Even his publisher thought he hated Jews
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.’