Masthead graphic based on a painting by Gudrun Thriemer.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Mahatma Gandhi, "Mahatma Gandhi on Israel and Palestine [excerpts]," Pambazuka News, January 22, 2009.

With Palestine still facing brutal Israeli action, our attention has been drawn to a pair of articles on Zionist politics and the Palestinian plight written by Mahatma Gandhi in the period immediately preceding the creation of the Israeli state. Entitled simply ‘The Jews’ and ‘Jews and Palestine’ and written in 1938 and 1946 respectively, these articles outline Gandhi’s sympathy to the Jewish cause yet strong desire not to see Palestinians wronged. Deeply sceptical of the morality behind marginalising Palestinians through the formation of the Israeli state, the father of the Indian nation argues a more morally-legitimate course would be to insist on the just treatment of Jews wherever they are born and bred.

The Jews [September 1938]

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 Jews.

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?

  The nobler course would be to insist on a just treatment of the Jews wherever they are born and bred.

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