Tuesday, January 20, 2009

On Jews & Middle-East by *Mohandas K. Gandhi*

*On Jews & Middle-East
by *Mohandas K. Gandhi*

Several letters have been received by me asking me to declare my views about
the Arab-Jew question in Palestine and the persecution of the Jews in
Germany . It is not without hesitation that I venture to offer my views on
this very difficult question.

My sympathies are all with the Jews. I have known them intimately in South Africa . Some of them became life-long companions. Through these friends I came to learn much of their age-long persecution. They have been the untouchables of Christianity. The parallel between their treatment by Christians and the treatment of untouchables by Hindus is very close.
Religious sanction has been invoked in both cases for the justification of
the inhuman treatment meted out to them. Apart from the friendships,
therefore, there is the more common universal reason for my sympathy for the

But my sympathy does not blind me to the requirements of justice. The cry
for the national home for the Jews does not make much appeal to me. The
sanction for it is sought in the Bible and the tenacity with which the Jews
have hankered after return to Palestine . Why should they not, like other
peoples of the earth, make that country their home where they are born and
where they earn their livelihood?

Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same sense that England belongs to the
English or France to the French. It is wrong and inhuman to impose the Jews
on the Arabs. What is going on in Palestine today cannot be justified by any
moral code of conduct. The mandates have no sanction but that of the last
war. Surely it would be a crime against humanity to reduce the proud Arabs
so that Palestine can be restored to the Jews partly or wholly as their
national home. The nobler course would be to insist on a just treatment of
the Jews wherever they are born and bred. The Jews born in France are French
in precisely the same sense that Christians born in France are French.

If the Jews have no home but Palestine, will they relish the idea of being
forced to leave the other parts of the world in which they are settled? Or
do they want a double home where they can remain at will? This cry for the
national home affords a colorable justification for the German expulsion of
the Jews.

But the German persecution of the Jews seems to have no parallel in history.
The tyrants of old never went so mad as Hitler seems to have gone. And he is
doing it with religious zeal. For he is propounding a new religion of
exclusive and militant nationalism in the name of which many inhumanity
becomes an act of humanity to be rewarded here and hereafter. The crime of
an obviously mad but intrepid youth is being visited upon his whole race
with unbelievable ferocity.

If there ever could be a justifiable war in the name of and for humanity, a
war against Germany, to prevent the wanton persecution of a whole race,
would be completely justified. But I do not believe in any war. A discussion
of the pros and cons of such a war is therefore outside my horizon or

But if there can be no war against Germany , even for such a crime as is
being committed against the Jews, surely there can be no alliance with
Germany. How can there be alliance between a nation which claims to stand
for justice and democracy and one which is the declared enemy of both? Or is
England drifting towards armed dictatorship and all it means?

Germany is showing to the world how efficiently violence can be worked when
it is not hampered by any hypocrisy or weakness masquerading as
humanitarianism. It is also showing how hideous, terrible and terrifying it
looks in its nakedness.

Can the Jews resist this organized and shameless persecution? Is there a way
to preserve their self-respect, and not to feel helpless, neglected and
forlorn? I submit there is. No person who has faith in a living God need
feel helpless or forlorn. Jehovah of the Jews is a God more personal than
the God of the Christians, the Musalmans or the Hindus, though, as a matter
of fact in essence, He is common to all the one without a second and beyond
description. But as the Jews attribute personality to God and believe that
He rules every action of theirs, they ought not to feel helpless.

If I were a Jew and were born in Germany and earned my livelihood there, I
would claim Germany as my home even as the tallest gentile German may, and
challenge him to shoot me or cast me in the dungeon; I would refuse to be
expelled or to submit to discriminating treatment. And for doing this, I
should not wait for the fellow Jews to join me in civil resistance but would
have confidence that in the end the rest are bound to follow my example. If
one Jew or all the Jews were to accept the prescription here offered, he or
they cannot be worse off than now. And suffering voluntarily undergone will
bring them an inner strength and joy which no number of resolutions of
sympathy passed in the world outside Germany can.

Indeed, even if Britain , France and America were to declare hostilities
against Germany, they can bring no inner joy, no inner strength. The
calculated violence of Hitler may even result in a general massacre of the
Jews by way of his first answer to the declaration of such hostilities. But
if the Jewish mind could be prepared for voluntary suffering, even the
massacre I have imagined could be turned into a day of thanksgiving and joy
that Jehovah had wrought deliverance of the race even at the hands of the
tyrant. For to the god fearing, death has no terror. It is a joyful sleep to
be followed by a waking that would be all the more refreshing for the long

It is
hardly necessary for me to point out that it is easier for the Jews than for
the Czechs to follow my prescription. And they have in the Indian *
satyagraha* campaign in South Africa an exact parallel. There the Indians
occupied precisely the same place that the Jews occupy in Germany . The
persecution had also a religious tinge. President Kruger used to say that
the white Christians were the chosen of God and Indians were inferior beings
created to serve the whites. A fundamental clause in the Transvaal
constitution was that there should be no equality between the whites and
colored races including Asiatics. There too the Indians were consigned to
ghettos described as locations. The other disabilities were almost of the
same type as those of the Jews in Germany. The Indians, a mere handful,
resorted to *satyagraha* without any backing from the world outside or the
Indian Government. Indeed the British officials tried to dissuade the *
satyagrahis* (soldiers of non-violence) from their contemplated step. World
opinion and the Indian Government came to their aid after eight years of
fighting. And that too was by way of diplomatic pressure, not of a threat of

But the Jews of Germany can offer *satyagraha* under infinitely better
auspices than Indians of South Africa. The Jews are a compact, homogeneous
community in Germany. They are far more gifted than the Indians of South
Africa. And they have organized world opinion behind them. I am convinced
that if someone with courage and vision can arise among them to lead them in
nonviolent action, the winter of their despair can in the twinkling of an
eye be turned into the summer of hope. And what has today become a degrading
man-hunt can be turned in to a calm and determined stand offered by unarmed
men and women possessing the strength of suffering given to them by Jehovah.
It will be then a truly religious resistance offered against the godless
fury of dehumanized man. The German Jews will score a lasting victory over
the German gentiles in the sense that they will have converted that latter
to an appreciation of human dignity. They will have rendered service to
fellow-Germans and proved their title to be the real Germans as against
those who are today dragging, however unknowingly, the German name into the

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
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. The same
God rules the Arab heart, who rules the Jewish heart. They can offer *
satyagraha* in front of the Arabs and offer themselves to be shot or thrown
in to the Dead Sea without raising a little finger against them. They will
find the world opinion in the their favor in their religious aspiration.
There are hundreds of ways of reasoning with the Arabs, if they will only
discard the help of the British bayonet. As it is, they are co-sharers with
the British in despoiling a people who have done no wrong to them.

I am not defending the Arab excesses. I wish they had chosen the way of
non-violence in resisting what they rightly regarded as an unwarrantable
encroachment upon their country. But according to the accepted canons of
right and wrong, nothing can be said against the Arab resistance in the face
of overwhelming odds.

Let the Jews who claim to be the chosen race prove their title by choosing
the way of non-violence for vindicating their position on earth. Every
country is their home including Palestine, not by aggression but by loving
service. A Jewish friend has sent me a book called *The Jewish Contribution
to Civilization* by Cecil Roth. It gives a record of what the Jews have done
to enrich the word's Literature, Art, Music, Drama, Science, Medicine,
Agriculture, etc. --- Given the will, the Jew can refuse to be treated as
the outcaste of the West, to be despised or patronized. He can command the
attention and respect of the world by being man, the chosen creation of God,
instead of being man who is fast sinking to the brute and forsaken by God.
They can add to their many contributions the surpassing contribution of
non-violent action.

(Article Written on November 20, 1938 - Published in Harijan on November 26,
1938) *

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