Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne, came under sharp criticism after it was revealed that he once blamed “the influx of foreign Jews” for causing unrest in the Middle East and said an American president should “take on the Jewish lobby” in the U.S.
The British Daily Mail reported over the weekend that the comments are contained in a letter dated Nov. 24, 1986, to Prince Charles’s close friend Laurens van der Post. The letter surfaced in a public archive.
Immediately after an official visit to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar that he had made with Princess Diana, the prince, then 38, writes that he began “to understand better [the Arabs’] point of view about Israel. Never realized they see it as a U.S. colony.”
“I now appreciate that Arabs and Jews were all a Semitic people originally and it is the influx of foreign, European Jews (especially from Poland, they say) which has helped to cause great problems,” he writes. “I know there are so many complex issues, but how can there ever be an end to terrorism unless the causes are eliminated?…Surely some U.S. president has to have the courage to stand up and take on the Jewish lobby in U.S.? I must be naive, I suppose!”
Responding to the revelation of the letter, Stephen Pollard, editor of The Jewish Chronicle of London, told the Daily Mail, “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 described the letter as “jaw-droppingly shocking,” adding, “That [these comments] come from the heir to the throne is unsettling, to put it mildly.”
Whether the prince was referring to Jewish immigration before or after World War, or both, is unclear.
“It is the absolute classic Arab explanation of the problems in the Middle East,” said Pollard.
“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,” he said.
A senior Israeli diplomatic source told the Daily Mail, “[Prince Charles] was traveling around the Gulf states, which in those years were very anti-Israel. It seems he was presented with a narrative in a very convincing way.”
In 1993, the Daily Mail reported, Charles delivered what at the time was considered the most pro-Islamic speech ever made by a British royal family member. He said at the time, ”Islam can teach us today a way of understanding and living in the world which Christianity is poorer for having lost….These two worlds, the Islamic and the Western, are at something of a crossroads in their relations. We must not let them stand apart.”
In 2003, it was reported that the prince had not been to the U.S. for the previous six years in accordance with British Foreign Office advice, largely because of his criticism of American policy in the Middle East.
A spokesperson for Clarence House, Prince Charles’s official residence, said the 1986 letter “clearly stated that these were not the prince’s own views about Arab-Israeli issues, but represented the opinions of some of those he met during his visit which he was keen to interrogate.”
“He was sharing the arguments in private correspondence with a longstanding 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,” said the spokesperson, adding, “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.”
This May, the British Foreign Office cancelled the prince’s planned visit to Israel over fears that it could harm relations with Arab states. The trip would have been the first official visit by a member of the British royal family to the Jewish state.
Col. (ret.) Richard Kemp, who commanded British troops in Afghanistan and is a vocal supporter of Israel, criticized the cancellation of the historic visit, telling The Sun that the move was tantamount to “pandering” to Arab regimes and was an “insult to British war dead.”
Prince Charles was in Israel in September 2016 for former Israeli statesman Shimon Peres’s funeral, but that was not billed as an official visit. The prince used the occasion to visit the grave of his grandmother, Princess Alice of Battenberg, who is buried on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.