The anti-Semitic elephant in Prince Charles’ castle

Prince Charles, right, speaks with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, during an unofficial visit to Israel to attend former Israeli prime minister Shimon Peres' funeral in 2016. (Presidencia de la República Mexicana/CC BY 2.0)

Last year, it appeared as though Prince Charles was going to take a trip to Israel, to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration. The historic trip would have been the first official royal visit to the Jewish state, since the country was founded in 1948. But, alas, it was not to be.

The British tabloid the Sun reported last May that the U.K. Foreign Office, which “co-ordinates trips on behalf of the royal family, nixed the visit in an apparent effort to ‘to avoid upsetting Arab nations in the region who regularly host U.K. royals.’” The Foreign Office denied the allegation and claimed that a royal visit to Israel was never scheduled for 2017.

We’ll probably never know what exactly happened. Nevertheless, Prince Charles remains the most likely royal to break this nearly 70-year drought. He attended the funerals of Yitzhak Rabin in 1995 and Shimon Peres in 2016 in an unofficial capacity, and has strongly spoken out against anti-Semitism on several occasions.

Then again, there’s the little matter of the Nov. 24, 1986, letter written by Prince Charles to his friend Sir Laurens van der Post that was unearthed in a public archive and made headlines in November. It was reportedly written just after he made an official visit to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar with Princess Diana. In the letter, he described the trip as “fascinating,” and said that he’d learned “a lot about the Middle East and Arab outlook.” He apparently “tried to read bit of Koran,” to gain further insights, but didn’t believe the Arab community “could understand us through reading Bible.”


The letter then takes a bizarre turn:

“Also I now begin to understand better their (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.

“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!”

Whoa. Have we missed something here with respect to his views on Israel and the Middle East?

This isn’t the sort of language typically associated with Prince Charles’ thought process.

The Daily Mail’s Ian Gallagher noted in a Nov. 11, 2017, column that Prince Charles “has always enjoyed a close and supportive relationship with the Jewish community in Britain.” Nevertheless, he’s also viewed as a “defender of Islam” and it has “also been suggested he has pro-Palestinian leanings, a perception the letter appears to support.”

This would be regarded as a relatively balanced approach. Yet, to claim an “influx” of “foreign, European Jews” has caused “great problems,” shows a fairly strong bias toward one group. Meanwhile, the phrase “Jewish lobby” has had such a mixed reaction in history, from the positive influence of Jewish groups to a vast Jewish conspiracy, that most right-thinking people generally avoid using it.

For the record, a Clarence House spokesperson came to his defence by arguing that “this 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.”

While I’m certainly not suggesting these are the words of a raging anti-Semite, this still isn’t the sort of language typically associated with Prince Charles’ thought process. It’s something he may need to clear up if, and when, he makes an official visit to Israel.