Churchill's Promised Land: Zionism and Statecraft

In This Review

Churchill's Promised Land: Zionism and Statecraft

By Michael Makovsky
Yale University Press, 2007
368 pp. $35.00
Purchase

Previous studies of Winston Churchill's attitude toward "the Jewish question" have portrayed the great British leader as an unabashed Zionist whose position on the issue -- so different from many of his contemporaries -- resulted from his personal admiration and affection for Jews. Makovsky does not dispute that basic line but provides a more nuanced assessment, portraying Churchill's unquestionable Zionism as "subordinate" to other strategic, political, or imperial priorities. Thus, Churchill's support for Jewish causes was inconsistent -- understandably less of a priority when it clashed with his political interests after World War I or when it seemed too closely associated with the Bolshevism he despised, but higher on the agenda when he was out of office in the 1930s and after 1948, when he saw Israel as a potential strategic partner for the West. Makovsky also convincingly argues that Churchill, often portrayed as an archetypal "realist," had a "sentimental" view of Zionism: he liked and respected Jews and believed that a Jewish homeland would advance the cause of civilization. Churchill's Promised Land, however, is anything but sentimental; it is a rigorous and balanced study that puts Churchill's Zionism in perspective. More books will certainly be written about Churchill and the Jews, but probably not better ones.