Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Israel: Still not doing Gandhi very well

Gandhi on the Separation Wall (Photo: AP / Muhammed Muheisen)

Palestine News and Information Agency (WAFA) reports:
"An Israeli plan to build a statue for the late Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi on an East Jerusalem plot is actually a pretext to seize Palestinian land, the Jerusalem Center for Social and Economic Rights (JCSER) said in a statement Sunday."
That Israel would erect a statue in honor of the great indigenous nationalist, anti-colonialist, and practitioner of non-violence speaks to either its complete lack of self-awareness and blindness to the appalling irony of its proposal or to its profound sense of humor. Recall not only what Director of Policy and Political-Military Affairs at the Israel Ministry of Defense, Major General Amos Gilad, told U.S. officials that "we don’t do Gandhi very well" when discussing peaceful West Bank demonstrations and anti-occupation protests, but also what Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi himself had to say in 1938 (in part) about the imposition of Zionist colonization of Palestine:
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 in-human 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 colourable justification for the German expulsion of the Jews.

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. (emphasis added)
In response to these statements, which were published in Gandhi's Harijan newspaper, letters were written to Gandhi by people like Martin Buber and Judah Magnes, both putting their concepts of Jewish exceptionalism and disinterest in Palestinian self-determination on full display. American Zionist Hayim Greenberg even wrote something (in 1939) that could easily be found in the Jerusalem Post today: "I cannot avoid the suspicion that so far as the Palestine problem is concerned, Gandhi allowed himself to be influenced by the anti-Zionist propaganda being conducted among fanatic pan-Islamists."

A recounted conversation between Gandhi and British Labor party MP Sydney Silverman from March 1946 is remarkable for Silverman's incessant stream of hasbara; talking points that are still used by defenders of ethnic cleansing, mythologized history, and Israeli occupation and apartheid.

As far back as 1921, Gandhi understood well the Zionist intentions toward Palestine and the gross injustice of the Balfour Declaration. In Young India on March 23, 1921, he wrote,
Britain has made promises to the Zionists. The latter have, naturally, a sacred sentiment about the place. The Jews, it is contended, must remain a wandering race unless they have obtained possession of Palestine. I do not propose to examine the soundness or otherwise of the doctrine underlying the proposition. All I contend is that they cannot possess Palestine through a trick or a moral breach. Palestine was not a stake in the War. The British Government could not dare have asked a single Muslim soldier to wrest control of Palestine from fellow-Muslims and give it to the Jews. Palestine, as a place of Jewish worship, is a sentiment to be respected and the Jews would have a just cause of complaint against Mussulman idealists if they were to prevent Jews from offering worship as freely as themselves. By no canon of ethics or war, therefore, can Palestine be given to the Jews as a result of the War. (emphasis added)
In an interview he gave to London's Jewish Chronicle in early October 1931, he stated that "Anti-Semitism is really a remnant of barbarism," but explained:
Zionism in its spiritual sense is a lofty aspiration. By spiritual sense I mean they should want to realise the Jerusalem that is within. Zionism meaning reoccupation of Palestine has no attraction for me. I can understand the longing of a Jew to return to Palestine, and he can do so if he can without the help of bayonets, whether his own or those of Britain. In that event he would go to Palestine peacefully and in perfect friendliness with the Arabs. The real Zionism of which I have given you my meaning is the thing to strive for, long for and die for. Zion lies in one's heart. It is the abode of God. The real Jerusalem is the spiritual Jerusalem. Thus he can realise this Zionism in any part of the world. (emphasis added)
Unsurprisingly, Zionist propaganda was often used to refute Gandhi's views on the Jewish colonization of Palestine during the British Mandate. In response to the Jewish Chronicle interview, Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) chairman Rabbi Stephen Wise, speaking in late October 1931 at the Dinner of the Friends of Gandhi in New York in honor of Gandhi's 62nd birthday, countered, "Jews throughout the world cannot but help regretting the word of Gandhi spoken concerning Zionism. It is strange to find Gandhi alluding to Zionism as if it might mean the 're-occupation of Palestine', with all of the sinister military meaning which 'occupation' and 're-occupation' convey." Wise continued,
As for the Jewish settlers in Palestine, no one can sanely and honestly accuse them of resting their case on bayonets. Their title is immemorial, and they have returned to Palestine not to hurt and to wound, but to serve to enrich and to bless the land and all its people. This have they done from every point of view, economically, culturally, morally and spiritually.


Would that Gandhi knew that what he claims is the suffering and denial of his people in India is the status of the largest number of Jews in the world, that Jews have no desire for military occupation or forcible re-entry into Palestine, that they seek peaceably and, in a very real sense non-resistently, to live and labour and serve and to sacrifice for Palestine, which means to many Jews exactly what India means to Gandhi! (emphasis added)
The irony of Wise's words, considering the actions of pre-State Zionist terror militias, the Israeli military, and Jewish colonists over the intervening eight decades, is staggering.

Perhaps more striking, however, is what Gandhi wrote on July 14, 1946 in Harijan: " my opinion, they [the Zionists] have erred grievously in seeking to impose themselves on Palestine with the aid of America and Britain and now with the aid of naked terrorism." He continued:
No wonder that my sympathy goes out to the Jews in their unenviably sad plight. But one would have thought adversity would teach them lessons of peace. Why should they depend upon American money or British arms for forcing themselves on an unwelcome land? Why should they resort to terrorism to make good their forcible landing in Palestine? (emphasis added)
Also of note is his answer to the question "What do you feel is the most acceptable solution to the Palestine problem?" posed to him by United Press of America on June 2, 1947. He replied, "The abandonment wholly by the Jews of terrorism and other forms of violence."


A shorter version of this article was originally posted on Mondoweiss.


1 comment:

  1. Nima, I'm really proud of you. Keep up the great work.


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