The Other British Forrestal?

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Chapter Six of The Assassination of James Forrestal is entitled, “Britain’s Forrestal.” The title character is Ernest Bevin, who was Foreign Secretary in the British Labour government from 1945 to 1951. Bevin, like Forrestal, won the enmity of the Zionists by resisting their ambitions in Palestine. Zionist terrorists attempted to assassinate him with letter bombs in 1946 when Britain still held the Mandate for Palestine, governing control over the region that it had been granted by the League of Nations in 1920.

Since Bevin was the leading opponent of the Zionists in the British government at the time, and since they attempted to kill him, the parallels between him and Forrestal would appear to be obvious. However, there are two clear differences. First, Forrestal’s position of Secretary of Defense never gave him the power over government policy toward Palestine that Bevin wielded, and at the time Forrestal was almost certainly thrown from a 16th floor window of the Bethesda Naval Hospital on May 22, 1949, he was no longer in the government, having left office on March 28. Second, the plot to kill Bevin failed; with Forrestal, it succeeded.

A reader of my work on Forrestal has recently reminded me of the observations of the estimable British journalist, Douglas Reed, in his 1978 book, The Controversy of Zion, about the very odd demise of the powerful British press baron, Lord Northcliffe (Alfred Harmsworth). In the power over public information that he exercised through ownership of a number of newspapers, Lord Northcliffe may be compared to America’s William Randolph Hearst, which Reed does, or more recently to Rupert Murdoch. After making a visit to Palestine, Lord Northcliffe, as it happens, had fallen hard off the Zionist bandwagon, which put him completely out of step with the prevailing opinion molders in the country, which were and are much the same as those in the United States.

James Fetzer’s blurb on the back of The Assassination of James Forrestal points to an important reason, then, why the parallel between Forrestal and Lord Northcliffe might be stronger than the one with Bevin: “In this thoroughly documented and profoundly disconcerting analysis of the death of our nation’s first Secretary of Defense, Dave Martin has established that James Forrestal was targeted for assassination by Zionist zealots who were convinced that his future influence as an editor and publisher represented an unacceptable risk.”

Forrestal’s first love was journalism. In his youth he had worked as a reporter for three newspapers in his native upstate New York, and he had been the editor of the student newspaper at Princeton. As former president of the investment banking firm of Dillon, Read, & Co. he was a rich, powerful and well-connected man. He had plans to run his own news magazine. In short, he could have become an American Lord Northcliffe with the ability to have a great deal of influence on public opinion in the country.

The End of Lord Northcliffe

Fortunately, the Dane, Knud Bjeld Ericksen, has put Douglas Reed’s entire book online. Chapter 34 is about Lord Northcliffe and his demise, and I have excerpted a key section (All emphasis is in the original. I have provided some hyperlinks for the convenience of the reader.):   

Lord Northcliffe made himself the adversary of the [Zionist] conspiracy from Russia in two ways. In May 1920 he caused to be printed in The Times the article, previously mentioned, on the Protocols [of the Learned Elders of Zion]. It was headed, “The Jewish Peril, A Disturbing Pamphlet, Call for Enquiry”. It concluded, “An impartial investigation of these would-be documents and of their history is most desirable…are we to dismiss the whole matter without inquiry and to let the influence of such a book as this work unchecked?”

Then in 1922 Lord Northcliffe visited Palestine, accompanied by a journalist, Mr. J.M.N. Jeffries (whose subsequent book, Palestine: The Reality, remains the classic work of reference for that period). This was a combination of a different sort from that formed by the editors of The Times and Manchester Guardian, who wrote their leading articles about Palestine in England and in consultation with the Zionist chieftain, Dr. [Chaim] Weizmann. Lord Northcliffe, on the spot, reached the same conclusion as all other impartial investigators, and wrote, “In my opinion we, without sufficient thought, guaranteed Palestine as a home for the Jews despite the fact that 700,000 Arab Moslems live there and own it…The Jews seemed to be under the impression that all England was devoted to the one cause of Zionism, enthusiastic for it in fact; and I told them that this was not so and to be careful that they do not tire out our people by secret importation of arms to fight 700,000 Arabs…There will be trouble in Palestine…people dare not tell the Jews the truth here. They have some from me.”.

By stating the truth, Lord Northcliffe offended twice; he had already entered the forbidden room by demanding “inquiry” into the origins of the Protocols. Moreover, he was able to publish this truth in the mass-circulation newspapers owned by him, so that he became, to the conspirators, a dangerous man. He encountered one obstacle in the shape of Mr. Wickham Steed, who was editor of The Times and whose championship of Zionism Dr. Weizmann records.

In this contest Lord Northcliffe had an Achilles heel. He particularly wanted to get the truth about Palestine into The Times, but he was not sole proprietor of that paper, only chief proprietor. Thus his own newspapers published his series of articles about Palestine but The Times, in fact, refused to do so. Mr. Wickham Steed, though he had made such large proposals about the future of Palestine, declined to go there, and denied publicity to the anti-Zionist case.

These facts, and all that now follows, are related (again, with surprising candour) in the Official History of The Times (1952). It records that Mr. Wickham Steed “evaded” visiting Palestine when Lord Northcliffe requested him to go there; it also records Mr. Wickham Steed’s “inaction” following Lord Northcliffe’s telegraphed wish “for a leading article attacking Balfour’s attitude towards Zionism”.

In what follows the reader’s attention is particularly directed to dates.

In May 1920 Lord Northcliffe had caused publication of the article about the Protocols in The Times. Early in 1922 he visited Palestine and produced the series of articles above mentioned. On February 26, 1922 he left Palestine, after his request, which was ignored, to the editor of The Times. He was incensed against the incompliant editor and had a message, strongly critical of his editorial policy, read to an editorial conference which met on March 2, 1922. Lord Northcliffe wished that Mr. Wickham Steed should resign and was astonished that he remained after this open rebuke. The editor, instead of resigning, decided “to secure a lawyer’s opinion on the degree of provocation necessary to constitute unlawful dismissal.” For this purpose he consulted Lord Northcliffe’s own special legal adviser (March 7, 1922), who informed Mr. Wickham Steed that Lord Northcliffe was “abnormal,” “incapable of business” and, judging from his appearance, “unlikely to live long” and advised the editor to continue in his post! The editor then went to Pau, in France, to see Lord Northcliffe, in his turn decided that Lord Northcliffe was “abnormal” (March 31, 1922), and informed a director of The Times that Lord Northcliffe was “going mad.”

The suggestion of madness thus was put out by an editor whom Lord Northcliffe desired to remove and the impressions of others therefore are obviously relevant. On May 3, 1922 Lord Northcliffe attended a farewell luncheon in London for a retiring editor of one of his papers and “was in fine form.” On May 11, 1922 he made “an excellent and effective speech” to the Empire Press Union and “most people who had thought him ‘abnormal’ believed they were mistaken.” A few days later Lord Northcliffe telegraphed instructions to the Managing Director of The Times to arrange for the editor’s resignation. This Managing Director saw nothing “abnormal” in such an instruction and was not “in the least anxious about Northcliffe’s health.” Another director, who then saw him, “considered him to have quite as good a life risk as his own; he “noticed nothing unusual in Northcliffe’s manner or appearance” (May 24, 1922).

On June 8, 1922 Lord Northcliffe, from Boulogne, asked Mr. Wickham Steed to meet him in Paris; they met there on June 11, 1922, and Lord Northcliffe told his visitor that he, Lord Northcliffe, would assume the editorship of The Times. On June 12, 1922 the whole party left for Evian-les-Bains, a doctor being secreted on the train, as far as the Swiss frontier, by Mr. Wickham Steed. Arrived in Switzerland “a brilliant French nerve specialist” (unnamed) was summoned and in the evening certified Lord Northcliffe insane. On the strength of this Mr. Wickham Steed cabled instructions to The Times to disregard and not to publish anything received from Lord Northcliffe, and on June 13, 1922 he left, never to see Lord Northcliffe again. On June 18, 1922 Lord Northcliffe returned to London and was in fact removed from all control of, and even communication with his undertakings (especially The Times; his telephone was cut). The manager had police posted at the door to prevent him entering the office of The Times if he were able to reach it. All this, according to the Official History, was on the strength of certification in a foreign country (Switzerland) by an unnamed (French) doctor. On August 14, 1922 Lord Northcliffe died; the cause of death stated was ulcerative endocarditis, and his age was fifty-seven. He was buried, after a service at Westminster Abbey, amid a great array of mourning editors.

Such is the story as I have taken it from the official publication. None of this was known outside a small circle at the time; it only emerged in the Official History after three decades, and if it had all been published in 1922 would presumably have called forth many questions. I doubt if any comparable displacement of a powerful and wealthy man can be adduced, at any rate in such mysterious circumstances.

For the first time, I now appear in this narrative as a personal witness of events. In the 1914-1918 war I was one participant among uncomprehending millions, and only began to see its true shape long afterwards. In 1922 I was for an instant in, though not of the inner circle; looking back, I see myself closeted with Lord Northc1iffe (about to die) and quite ignorant of Zionism, Palestine, Protocols or any other matter in which he had raised his voice. My testimony may be of some interest; I cannot myself judge of its value.

I was in 1922 a young man fresh from the war who struggled to find a place in the world and had become a clerk in the office of The Times. I was summoned thence, in that first week of June when Lord Northcliffe was preparing to remove Mr. Wickham Steed and himself assume the editorship of The Times, to go as secretary to Lord Northcliffe who was at Boulogne. I was warned beforehand that he was an unusual man whose every bidding must be quickly done. Possibly for that reason, everything he did seemed to me to be simply the expression of his unusual nature. No suspicion of anything more ever came to me, a week before he was “certified” and, in effect, put in captivity.

I was completely ignorant of “abnormal” conditions, so that the expert might discount my testimony. Anyway, the behaviour I observed was just what I had been told to expect by those who had worked with him for many years. There was one exception to this. Lord Northcliffe was convinced that his life was in danger and several times said this; specifically, he said he had been poisoned. If this is in itself madness, then he was mad, but in that case many victims of poisoning have died of madness, not of what was fed to them. If by any chance it was true, he was not mad. I remember that l thought it feasible that such a man should have dangerous enemies, though at that time I had no inkling at all of any particular hostility he might have incurred. His belief certainly charged him with suspicion of those around him, but if by chance he had reason for it, then again it was not madness; if all this had transpired in the light of day such things could have been thrashed out.

I cannot judge, and can only record what I saw and thought at the time, as a young man who had no more idea of what went on around him than a babe knows the shape of the world. When I returned to London I was questioned about Lord Northcliffe by his brother, Lord Rothermere, and one of his chief associates, Sir George Sutton. The thought of madness must by that time have been in their minds (the “certification” had ensued) and therefore have underlain their questions, but not even then did any such suspicion occur to me, although I had been one of the last people to see him before he was certified and removed from control of his newspapers. I did not know of that when I saw them or for long afterwards. In such secrecy was all this done that, although I continued in the service of The Times for sixteen years, I only learned of the “madness” and “certification” thirty years late, from the Official History. By that time I was able to see what great consequences had flowed from an affair in which I was an uninitiated onlooker at the age of twenty-seven.

The cause of death might not have been given as suicide, as in Forrestal’s case, but we have the very similar destruction of the man’s reputation by the suggestion that he had gone off his rocker. In Forrestal’s case, it might have had some verisimilitude in that it appeared to bear some connection to the subsequent “suicide.” About the only thing that the official story would seem to have going for it in Lord Northcliffe’s case was that no one with any substantial audience seemed to raise any suspicions. Reed, himself, avers that he had no reason to doubt what he was told until he ran across the account that we see here some thirty years later in the official history of The Times.

Certainly, there is a great inconsistency between this account, all of which relates to events in 1922, and the bland statement about the man’s death on his Wikipedia page: “Alfred Harmsworth’s health declined during 1921 due mainly to a streptococcal infection. He went on a world tour to revive himself, but it failed to do so. He died of endocarditis in a hut on the roof of his London house, No. 1 Carlton House Gardens during August, 1922, and left three months’ pay to each of his six thousand employees.” (emphasis added)

Even the man who had so much influenced Lord Northcliffe on the Palestine question, J.M.N. Jeffries, seemed to have had no suspicions. The following passage is from page 522 of Palestine: The Reality. Consider, though, that that book was published in 1939, and the official history of The Times upon which Reed relied didn’t come out until 1952. One might also notice the contrast with the Wikipedia account with respect to the timing of the supposed illness:

Lord Northcliffe, who was making his last great world tour, arrived in mid-February [1922]. He brought to Palestine what the Colonial Secretary so conspicuously had failed to bring, an objective mind. He learned the facts on the spot and formed from them his judgment of the situation, instead of trying like Churchill to force the foot of fate into the boot of circumstance.

He was accessible. The news spread that here was a great Englishman who listened, and during his stay two hundred visitors waited upon him. Petitions were drawn up and presented to him not only by the Arabs but also by the maltreated Jewish bodies, those Zionists who had committed the ultimate mistake of demonstrating by their presence that “rights” and exemption from “sufferance” were superfluous for Jews who came in faith to Palestine.

…the fiction that Palestine was a Jewish country faded as he used his ever-open eyes.

His general judgment went straight to the truth. “This country,” he said in the words used to open this book, “runs the risk of becoming a second Ireland.” The prophecy was only too accurate. Balfour, not satisfied with his achievement of one embittered Ireland, had arranged for us a second one.The great consequence of Lord Northcliffe’s visit was that the Arabs henceforth obtained in his newspapers some space for the presentation of their wrongs. His last illness came, alas! On his return home, and in August he was dead, England losing more than has ever been realized, a purely candid mind.

Jeffries was hardly alone among prominent anti-Zionist writers to overlook the saga of Lord Northcliffe’s demise. His name is notably missing from the list of prominent people victimized by smear campaigns and worse by the Zionists as laid out by Alfred Lilienthal in The Zionist Connection II: What Price Peace, as cited in my article, “James Forrestal, the Great Patriot.” Alison Weir makes no mention of him in Against Our Better Judgment, although, in her defense, the subtitle of her book, “The Hidden History of How the U.S. Was Used to Create Israel,” shows that her primary focus was upon goings on in the United States and not the United Kingdom with respect to the transformation of Palestine. I have less of an excuse for not mentioning Lord Northcliffe in The Assassination of James Forrestal and my only one is that I had read The Controversy of Zion quite a while before I became interested in Forrestal’s death, and the Northcliffe episode had slipped from my memory.

The one person, to my knowledge, who has kept the Northcliffe story alive is Kevin Alfred Strom, whose article “Jewish Terror: The Story of Lord Northcliffe” was posted on National Vanguard in 2015. Douglas Reed is his one source for the story, and when he goes beyond it, he tends to get beyond his depth as evidenced by the fact that he writes, speaking of the eve of the issue of the Balfour Declaration during World War I as a means of drawing the United States into the war, “The British Empire was at that time administering the small Middle Eastern territory of Palestine, populated mainly by Palestinian Arabs and Christians and with only a small minority of Jews.” In fact, Palestine was at that time, as it had been for centuries, part of the Ottoman Empire, which was allied with Germany in the war. Anyone who has seen the movie Lawrence of Arabia should remember that T.E. Lawrence rallied the Arabs of the region to fight against the Ottomans with a promise of independence from their Turkish oppressors should they be successful. But for that bobble, Strom’s article is well worth reading, however.

Et Tu, T.E.?

Reed was able to straighten his thinking out about Lord Northcliffe’s demise with the benefit of access three decades after the fact to that official history of The Times. That was not the case with respect to his treatment of James Forrestal’s death. As astute as he was as a journalistic insider with an open mind, even he seems to have fallen for the story that was given out at the time. On page 540 he wrote, “Thus Mr. [John Foster] Dulles was complaining of the “political pressure” recorded by President Truman in his memoirs, and was attempting in 1956 what Mr. Forrestal in 1947 had attempted, at the price of dismissal, breakdown and suicide.”

Similarly, he wrote before that on pp. 288-289, speaking of the premature death of T.E. Lawrence, officially from a simple motorcycle accident, “This last phase of his life, and the motor-bicycle accident which ended it, have a suicidal look (resembling the similar phase and end of Mr. James Forrestal after the Second War) and he must be counted among the martyrs of the story.”

Reed should have suspected that Lawrence’s death was no more a straightforward accident than Forrestal’s was a straightforward suicide. See Tony Hays’s article, “The Murder of Lawrence of Arabia.” Hays, it should be noted, should hardly be trusted implicitly, especially when it comes to the motivation behind Lawrence’s possible murder. See also Hays’s article, “Truman’s Secretary of Defense James Forrestal: Murder or Suicide?” and my comment on it.

Douglas Reed, of all people, should have known that, from its beginning, assassination and control of the public narrative have been twin pillars of the Zionist venture.

David Martin

January 8, 2020

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