Now that Churchill is by consensus the Greatest Briton it is hard to grasp that during his lifetime, and for long after, he was a divisive figure. To many Jews he was a hero who defended their community in Britain, championed Zionism, forewarned against the Nazi horrors, and single-handedly prevented British capitulation in the summer of 1940. However, there were always critical voices. In 1985 Michael J Cohen published Churchill and the Jews, which launched a devastating attack on the hagiographic version.
Despite sharing the same title, Sir Martin Gilbert’s book could not be more different. It is firmly in the hagiographic mode, as uncritical as it is unquestioning. More worryingly, given that the author is the world’s expert on Churchill and no slouch when it comes to the history of Zionism, it is marred by inaccuracies and sloppy mistakes that suggest a book written in haste and carelessly edited.
Most perplexingly, it really does not explain Churchill’s relations with the Jews. Gilbert cites a school essay by young Winston on the Jews and Palestine in biblical times, but this hardly proves that his interest in the children of Israel was special and precocious. Most upper-class youths were taught the