He was also opposed to Zionism, partially on the grounds that the Jews should prefer to be citizens of the countries where they lived (England, France, Germany) and should fight for their rights in those places. (Obviously at the time this would not have worked in Germany!) He also thought that Zionism was unjust to the Arabs of Palestine. One curious part of his position was that although he opposed the Jewish use of violence in Palestine against Arabs, he did not object to the Arab use of violence against Jews. He says: "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." It is very curious, in my opinion, that he would so fiercely condemn Jewish use of violence without at the same condemning Arab use of violence. He does not recommend that the Arabs use satyagraha against the British or Jews in Palestine. (The context for this article was the 1936-39 Arab Revolt against British rule and Jewish settlement in Palestine).
In 1939, Martin Buber wrote an open letter to Gandhi offering a rejoinder to his views on Zionism and the situation of the German Jews. (Partial text found at the Jewish Virtual Library - Buber to Gandhi). I found a precis of his letter on the National Review online site:
In a thoughtful personal response dated February 24, 1939, the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber — who had himself emigrated to Israel from Germany a short time earlier and combined his Zionism with earnest efforts to peacefully reconcile Jewish and Arab claims in the Holy Land — chided Gandhi for offering advice to the Jews without any recognition of their real situation. The individual acts of persecution that Indians had suffered in South Africa in the 1890’s hardly compared, Buber noted, to the synagogue burnings and concentration camps instituted by Hitler’s regime. Nor was there any evidence that the many instances in which German Jews peacefully displayed strength of spirit in response to their persecutors had exercised any influence on the latter. While Gandhi exhorted them to bear “testimony” to the world by their conduct, the fate of the Jews in Germany was to experience only an “unobserved martyrdom” without effect.Arun Gandhi seems to have taken his grandfather's position on Palestine and added to it his own frisson of anti-semitism. I thoroughly disagree with Mahatma Gandhi's pacifism, in the wake of the Holocaust, but at least he did not insult the victims of mass death. However, both Gandhis fall into the same pitfall of excusing the violence of the Palestinians while condemning the Jews or Israelis for using violence to gain their ends. It seems to me that for nonviolence really to have the moral force that is claimed for it, the same demand should be made to both sides - as, for example, Martin Luther King did in the United States.
Turning to Gandhi’s allegation that to claim a homeland in Palestine was inconsistent with the Jews’ claims to equal citizenship in the other countries of their birth, Buber recalled to him that the Indians of South Africa whose cause Gandhi had championed themselves drew sustenance from the existence of India as their “living center.” It was only the existence of such a home that made Diaspora tolerable, respectively (Buber added) for both Jews and Indians.
As for Gandhi’s denial that the Jews had any place in Palestine, since it “belonged” to the resident Arab population, Buber reminded him that the Arabs themselves had previously acquired the land by virtue of a “conquest of settlement” — in contrast to the peaceful methods of the Jews in purchasing land there. Why, indeed, in view of the “primitive” state of Arab agriculture, should Palestinian land be held to belong exclusively to the Arabs, when Jewish settlers had done far more to develop that land’s fertility in the past 50 years than the Arabs in the preceding 1,300? With proper development, there was no reason that the land of Palestine might not support millions of Jewish refugees along with resident Arabs at a far higher standard of living than the latter had heretofore enjoyed. Finally, Buber reminded Gandhi that when the subject was the rights of Indians, as opposed to those of the Jews, Gandhi himself had remarked (in 1922) that he had “repeatedly said that I would have India become free even by violence rather than that she should remain in bondage.”
Note (12-03-12): I will publish further comments on this post, but only if they refrain from excusing Nazism and the Holocaust, or from repeating the witless statement that most Jews in the world today are descendants of the Khazars. This blog does not give a platform to Nazis and antisemites.