Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (Mahatma Gandhi) (2 October 1869 –
30 January 1948), a Gujarati lawyer, was
the pre-eminent political and spiritual leader of India during the Indian Independence movement. He was the pioneer of satyagraha (“truth insistence”,
“satya” meaning "truth" and “agraha”
or "holding firmly to") which was launched on 11 September 1906 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Satyagraha involved resistance to tyranny through mass civil disobedience, a
philosophy based upon “ahisma” or total non-violence and led India to independence and inspired
movements for civil rights and freedom across the world (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mohandas_Karamchand_Gandhi
recent article on Gandhi’s opposition to Zionism see Professor A. K. Ramakrishnan, “Mahatma
Gandhi rejected Zionims”, The Wisdom Fund, 15 August 2001: http://www.twf.org/News/Y2001/0815-GandhiZionism.html
Gandhi on the Jews, Palestine and Zionism (Harijan, 26
November 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
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?
Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same sense
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. 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 colourable 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 any 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
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 province.
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?
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 organised 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 Mussalmans or the Hindus, though as a matter of fact in
essence, He is common to all and 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 godfearing, 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 sleep.
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
coloured 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 is 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 war.
But the Jews of Germany can offer satyagraha under infinitely better auspices
than the Indians of South Africa. The Jews are a compact, homogeneous community
They are far more gifted than the Indians of South Africa. And they have
organised world opinion behind them. I am convinced that if someone with
courage and vision can arise among them to lead them in non-violent 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
into 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 dehumanised man. The
German Jews will score a lasting victory over the German gentiles in the sense
that they will have converted the 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 mire.
And now a word to the Jews in Palestine.
I have no doubt that they are going about it in 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.
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 into
the Dead Sea without raising a little finger
against them. They will find the world opinion in their favour 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-shares with the British in despoiling a people who have done no wrong to
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
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 Civilisation by Cecil Roth. It gives a record of
what the Jews have done to enrich the world`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 patronised. 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.
Segaon, November 20, 1938.” .
. Mahatma Gandhi, “The Jews”, Harijan, 26 November 1938.