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Gandhi, the Jews & Zionism: On The Jewish Question

(May 22, 1939)

From Harijan

The Managing Editor of Jewish Frontier, published at 275 Seventh Avenue, New York City, was good enough to send me a copy of the March number of the magazine with the request that I should deal with its reply to my article on the Jews in Germany and Palestine. The reply is very ably written. I wish I had space for reproducing the whole of it. The reader will, however, find the main argument reproduced in this issue of Harijan.

Let me say that I did not write the article as a critic. I wrote it at the pressing request of Jewish friends and correspondents. As I decided to write, I could not do so in any other manner.

But I did not entertain the hope when I wrote it that the Jews would be at once converted to my view. I should have been satisfied if even one Jew had been fully convinced and converted.

Nor did I write the article only for today. I flatter myself with the belief that some of my writings will survive me and will be of service to the causes for which they have been written. I have no sense of disappointment that my writing had not to my knowledge converted a single Jew.

Having read the reply more than once, I must say that I see no reason to change the opinion I expressed in my article. It is highly probable that, as the writer says, “a Jewish Gandhi in Germany, should one arise, could function for about five minutes and would be promptly taken to the guillotine”. But that will not disprove my case or shake my belief in the efficacy of ahimsa. I can conceive the necessity of the immolation of hundreds, if not thousands, to appease the hunger of dictators who have no belief in ahimsa. Indeed the maxim is that ahimsa is the most efficacious in front of the great himsa. Its quality is really tested only in such cases. Sufferers need not see the result during their lifetime. They must have faith that if their cult survives, the result is a certainty. The method of violence gives no greater guarantee than that of non-violence. It gives infinitely less. For the faith of the votary of ahimsa is lacking.

The writer contends that I approached the Jewish problem “without that fundamental earnestness and passionate search for truth which are so characteristic of his usual treatment of problems”. All I can say is that to my knowledge there was lack neither of earnestness nor of passion for truth when I wrote the article. The second charge of the writer is more serious. He thinks that my zeal for Hindu-Muslim unity made me partial to the Arab presentation of the case, especially as that side was naturally emphasised in India. I have often said that I would not sell truth for the sake of India’s deliverance. Much less would I do so for winning Muslim friendship. The writer thinks that I am wrong on the Jewish question as I was wrong on the Khilafat question. Even at this distance of time I have no regret whatsoever for having taken up the Khilafat cause. I know that my persistence does not prove the correctness of my attitude. Only it is necessary for everyone concerned to know where I stand today about my action in 1919-20.

I am painfully conscious of the fact that this writing of mine will give no satisfaction either to the Editor of Jewish Frontier or to my many Jewish friends. Nevertheless, I wish with all my heart that somehow or other the persecution of the Jews in Germany will end and that the question in Palestine will be settled to the satisfaction of all the parties concerned.

Rajkot, May 22, 1939

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