Prince Charles has sparked media outrage following a report he wrote a letter blaming "the influx of foreign, European Jews" for aggravating the Arab-Israeli conflict and leading to general unrest in the Middle East, while also asking whether an American president would "have the courage" to take on "the Jewish lobby" to put an end to terrorism in the region.
The note, written on November 24, 1986, was found in a public archive and published Saturday by the Daily Mail. The Prince penned the letter after official visits to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar with Princess Diana.
"I now appreciate that Arabs and Jews were all a Semitic people originally,” the then 38-year-old Prince of Wales wrote in his letter, adding, that “it is the influx of foreign, European Jews (especially from Poland, they say) which has helped to cause great problems” in the Middle East. “I know there are so many complex issues, but how can there ever be an end to terrorism unless the causes are eliminated?” he questioned.
"Surely some US president has to have the courage to stand up and take on the Jewish lobby in the US? I must be naive, I suppose!” he concludes.
The Editor of the Jewish Chronicle, Stephen Pollard, described Charles’ comments “both shocking and entirely predictable.”
Both shocking and entirely predictable https://t.co/Ftm3TqvWL5— Stephen Pollard (@stephenpollard) November 12, 2017
"To me this is the most astonishing element of the Prince’s letter. The “Jewish lobby” is one of the anti-Semitic themes that have endured for centuries. It is this myth there are these very powerful Jews who control foreign policy or the media or banks or whatever." Pollard then told the daily mail that the letter was "jaw-droppingly shocking" and added that "[the Prince’s comments] come from the heir to the throne is unsettling, to put it mildly."
While the letter is inflammatory, there is no suggestion Charles holds anti-Semitic views according to The Mail: "He has many prominent Jewish friends and in 2013 became the first Royal to attend a chief rabbi’s inauguration ceremony. In a speech that year, he expressed concern at the apparent rise of anti-Semitism in Britain."
At the same time, he is seen as a defender of Islam, with one historian noting that no other major Western figure has as high a standing in the Muslim world.
It has also been suggested he has pro-Palestinian leanings, a perception the letter appears to support.
Prince Charles is not the first one to fall in the "lobby" spotlight: among those to come under fire for using the term ‘Jewish lobby’ are General George Brown, the highest-ranking military officer in the US as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who was publicly rebuked and disowned by President Gerald Ford in 1974 after claiming that a ‘Jewish lobby’ controlled Congress, according to The Daily Mail. Former Ukip leader Nigel Farage was criticised earlier this month when he referred to ‘a powerful Jewish lobby’ in the US. In 2006, Chris Davies, former leader of the Lib Dem MEPs, was forced to resign after he used the term. Archbishop Desmond Tutu also came under fire when he used the phrase in a newspaper article in 2002.
The Prince’s reference in the letter to the influx of European Jews also caused dismay.
It is not clear if he is referring to immigration before or after the Second World War, or both. Mr Pollard said: ‘It is the absolute classic Arab explanation of the problems in the Middle East.
'And it is what everyone has always said the British aristocracy actually thinks – the idea that Jews were some kind of foreigners who had no real place in Israel until we decided to make it their homeland. Historically it is nonsense and it’s quite stunning when it comes from the heir to the throne.’
A senior Israeli diplomatic source said last night: ‘He [Charles] was travelling around the Gulf states [just before he wrote the controversial letter], which in those years were very anti-Israel. It seems he was presented with a narrative in a very convincing way.’
Earlier this month, Britain marked the centenary of the Balfour Declaration, the document that paved the way for the state of Israel, with a gala dinner in London attended by Theresa May and Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
It is also not the first time Prince Charles has gotten in hot water for controversial remarks: In 2007, leaked emails between senior Clarence House staff put Charles at the centre of a row about the Royals’ attitude towards the Jewish state.
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Attempting some damage control, a spokesman for Clarence House said the thoughts revealed in the 1986 letter, were actually “not The Prince’s own views.”
“The letter clearly states these were not the Prince’s own thinking on Arab-Israeli affairs, but represented the opinions of some of those he met during his visit which he was keen to interrogate,” the statement said. It added that Prince Charles "was sharing the arguments in private correspondence with a long standing friend in an attempt to improve his understanding of what he has always recognized is a deeply complex issue to which he was coming early on in his own analysis in 1986," the representative said.
"Over the years, the prince has continued his study of the complex and difficult themes he referenced here. He has built a proven track record of support for both Jewish and Arab communities around the world and has a long history of promoting interfaith dialogue and cultural understanding," she added.