early in January of 1941 the Palestine Post laconically reported that “Dr. Norman and the Hon. Mrs. Maclean are planning to return to Britain shortly.” Several months later he completed his tenth book, His Terrible Swift Sword: On the Problem of Jewish Immigration to Palestine (1942), which he had begun writing “on the summit of one of the hills of Judah looking down on Ain Kerem,” but completed in Portree on the Isle of Skye. As the Palestine Post reported, it was prohibited for importation into Palestine by the High Commissioner [Sir Harold MacMichael] who may not have approved of such passages as “Nine months after we declared war on Hitlerism, victims of Hitlerism are still in Athlit [p. 16].” Shortly after the book’s publication Maclean spoke at an event sponsored by the Jewish National Fund at London’s Dorchester Hotel.’ (

The fervently and forthrightly philosemitic Baron Wedgwood (whose speech denouncing British policy, along with a similar one of Baron Davies, I quoted in the same post) was similarly treated. On 9 June 1942, in an address laden with “deep emotion” (to quote the Jewish Chronicle of 12 June) in the House of Lords, he demanded that Palestinian Jewry be permitted to recruit and arm home guards, that a specifically Jewish force be raised there, into which any Jew who had escaped Hitler’s clutches could enlist, and that all Jews presently serving in the Pioneer Corps be armed and trained to fight.

In the course of his address he revealed that it had been “years” since any speech of his had been reported in Palestine – and that a recent broadcast of his to America had been censored despite assurances to the contrary, and an official Mandate administration broadcast to the Arabs had explained that he and Davies were not genuine bluebloods, but were social upstarts created peers for political reasons.

The distinguished Polish-born nominally Roman Catholic Professor of Modern History at Manchester University, Lewis Namier (né Bernstein; pictured), in a letter to the staunchly pro-Zionist Manchester Guardian early in April 1942, complained that the Censor had deleted the following concluding paragraph from a leading article in the Palestine Post (27 February 1942) about the Struma tragedy: “It is yet too early and the shock too fresh for responsibility to be allotted and the guilt to be established. But that there must be an inquiry goes without saying. That is one of the most established traditions of the Empire under whose protection we live. Catastrophes such as these have led more than once in British history to far-reaching decisions. But whatever investigation is conducted, whatever action taken, one thing is certain: This must never happen again.”

Wrote Namier: “Surely this is legitimate comment and, indeed, remarkably restrained in the circumstances.” He wondered whether Colonial Secretary Lord Cranborne’s similar sentiments had been cut by the Censor.

And in a leader about that incident, the Manchester Guardian observed that the Palestine Censor appeared to be invading virgin territory, and was motivated by a desire not to offend the Arabs: “This particular exercise, if it is confirmed, would mean that the censorship was protecting the Administration not only from criticising but even from possible or implied criticism, for the passage does not impute responsibility from anyone.”

In another leader quoted in the Jewish Chronicle (10 April 1942) , the Manchester Guardian stated that the Palestine Censor had thickly obscured the political situation in the Middle East, and “presumably we have been suffered to hear so little because there is so little good we could have heard. Except in one point there is no enthusiasm for the Allied cause anywhere in the Middle East.... Only in Palestine is there a compact, resolute, tough people anxious to place all its resources of men and talent at the disposal of the Allies because their cause is the cause of the Allies. But we have discouraged the Jews and chosen to believe, against all the facts, that we can win the phantasmal cooperation of the Arabs by sacrificing the real cooperation of the Jews. We may reasonably hope to have a space of time ahead of us to review our policy and correct our errors. Shall we be resolute and imaginative enough to do it in that vital region?”

The Jewish Chronicle realised, when angry letters from Palestine-based subscribers asking where their copies were began to mount up, that issues were not getting through. In March 1943 the paper wrote to the Colonial Office seeking an explanation, and in its issue of 20 August that year reported that department’s response, freshly made following enquiries by the CO to the High Commission for Palestine:
“The general policy of the Palestine Censorship in dealing with periodicals is to ban only those issues which contain articles deemed likely to excite public opinion in a way which might lead to disturbance. Latent ill-feelings between the two main communities in the country are apt to be aroused, and indeed exacerbated, when claims are made over-emphatically by or on behalf of the other community. The policy of the censorship is based on the consideration that articles likely to arouse such feelingsmight cause disturbance and therefore prejudice the war effort. Certain issues of the Jewish Chronicle included articles containing allusions to such matters as the establishment of a Jewish State and the formation of a Jewish Army, which appeared to the competent authorities to be of a tendentious nature, and it was on this account that it was found necessary to stop these issues.”
Holding no illusions as to the Administration’s practice of appeasing Arab opinion at the expense of Jewish interests, the Jewish Chronicle’s Jerusalem Correspondent noted (23 April 1943):
“Apart from the absurd and damaging antics of censorship in [Palestine] – responsibility for which is passed from one to another à la Spenlow and Jorkins [business partners in Dickens’s David Copperfield] – there have been other priceless examples of how not to run an administration. At least one of the wartime orange crops was allowed to rot on the ground because the available outlet to Egypt was blocked – not by the enemy but by the interal enemy, Messrs. Dilly, Dally, Prejudice, and Red-Tape. The British Embassy authorities in Cairo and the Palestine Government between them were so busy running round finding out everybody – except Jews, of course, who might have corns that might be trodden on, that while thousands of British troops in Egypt and Libya yearned for oranges, millions of oranges rotted in the Palestine orchards.”
On 15 October 1943 the Jewish Chronicle carried a long editorial headed “More Light!” regarding the Palestine Censor. It deplored “the kind of censorship practised in Palestine, where, on the flimsiest and most artificial pretexts, papers and periodicals are eviscerated or barred, reputable British newspapers from outside are confiscated – often merely for referring to a particular point of view which the Palestine Government officials do not like – news going into the country is ruthlessly controlled in the interests of the Administration’s policy of the moment, and a heavy hand clamps down on correspondents’ outgoing messages if they should venture to deviate from the opinions of, or reveal facts inconvenient for, the officials at Government House.”

'The persistence with which the censorship in Palestine tries to obliterate that terrible word “Jewish” from references to the Palestinian Jewish volunteers in the British forces is amazing!” observed a report in the Jewish Chronicle (23 June 1944).
 ‘A friend has shown me a communication he recently received from Jerusalem, in which a friend of his wrote of some comrades who had given their lives in the United Nations’ [i.e. Allies’] cause, while serving in the British Army. A word in a certain phrase, however, has been thoroughly blacked out by the censor in Palestine. “Reasons of military security”, you may sapiently observe, but I should be willing to wager quite a large sum that the only reason for the censorship is political. The phrase in each case now reads: “He enlisted in a Palestinian ------ unit of the British Army”; my guess is that the “------ ” represents the obliteration of the word “Jewish”’. (In the original each gap has a thick continuous black line, not the six dashes I have here.)
According to Moshe Braver, a correspondent for the religious Zionist newspaper Hatzofeh (The Observer, founded in Palestine in 1937) addressing a London audience in 1945, the suppression of news about Jewish achievements in Palestine and the contribution of the Yishuv to the war effort eased with the appointment as Censor in the Summer of 1944 of Edwin Samuel (who eventually succeeded his father, the former High Commissioner, as Viscount Samuel).

There was still plenty of censorship, however, as when in 1945 the South African Jewish Times was banned from Palestine owing to its inclusion of a speech made by a Dr L. Altman at a Revisionist meeting in Tel Aviv, under the headline “Revisionists’ Feelings towards Britain are the same as those of the Jews towards the Czar”. An editorial in the affected paper commented:
“the Palestine censor allowed the report in the first place to be transmitted to the United States. The ban, therefore, is Gilbertian, with the censor rebuking himself. If the censor holds the view that insistence on just Jewish demands is anti-British, if the denunciation of the iniquitous White Paper and the sufferings of children are subversive – then he can go ahead and ban us.” (Quoted in JC, 27 July 1945).

And in 1946 political notes (“Reshimot Mediniot”) in the Zionist Organisation’s official organ Haolam (The World), written by A. Reubeni, whose brother Yitzhak Ben-Zvi headed the Vaad Leumi (and was Israel's President, 1952-63), showed – said a writer in the Jewish Chronicle – “the aggressive clamp that the Palestine Censor seeks to impose on the press of that country ... the sorry lengths to which such censorship goes”. The expunged passage went (in English translation):
“The Arab Boycott and the Mandate for Palestine [heading]. Why does Great Britain not protect the Jewish population of Palestine against the boycott proclaimed by a number of foreign States? There seem to be only three possible explanations: (a) Great Britain wishes to protest but cannot; (b) She can protest but is unwilling to do so; (c) She neither can nor wishes to protest. Whichever of these is the true explanation there can be only one conclusion, to wit, that great Britain is no longer fitted or entitled to retain the Mandate for Palestine.”

(Towards the close of 1945, over two issues of his newspaper, the Jewish Chronicle’s Jerusalem Correspondent – convinced that the Administration was placating Arab opinion at the expense of Jewish interests – spilled the beans on what the Censor had hidden from the public gaze. It makes very interesting reading, but since including it would make this post too long, I’ll reveal in a subsequent post what it contained.)

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