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Gandhi, the Jews & Zionism: Editorial on Mr. Gandhi’s Message

(October 2, 1931)

From The Jewish Chronicle, London

Mr. Gandhi is perhaps one of six of the most powerful leaders living of men today. His opinions, on any subject, although they may be of little real value on some, ought not to be brushed aside inconsiderately. We would, therefore, direct the close attention of our readers to the interview which he gave The Jewish Chronicle and which is recorded in another column. Too much preciseness ought not of course to be attached to his words than to what is said by anyone else who renders to a newspaper an interview recounting his opinions on any subject. And it would be not alone fairer to the Mahatma but would allow us the better to realise his sentiments on the topics upon which he touches, if the gist of what he said rather than the exact words were dwelt upon. Mr. Gandhi tells us that he has many Jewish friends, and he pays us compliments for which we are sure, all will be duly grateful as to the beauty of Judaism, of the Jewish ritual and other things incidental to our faith. This sort of thing, however, does not, in our view or by experience, go very far... We do not for a moment impute anything like anti-Jewish prejudice to Mr. Gandhi. But it is clear from what he says that he regards us as holding what has come to be termed an inferiority complex. We are to be content, he says, that men of light and leading, leaders of people like himself - and Prime Minister - engage Jewish private secretaries. We must be content to be assured of the theoretical beauties of Judaism, and we must not complain when we are told that with all its virtues Judaism reaches not the heart or soul. More remarkable still and most remarkable as coming from Mr. Gandhi, however, and is possible even more remarkable having regard to the circumstances of his presence in this country, we must not think of our rehabilitation of Jews on national lines. We must be satisfied to know that the promotion of the cult of Judaism is possible anywhere. We agree, and so it has been throughout our history, whether we think of our Community in ancient Alexandria or of our people in modern New York. Wherever Jews have settled, there Jewish culture has taken root; there it has had its influence more or less, for better in some respects, for worse in others. That, indeed, has been our contention in regard to the Zionist movement. There was no necessity, therefore... to settle a number of Jews in Palestine in order to maintain Jewish culture. What that settlement, it was hoped,would realise for us, would be the means whereby Jews might gradually, yet surely, re-establish their political position among the nations of the world and take to themselves a status of which for twenty centuries they had been cruelly and unfairly deprived. Does Mr. Gandhi know anything of the Jewish aspiration, when he speaks the real nonsense he does about the cultural power of our people?... As for Mr. Gandhi’s closing words, they could with equal force be applied to every nation, every race, every people on God’s earth. They could be applied, indeed, to every human being throughout Creation. He tells us that Jews should abstain from doing those things that create hatred and breed hostility in others. Then they may reckon on the elimination of hostility in others. Then they may reckon on the elimination of hostility in the form of anti-Semitism and upon the peaceful attitude towards them of their neighbours. We hope that this excellent doctrine will be impressed by Mr. Gandhi upon his own followers. Then at least there will be more of concord, more of happiness, more of harmony on India’s coral strand.

Sources: GandhiServe Foundation - Mahatma Gandhi Research and Media Service (reprinted with permission)