Israel/Palestine

Gandhi Sr and Jr

Gandhi was not a supporter of the partition of the British Mandate of Palestine, on the grounds that “Palestine belongs to the Arabs”.

As to the fate of the jews who fled across the Mediterranean to escape their murder, Gandhi offered an eccentric prescription. In 1938, his advice was as follows:

And now a word to the Jews in Palestine. I have no doubt that they are going about it the wrong way. The Palestine of the Biblical conception is not a geographical tract. It is in their hearts. But if they must look to the Palestine of geography as their national home, it is wrong to enter it under the shadow of the British gun. A religious act cannot be performed with the aid of the bayonet or the bomb. They can settle in Palestine only by the goodwill of the Arabs. They should seek to convert the Arab heart. They can offer satyagraha in front of the Arabs and offer themselves to be shot or thrown into the Dead Sea without raising a little finger against them. They will find the world opinion in their favour in their religious aspiration.

I expect that Gandhi would not have heard of the Mizrahi jews, from Arab lands. However, as an opponent of the partition of India into separate national and religious minorities, I expect that his prescripion for those jews would have been much the same.

Certainly, after the genocide of Europe’s jews had been completed, Gandhi’s conviction in non violent resistance was unshaken. He told Louis Fischer, in 1946:

“[t]he Jews should have offered themselves to the butcher’s knife. They should have thrown themselves into the sea from cliffs… It would have aroused the world and the people of Germany… As it is they succumbed anyway in their millions”

Gandhi’s grandson, Arun Gandhi, is the president and co-founder of the M. K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence, at the University of Rochester in New York.

Gandhi Jr has taken gramps’ analysis one stage further. He believes that jews in Israel should disarm, dismantle the security barrier, and “befriend those who hate you”.

He also reckons that the “Jewish identity” is one which “depends on violence”, and that “Israel and the Jews” are the “biggest players” in a “Culture of Violence” which is going to “destroy humanity”. (Come on Gandhi – I’m sure there are some other groups out there with a greater affection for indiscriminate violence on a rather grander scale).

Here’s his bizarre, and rather dodgy Op Ed in the Washington Post:

Jewish Identity Can’t Depend on Violence
Jewish identity in the past has been locked into the holocaust experience — a German burden that the Jews have not been able to shed. It is a very good example of a community can overplay a historic experience to the point that it begins to repulse friends. The holocaust was the result of the warped mind of an individual who was able to influence his followers into doing something dreadful. But, it seems to me the Jews today not only want the Germans to feel guilty but the whole world must regret what happened to the Jews. The world did feel sorry for the episode but when an individual or a nation refuses to forgive and move on the regret turns into anger.

The Jewish identity in the future appears bleak. Any nation that remains anchored to the past is unable to move ahead and, especially a nation that believes its survival can only be ensured by weapons and bombs. In Tel Aviv in 2004 I had the opportunity to speak to some Members of Parliament and Peace activists all of whom argued that the wall and the military build-up was necessary to protect the nation and the people. In other words, I asked, you believe that you can create a snake pit — with many deadly snakes in it — and expect to live in the pit secure and alive? What do you mean? they countered. Well, with your superior weapons and armaments and your attitude towards your neighbors would it not be right to say that you are creating a snake pit? How can anyone live peacefully in such an atmosphere? Would it not be better to befriend those who hate you? Can you not reach out and share your technological advancement with your neighbors and build a relationship?

Apparently, in the modern world, so determined to live by the bomb, this is an alien concept. You don’t befriend anyone, you dominate them. We have created a culture of violence (Israel and the Jews are the biggest players) and that Culture of Violence is eventually going to destroy humanity.

As a matter of fact, although many jews did resist their own murder at the hands of the Nazis, many more were in no position to resist, and were carted off silently to their deaths. Although it was hardly a voluntary act, the norm for most European jews was in accordance with Gandhi’s advice. As a strategy for continuing to live, it was unsuccessful.

Similarly, the millions of Mizrahi jews who fled rising Arab nationalism and settled in Israel, also responded non-violently. They simply left the part of their region in which they were being persecuted and killed, for the one spot which offered a degree of security.

It is a good thing to encourage non-violence. It is also a good thing to encourage people to “befriend” their enemies. It is often said that Gandhi achieved some of his political aims non violently – at least personally – because Britain was not prepared to commit genocide against the Indians. He was fortunate in his opponents.

However, it is just as difficult today as it ever was to persuade people to choose submission to the butcher’s knife over life.

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