Photo Credit: Rob Bogaerts / Anefo via Wikimedia
Roald Dahl signs books for adoring children in Amsterdam, October 12, 1988.

The books of Roald Dahl, a British novelist, short-story writer, poet, screenwriter, and wartime fighter pilot, have sold more than 250 million copies worldwide. They included titles you lovingly gave your children, maybe plan to this very Chanukah (and the other holiday): James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, The Witches, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The BFG, The Twits, and George’s Marvellous Medicine.

Now, Dahl’s relatives have felt the need to issue the following apology on behalf of the man who left them all these millions, who died in 1990 and bequeathed another, darker legacy:

Apology for anti-Semitic comments made by Roald Dahl

The Dahl family and the Roald Dahl Story Company deeply apologize for the lasting and understandable hurt caused by some of Roald Dahl’s statements. Those prejudiced remarks are incomprehensible to us and stand in marked contrast to the man we knew and to the values at the heart of Roald Dahl’s stories, which have positively impacted young people for generations. We hope that, just as he did at his best, at his absolute worst, Roald Dahl can help remind us of the lasting impact of words.


Here’s what we know (we went to Wiki, so you won’t have to):

In 1983, Dahl reviewed Tony Clifton’s God Cried, a picture book about the siege of West Beirut by the Israeli army during the 1982 Lebanon War, and suggested never before has “a race of people” – you know who –”switched so rapidly from victims to barbarous murderers,” which he said caused people’s empathy after the Holocaust to turn “into hatred and revulsion.” He pulled the infamous “I am not anti-Semitic. I am anti-Israel,” but the anti-Semite in him managed to peek through when he said America was “so utterly dominated by the great Jewish financial institutions” that “they dare not defy” Israel.

According to a later report, the editor of the Literary Review who worked on the original copy substituted “Israel” for “Jews” and “Israeli” for “Jewish” because back then such a repulsive anti-Semitic assault would have been met with considerable protest. It did anyway because the lad was an irrepressible Jew-hater.

Dahl told a reporter in 1983: “There’s a trait in the Jewish character that does provoke animosity, maybe it’s a kind of lack of generosity towards non-Jews. I mean there is always a reason why anti-anything crops up anywhere; even a stinker like Hitler didn’t just pick on them for no reason.”

Poor Hitler, look what those Jews made him do…

In a 1990 interview with The Independent, Dahl said he started hating Jews after Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982: “they killed 22,000 civilians when they bombed Beirut. It was very much hushed up in the newspapers because they are primarily Jewish-owned. I’m certainly anti-Israeli and I’ve become anti-Semitic in as much as that you get a Jewish person in another country like England strongly supporting Zionism.”

The commonly accepted number of civilian casualties in the clashes between Israel and the PLO is between 4,500 and 5,000.

In 2014, the Royal Mint decided not to produce a coin to commemorate the centenary of Dahl’s birth because he was considered to be “associated with anti-Semitism and not regarded as an author of the highest reputation.”

In his 1994 “Roald Dahl: A Biography,” Jeremy Treglown wrote of Dahl’s first novel “Sometime Never” (1948): “Plentiful revelations about Nazi anti-Semitism and the Holocaust did not discourage him from satirizing ‘a little pawnbroker in Hounsditch called Meatbein who, when the wailing started, would rush downstairs to the large safe in which he kept his money, open it and wriggle inside on to the lowest shelf where he lay like a hibernating hedgehog until the all-clear had gone.'”

And in Dahl’s 1945 short story “Madame Rosette,” the title character is described as “a filthy old Syrian Jewess.”

So Dahl’s anti-Semitic thing started way ahead of the inflated Israeli bombings’ casualties in 1982.

To be sure, Dahl didn’t hate only Jews. It’s been noted that the Oompa-Loompas in the Chocolate Factory may as well have been wearing black faces in a Klan Christmas show. And Dahl hated many women, too, not just the filthy Syrian Jewesses. The Witches offers up plenty of feminist complexities. “The witches” are horrible creatures, too, and, well, women.

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