Even his pub­lisher thought he hated Jews

The Scottish Mail on Sunday - - News -

IT WAS re­vealed last week that the Royal Mint re­jected plans for a Roald Dahl com­mem­o­ra­tive coin be­cause of con­cerns about his anti-Semitism.

Cer­tainly it was the case that Dahl had no­to­ri­ously forth­right views and a tem­per that grew shorter with age. Din­ner guests were warned to brace them­selves for deeply per­sonal ques­tions about sex, re­li­gion, money or pol­i­tics. His New York pub­lisher Bob Got­tlieb was con­vinced he was anti-Semitic. ‘At one point it be­came clear that he thought we were just a bunch of blood­suck­ing Jews,’ Got­tlieb said.

Dahl faced fur­ther ac­cu­sa­tions in 1982 when he com­pared Is­raeli at­tacks on the Pales­tini­ans to the Nazis in a book re­view. He was bom­barded with fu­ri­ous let­ters and phone calls, and branded an anti-Semite around the globe.

Dahl ac­cepted that he should try to clear the mess up, but his bungling at­tempts made mat­ters worse. In a let­ter to The Times, he wrote: ‘I am not anti-Semitic. I am anti-Is­rael.’

He then gave a tele­phone in­ter­view to The New States­man in which he talked about ‘a trait in the Jewish char­ac­ter that does pro­voke a cer­tain an­i­mos­ity, maybe it’s a kind of lack of gen­eros­ity to­wards non-Jews.

‘Even a stinker like Hitler didn’t pick on them for no rea­son.’ It is true that he also found plenty that ir­ri­tated him about the French, Dutch, Ger­mans, Swedes, Ir­ish, Iraqis and Amer­i­cans – but those clos­est to him learned to ig­nore most of it.

His Jewish friend Sir Isa­iah Ber­lin said: ‘I thought he might say any­thing. Could have been pro-Arab or pro-Jew. There was no con­sis­tent line. He was a man who fol­lowed whims.’

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