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A 1938 Essay: Gandhi on the Jews
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Ghandi's Collected Works, Vol 74
Original Sender: Mark M. Mattison <>
By way of William Thomson <>

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?

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.

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  against  Germany,  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?

Germany 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 organized 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 satya-grahis 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 in  Germany.  They  are  far  more
gifted than the Indians of South Africa. And they have  organized
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
dehumanized 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 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  hundr-eds
of ways of reasoning with the Arabs, if they  will  only  discard
the help of the British bayonet. As it is,  they  are  co-sharers
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 overwhelming odds.

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
aggre-ssion but by loving service. A Jewish friend has sent me  a
book called The Jewish  Contribution  to  Civilization  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
patronized. 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

Harijan, 26-11-1938

(Vol. 74, pp. 239-242)