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June 1993


A Collection of Articles, Speeches, Letters and Interviews

Compiled by E. S. Reddy

Interview to The Daily Herald, by Gandhi, March 16, 1921

Article in Young India, by Gandhi, March 23, 1921

Notes in Young India, by Gandhi, April 6, 1921

"Gandhi, Politics and Us", by Martin Buber, 1930

Interview to The Jewish Chronicle, by Gandhi

The Jewish Chronicle, London, October 2, 1931

"Mr. Gandhi’s Message": Editorial in The Jewish Chronicle, London, October 2,


Statement by Dr. Stephen Wise, October 1931

From The Jewish Chronicle, London, October 30, 1931

A Letter to Gandhi, by Hayim Greenberg, 1937

Extracts from Letters by Gandhi to Hermann Kallenbach, July 20, August 16 and
August 28, 1937

"The Jews", by Gandhi

From Harijan, November 26, 1938

Remarks by Gandhi during discussion with Christian Missionaries, December


"Reply to German Critics", by Gandhi

From Harijan, December 17, 1938

"Some Questions Answered", by Gandhi

From Harijan, December 17, 1938

"Is Non-Violence Ineffective", by Gandhi

From Harijan, January 7, 1939

Judaism and Non-Violence: Letter to Gandhiji by a Jewish friend in Palestine,

January 1939
From Harijan, January 28, 1939

"No Apology", by Gandhi

From Harijan, February 18, 1939

Letter from Martin Buber to Gandhi, February 24, 1939

Letter from Judah L. Magnes to Gandhi, February 26, 1939

An Answer to Gandhi, by Hayim Greenberg, 1939

"The Jewish Question", by Gandhi

From Harijan, May 22, 1939

"Withdrawn", by Gandhi
From Harijan, May 27, 1939

"Nazism in its Nakedness", by Gandhi

From Harijan, August 6, 1940

“The Jew and the Arab”: Discussion with Mr. Silverman and Mr. Honick, March
1946, report by Pyarelal
From Louis Fischer papers

"Jews and Palestine", by Gandhi

From Harijan, July 21, 1946

"Message to the Arabs", by Gandhi

From The Hindu, May 1, 1947

Interview to Reuter, by Gandhi

From Harijan, May 18, 1947

Answer to Question by United Press of America, by Gandhi

From The Bombay Chronicle, June 2, 1947

Address delivered by Hayim Greenberg at a memorial meeting for Gandhi in New

York, February 1, 1948


...Question: What do you think of the proposed revision of the Treaty of Sevres?2

Gandhiji: I have only hurriedly glanced through the new terms. So far as I can
judge, they aim at pacifying Turks and not Indian Mussulmans. The two things
have to be recognised as distinct. Khilafat is essentially a religious movement,
being idealistic and unconnected with Turkish pacification. It derives its sanction
directly from the injunction of the Prophet. Until, therefore, Indian Mussulmans
are placated, there can be no peace, and the sine qua non of Mussulman
conciliation is that what is termed the Island of Arabia must remain under the
exclusive Mussulman control and under the spiritual sovereignty of the Khalifa,
whoever he may be for the time being. The prestige of Islam demands rendition of
Smyrna and Thrace to Turkey, and evacuation by the Allied Powers of
Constantinople, but the existence of Islam demands the total abrogation of
mandates taken by Britain and France. No influence, direct or indirect, over the
Holy Places of Islam will ever be tolerated by Indian Mussulmans. It follows,
therefore, that even Palestine must be under Mussulman control. So far as I am
aware, there never has been any difficulty put in the way of Jews and Christians
visiting Palestine and performing all their religious rites. No canon, however, of
ethics or war can possibly justify the gift by the Allies of Palestine to Jews. It
would be a breach of implied faith with Indian Mussulmans in particular and the
whole of India in general. Not an Indian soldier would have gone, if Britain on the
eve of war had declared even the possibility of any such usurpation, and it is
becoming clearer every day that if India is to remain a free partner in a future
British Commonwealth, as distinguished from the Empire, the terms of the
Khilafat have to be settled more in consultation with the spiritual leaders of
Mussulmans than with the political leaders of Turkey.


The Bombay Chronicle, March 17, 1921; Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Volume 19,
pages 443-44.
Following the First World War, the Treaty of Sevres with the Ottoman Empire was signed on
August 10, 1920.
After protests in India, the Government of India pressed its views on the British Government
and there was an abortive attempt to revise the Treaty. The London Conference for the revision of
the Treaty was opened on February 22, 1921.
Young India, March 23, 1921; Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Volume 19, page 472.
The most thorny part of the question is, therefore, Palestine. 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. Either Zionists must revise their ideal about Palestine, or, if
Judaism permits the arbitrariment of war, engage in a "holy war" with the
Muslims of the world with the Christians throwing in their influence on their side.
But one may hope that the trend of world opinion will make "holy wars"
impossible and religious questions or differences will tend more and more
towards a peaceful adjustment based upon the strictest moral considerations. But,
whether such a happy time ever comes or not, it is clear as daylight that the
Khilafat terms to be just must mean the restitution of Jazirat-ul-Arab4 to complete
Muslim control under the spiritual sovereignty of the Caliph.5


Do the Muslims claim Palestine, or will they restore it to the Jews who are the
original owners?

The Muslims claim Palestine as an integral part of Jazirat-ul-Arab. They are

bound to retain its custody, as an injunction of the Prophet. But that does not
mean that the Jews and the Christians cannot freely go to Palestine, or even reside
there and own property. What non-Muslims cannot do is to acquire sovereign
jurisdiction. The Jews cannot receive sovereign rights in a place which has been
held for centuries by Muslim powers by right of religious conquest. The Muslim

In this article entitled "The Khilafat", Gandhiji commented on the proposed changes to the
Treaty of Sevres.
The "Island of Arabia"
Gandhiji then reproduced a short extract from a review of Israel Zangwill's The Voice of
Jerusalem, dealing with the Jewish claims on Palestine.
Young India, April 6, 1921; Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Volume 19, page 530.
In this extract, Gandhiji replied to a letter from an unnamed friend from South Africa.
soldiers did not shed their blood in the late War for the purpose of surrendering
Palestine out of Muslim control. I would like my Jewish friends to impartially
consider the position of the seventy million Muslims of India. As a free nation,
can they tolerate what they must regard as a treacherous disposal of their sacred


The Question of Success

While Gandhi lay in prison, shortly after he had received far-reaching plenary
powers from the Congress of Ahmedabad (December 1921), and then issued the
ultimatum to the Viceroy (February 1922), but a few days afterwards, upon the
outbreak of the riots of Chauri Chaura, withdrew it, a high British official
expressed himself in the following manner: "He thoroughly frightened us. His
programme filled our prisons - but one cannot for ever lock up and lock up,
especially when it is a matter of a people of three hundred and nineteen millions.
And if they had gone a step further and had refused to pay taxes - who knows
where that would have led! What Gandhi undertook was the most powerful of all
experiments that the history of the world has known and only fell a little short of
succeeding. But in him the insight into human passions was lacking."

That opinion was falsely formulated. What Gandhi `lacked' was not insight
into human passions but the readiness to exploit them. Both the actual insight and
the lack of readiness are clearly expressed in the withdrawal of the ultimatum.
The outbreak of riots he called a warning of God "that there does not yet exist in
India that truthful and non-violent atmosphere that alone can justify mass
disobedience". The final judgement of the British official does not mean basically
that political success is not possible without an insight into human passions, but
that political success is not possible without exploitation of human passions. That
certainly is not true. But from this starting-point we must inquire further
concerning Gandhi's relation to political success.

When, not ten days after the withdrawal, Gandhi's position met strong
opposition at the conference of the All India Congress Committee in Delhi and "in
order to avoid a painful discussion", he had to renounce having the designations
"truthful" and "non-violent" included in the programmatic resolution, he wrote
that he had wanted, now as so often before, to remain in a small minority: "I know
that the only thing that the government fears is this monstrous majority that I
appear to command. They do not know that I fear it still more than they do
themselves. I am literally sick over it. I would feel myself on surer ground if I
were spit upon by them." And further, "If I also, perhaps, stood before the
prospect of finding myself in a minority of one voice, I humbly believe that I
would have the courage to remain in such a hopeless minority. This is for me the
only truthful position." That is unquestionably the statement of a truthful man,
and I know of nothing in modern Western public life to put by its side, unless it
were, for all the difference in its source, the words of the American Thoreau in his
classical treatise on the duty of civil disobedience.

But can this also be regarded as the statement of a political man, that is, a man
who undertakes to influence the formation of institutions and their operation? In
other words: is the statement of Gandhi's that we have quoted a declaration
against lies in politics or is it a declaration against politics? Can a political action
change institutions, that is a political success, without a majority or a
revolutionary-minority mass following, whether by dictation or voluntary assent?
Is the aphorism of Schiller and Ibsen concerning the strong man who is most
powerful alone or the man who stands alone being the strongest man in the world,
not merely morally true, hence true on the plane of personal authentication, but
also politically true, that is true on the plane of social realisation? Can this
solitary man be politically effective otherwise than by masses "following" him,
compelled by his charisma?

But it is just this following without inner transformation that fails to satisfy
Gandhi, as shown by his words about his "fear". "In the Ramayana", he writes,
"we see that when all was ready for Rama's coronation, Rama was exiled into the
wild woods." Now in the Indian epic, after Rama had long refused to accept the
rule because the time of the exile first had to be fulfilled, he was finally
consecrated king. But that no longer implies a political hope, nothing directly to
be realised in the public sphere through public activities, but only a religious one.
This hope is not for an ostensible "following", but only for their conversion.

In the memorable paper, "Neither a Saint nor a Politician", Gandhi elucidates

his position, "I seem to take part in politics, but this is only because politics today
strangles us like the coils of a serpent out of which one cannot slip whatever one
tries. I desire, therefore, to wrestle with the serpent." And further, "I have
experimented with myself and with my friends in order to introduce religion into
politics." Our question once again changes its form; it now reads: Does religion
allow itself to be introduced into politics in such a way that a political success can
be obtained?

Religion means goal and way, politics implies end and means. The political
end is recognisable by the fact that it may be attained - in success - and its
attainment is historically recorded. The religious goal remains, even in man's
highest experiences of the mortal way, that which simply provides direction; it
never enters into historical consummation. The history of the created world, as
the religions believing in history acknowledge it, and the history of the human
person, as all religions, even those that do not believe in history, acknowledge it,
is what takes place on the journey from origin to perfection, and this is registered
by other signs than that of success. "The word" is victorious, but otherwise than
its bearers hoped for. The Word is not victorious in its purity, but in its
corruption; it bears its fruit in the corruptio seminis. Here no success is
experienced and recorded; where something of the kind appears in the history of
religion, it is no longer religion that prevails, but politics of religion, that is, the
opposite of what Gandhi proclaimed: the introduction of politics into religion.

Once again, then: Can political success be attained through religious deed?

That Gandhi's own attitude is religious in the most genuine sense remains
beyond doubt. But already when he speaks of "experimenting with friends" the
painful question concerning the views of many of these friends obtrudes. Some of
his closest followers have declared before the court of justice that, as long as
Gandhi proclaims the watchword of non-violence, they will steadfastly hold to it,
yet if another word came from his mouth, then they would certainly follow that
one; not to mention the broad circle of the movement. "I see", wrote Gandhi after
the day of Delhi, "that this our non-violence is only skin-deep... This non-violence
appears to me to originate simply in our helplessness... Can genuine voluntary
non-violence arise out of this apparently compulsory non-violence of the weak?"
These are words that even today, despite Gandhi's great educational effect, retain
much of their validity.

So far as Gandhi acts politically, so far as he takes part in passing

parliamentary resolutions, he does not introduce religion into politics, but allies
his religion with the politics of others. He cannot wrestle uninterruptedly with
the serpent; he must at times get along with it because he is directed to work in
the kingdom of the serpent that he set out to destroy. He refuses to exploit human
passions, but he is chained as political actor to the "political", to untransformed
men. The serpent is, indeed, not only powerful outside, but also within, in the
souls of those who long for political success. The way in which Gandhi again and
again exercises self-criticism, going into heavy mortification and purification
when the inner serpent shows itself too powerful in the movement, is worthy of
the purest admiration. But we do not follow him in this; we know that if we
consider the tragic character of his greatness, that it is not the tragedy of an inner
contradiction, but that of the contradiction between the unconditionality of a spirit
and the conditionality of a situation, to which situation, precisely, the masses of
his followers, even of the youth belong. This is the tragedy that resists all
superficial optimistic attempts to bring about a settlement; the situation will
certainly be mastered, but only in the way in which at the close of a Greek
tragedy, a theophany (the so-called deus ex machina, in truth ex gratia) resolves
the insoluble fate. But that is the very soft, very slow, very roundabout, not at all
"successful" step of the deity through history.

In September 1920 Gandhi said and wrote that if the Indian people showed
discipline, self-denial, readiness to sacrifice, capacity for order, confidence and
courage, then Swaraj - Indian independence - would be attained in a year. Three
months later, asked by the correspondent from The Times what he meant by that,
he explained that the British people would recognise the strength of the Indian
public opinion and at the same time the dreadful injustice that had been done to
India in their name, and would forthwith offer a constitution "that will correspond
exactly to the wishes of the Indian people". Gandhi ended the conversation with a
variation on the prophetic word, "The lion will then rest by the lamb." One could
not express more clearly the religious character of that expectation; but if it is
taken seriously, the presupposition that Gandhi sets for it implies not merely an
attitude of the people but an inner transformation. Gandhi unmistakably rejects
the "political", the untransformed, the men who are not changing themselves. "If
India", he once wrote later, "wants to become free, it can only do so with God's
help. God loves the truthful and the non-violent." But God's love is not measured
by success. How God's love works is His affair. One may be certain of the
truthfulness and non-violence of the love of God, but not of the attainment of
Swaraj in one year. "In one year" is a political word; the religious watchword
must read: Some time, perhaps today, perhaps in a century. In religious reality
there is no stipulation of time, and victory comes, at times, just when one no
longer expects it.

In the last part of the year of expectation, Gandhi wrote that the "miracle" of so
rapid an attainment of Swaraj must be "preceded by a miraculous conversion of
India to the teaching of non-violence, at least in its limited purpose; that is, as an
indispensable precondition for securing India's freedom". But does that not mean
conversion to a religious teaching, "at least" in its political form? In religious
teaching non-violence remains the way to the goal, even when it rejects it as
means to an end. It must, of course, be sufficient for Gandhi as political actor, if
the masses accept the right attitude, but conversion means the turning of the
being, an innermost change of heart.

Certainly, when a religious man, one who is serious about his religiousness in
any situation whatever, functions in the political sphere, religion is introduced
into politics. But the way to the religious goal is essentially dissimilar in its
conduct of the path, its perspective, its manner of going, its tempo, and, lastly, in
the unforeseeableness of attainment and political success. The holy cause of
"introducing" the religious reality into politics runs the danger, therefore, that the
categories will mingle, that the goal will become an end, the way a means; that
man, instead of treading in the path taken by that step of God through history, will
run blindly over it. If religion is threatened at one pole by the ice of isolation in
which it forfeits a tie with the communal-building human share in the coming of
the kingdom, here it is threatened by evaporation in the rapid fire of political
activity. Only in the great polis of God will religion and politics be blended into a
life of world community, in an eternity wherein neither religion nor politics will
any longer exist.

The most natural of all questions, the question concerning success, is religion's
ordeal by fire. If religion withdraws from the sphere where this question is asked,
it evades its task, despite all hosts and sacraments of incarnation; and if it sinks
into that sphere, then it has lost its soul. Gandhi, as no other man of our age,
shows us the difficulty of the situation, the depth of its problematic, the
manifoldness of the battle fronts, the potency of the contradiction, which is
encompassed by paradox and must be endured in every hour.

As I write this, the Mahatma has set out on his march - a far-reaching symbolic
counterpart of the flight of the aged Tolstoy. Manifestly this is no political
journey, but a pilgrimage, a pilgrimage with political intent. But beneath the
political aspect, probably hidden from the consciousness of most of those who
accompany him, abides the religious, where the refusal to pay a tax no longer
signifies an instrument in the fight against the British regime, but the recourse of
the man whom in this world hour it avails to experience factually and through the
devotion of self how much is Caesar's.

I do not believe that the independence of India stands at the end of this
pilgrimage. But I believe that this pilgrimage will essentially co-determine the
nature of the man in an independent India, whenever and however that
independence is attained. What would Swaraj amount to if it implied only a
transformation of institutions and not a transformation of men also!

Gandhi's work and Indian politics

But if we wish to understand Gandhi's place not only in the history of

religiousness and its consequences there but also in that of politics, we must
consider the Indian ideal of independence on the basis of its actual and possible
contents. This can be most clearly seen, it seems to me, if we compare the
programme of the Mahatma with that of his opponent, the great patriot Chitta
Ranjan Das.

While Gandhi sat in prison - on December 26, 1922 - Das opened the All India
Congress in Gaya with a speech in which, beginning with an homage to the
Mahatma, he formulated three postulates.

The first, a tactical one, opposed to the non-Cupertino of Gandhi the demand
for an "inner" boycott of the British councils into which one should let oneself be
delegated and the activities of which one should obstruct. This demand does not
leave the province of non-violence; but seeks to give it, instead of a passive
content, a direct and active one, one, certainly, whose consequences might
possibly be hazardous to the preservation of non-violence.

The second, extra-political plan projected, in opposition to Gandhi, who would

only let India proceed through its own efforts, the programme of an Asiatic
federation to arouse India and in which India would work. To appreciate this
idea, one must realise that in India it means something entirely different from
what it would mean in, say, Russia or Japan. Here again non-violence is adhered
to; an Asiatic League is intended which will give the West notice of Cupertino
and declare itself independent. The possible effects on the preservation of non-
violence are here, of course, still more hazardous than in the first proposal.

The third and most important constructive programme concerns the inner
structure of an independent India. Swaraj, Das explains, can become neither a
parliamentary nor a bureaucratic government. To replace the British bureaucracy
by an Indian one would be futile. Rather the basic form of the old Indian village
community must be recovered. A system of relatively autonomous small
communities has to be erected which will be joined to larger, likewise
autonomous, communities; these in their turn will be so grouped as to form a
unifying central power of predominantly consultative character which would have
to exercise authority only in exceptional cases.

This third proposal, which I have felt to be a brotherly response out of Asia to
related ideas of a European circle, represents in my eyes a high pinnacle of
political man. What is expressed here is the presentiment of the overcoming,
through politics itself, of that political degeneration that calls itself politics in
modern State centralism; it is an aspiration to a genuine communal life that will
reduce the apparatus of the State to the technically necessary minimum.

At the beginning of February 1924 the sick Gandhi was released from prison.
In May he openly declared himself against the first of the three designs of Das,
that of obstructionist parliamentarianism; in July against the second, that of an
Asiatic federation; and at the same time against the third, against the innermost
programme. In opposition to this he stated that Swaraj is nothing else than that
constitution of India the people might desire at a particular moment. Such a
statement is a purely political, democratic-political one, which appears to me, for
all that, far poorer in its political substance and content and in political
autochthony than Das' basic revolutionary idea.

In November Gandhi concluded the well-known compromises with the

Swarajists led by Das that meant a personal but not an essential victory by
Gandhi. In June of the following year Das died. Since then there has been no
thought of a further development and execution of his programme.

About the tactical controversy I cannot judge. Das' Asiatic scheme is of

unmistakable political greatness. I have already said that the dangers both
proposals threatened to the cause of non-violence cannot be overlooked. Yet
from the standpoint of this cause there is nothing decisive against it. But what
concerns us here is the constructive postulate.

Gandhi did not, indeed, strive for just any kind of free India, but for a
genuinely Indian society, in which the essence of the people that is to be found in
individual souls, teachings, and holy books should acquire body. But such an
India cannot be constructed out of amorphous swarms of individuals, held
together only by the State; it must be formed out of naturally linked smaller and
larger communities, each possessing an autonomy as extensive as possible, where
what prevails is no longer the artificial State, which disregards all human reality,
but the concrete counselling of one another, deciding with one another, acting
with one another in the concrete public sphere; communities in whose structure
the people will for the first time constitute itself as such politically. Gandhi has
not recognised that here there was a political vision that supplemented his own
religious one; he has not admitted that it is of fundamental importance for the
Indian cause, too, to ascertain in a practical political sense how much is "Caesar's"
- that is, how much belongs to the concentration of power in general - and how
much "God's" - that is, politically formulated, how much belongs to the human
people living communally in creaturely immediacy.

Gandhi, of course, believes that he is able to secure to the coming Indian

society the purity and uniqueness that will preserve it from "civilisation".
Already in 1909 he wrote home from South Africa that there is no insurmountable
barrier between East and West. There is no such thing as Western civilisation,
there is just modern civilisation which is a purely materialistic one; it, not
England, governs India. If the British regime were replaced by an Indian one that
was grounded in modern culture, India would be no better off. East and West, so
Gandhi says, could only really meet when the West had thrown modern
civilisation almost entirely overboard. If the East were to accept modern
civilisation, the meeting would be only apparent, signifying but an armed truce
"such as that between Germany and England, in which both nations live in the
hall of death in order not to be devoured by the other". But the way in which
Gandhi declares in this, in so many respects clear-sighted, letter that he wishes to
protect India, would scarcely preserve the country from the process of
industrialisation taking place before our eyes. The spinning-wheel, honoured as a
symbol even by sympathetic textile manufacturers, cannot, in fact, be preserved in
any realistic way.

"Modern civilisation" is a destiny for mankind which embraces both its highest
task and its decisive test. All attempts at reduction, even the most exalted, evade
this test.

Modern civilisation in its fundamental nature is not "material". It necessarily

appears so only because and in so far as it displays still unconquered material,
material not yet permeated by spirit. The problem, in India as everywhere, is one
of rescuing and disclosing a human substance, which is equal to animating this
civilisation, and which, incarnating the spirit, authenticates itself in it, with it, and
through it. The task is, therefore, to shape out of the rescued souls men who will
hold their ground. This is Mahatma Gandhi's great work in India; it is not to be
accomplished in the tempo of political undertakings and success, but in that of the
step of God.

Should politics then be pursued?

The modern Occident rests upon the sanctioned duality of politics and religion.
One need only listen to how the politician speaks the word "ethics" and the
theologian the word "action". Politics is unenlightened but powerful; religion (in
its broadest sense, the superstructure of sacred "values") is the object of all shades
of feelings of sacredness but it is not binding.

Through his attempt "to introduce religion into politics" Gandhi has entered
the ranks of those who strive to overcome the still continually growing duality of
politics and religion. The tragedy he has thereby entered is that peculiar to the
prophetic man. This tragedy must be recognised and honoured.

Emil Roniger says in the foreword to Gandhi's Time of Suffering, a book

edited by him (in German): "Life allows itself to be permeated by religion -
politics does not. A life that was to be permeated by religion would no longer
know politics. Only the permeation of life with the yeast of the religious can one
day deliver us from the serpent of politics that holds us ensnared with its cold
coils." But that means virtually to abandon public life to damnation here and
now, to separate the private and the public phases of life, to confirm the spirit in
its very incapacity in our time for being translated into conduct, for being made
public. This incapacity hinders the development of a new community structure; it
deprives mankind, before the decisive test, of the powers that it needs to meet it.
Jesus could content himself with the bidding to give the distant Roman emperor
just that which was "his", and so to demarcate the limits of the kingdom proper
from the State centralism which did not make itself really felt then since it had not
absorbed the life of the city-dweller, far less that of the Palestinian in general.
The prophets of Israel had to oppose the king in Jerusalem, as the protector of
injustice in the land, with the firebrands of religio-political words.

One should, I believe, neither seek politics nor avoid it, one should be neither
political nor non-political on principle. Public life is a sphere of life; in its laws
and forms it is, in our time, just as deformed as our civilisation in general; today
one calls that deformity politics as one calls the deformity of working-life
technique. But neither is deformed in its essence; public life, like work, is

States and parties have successfully endeavoured to conceal the reality of the
public situations through fictions and political fabrications. These fabrications
must be torn off the current situation, which demands that one enter into it and
exercise responsibility in it and for it. States and the parties have further
successfully contrived to hinder the formation of unions and, finally, the
comprehensive union of those men who have real convictions (convictions to be
realised in one's life), and who could therefore cooperage in real responsibility, to
hinder this by illusory unions. In these a minority of men of genuine convictions
is coupled with a majority of men of fictitious convictions, ostensibly with the
same aim, but one which they do not intend to realise in personal life; thereby the
minority is rendered innocuous. He who will remain obedient to the spirit in
politics may not forget in any situation that what matters is the coming into being
of those genuine unions and finally of that union of man. Nor may he forget that,
if his work is to be done in public life, it must be accomplished not above the fray
but in it. He has a task to perform within his party if he knows himself strong and
free enough to fight in it against the lies of party structures. Even if he succumbs,
he has done work that will continue to have effect.

The real evil in politics is the "political means" prevailing there as elsewhere:
to win over other men through imposing views on them. But in public life (as
elsewhere) it is possible and necessary to employ religious instead of political
means; to win others through helping them to open out. He who attempts this
may appear weak in the midst of the political tumult. But through working on the
kingdom of man, he works on the kingdom of God.

We can only work on the kingdom of God through working on all the spheres
of man that are allotted to us. There is no universally valid choice of means to
serve the purpose. One cannot say, we must work here and there, this leads to the
goal and that does not. We cannot prepare the messianic world, we can only
prepare for it. There is no legitimately messianic, no legitimately messianically-
intended, politics. But that does not imply that the political sphere may be
excluded from the hallowing of all things. The political "serpent" is not
essentially evil, it is itself only misled; it, too, ultimately wants to be redeemed. It
does not avail to strike at it, it does not avail to turn away from it. It belongs with
the creaturely world: we must have to do with it, without inflexible principles, in
naked responsibility.

There, too, we can learn from Gandhi; there, too, we cannot simply follow in
his steps.

The West cannot and may not abandon "modern civilisation", the East will not
be able to shun it. But just the work of mastering these materials, of humanising
this materiality, the hallowing of this world, our own world, will lead the two
hemispheres together through establishing here and there the covenant of men
faithful to the Great Reality. The flaming sword of the cherubim circling the
entrance of the Garden of Eden prohibits the way back. But it illumines the way


The Jewish Chronicle, October 2, 1931; Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Volume 48, pages
I have a world of friends among the Jews. In South Africa I was surrounded by
Jews, and I have had a Jewish shorthand writer and typist who was regarded more
as a member of the family.

I cannot, however, say that I have made a proper study of the Jewish religion,
but I have studied as much as a layman can. I think the Jewish religion is a very
fine religion, being so closely allied to Christianity in many respects. For
example, the Prophets of the Old Testament are all Jews, and Jesus himself was a

I visited the Synagogue at Johannesburg during the Festival of the Passover,

and you can almost say I was keeping the Passover with my Jewish friends,
because I went to their house every night and I heartily enjoyed, what do you call
them now ?

"Matzos", interjected our representative.

Yes, matzos. I think matzos are very nice and crisp.

I have, however, attended two or three Jewish services, which I think are very
impressive; but my own feeling is that "the heart was lacking". That is to say, the
spirit was lacking. They were too ceremonial, although I must say the ceremony
was very nice. The Jewish Rabbi was a celebrated scholar, and he delivered a
learned discourse, but it did not touch my heart.

My attitude towards Jews is one of great sympathy. I am very much attracted

to the Jews, firstly, because of selfish motives, since I have very many Jewish
friends; secondly, for a far deeper one - they have got a wonderful spirit of
cohesion. That is to say, wherever you find Jews there is a spirit of comradeship
among them. Moreover, they are a people with a vision, if I may put it without
impertinence, they do not themselves realise.

I am sometimes asked whether I regard Jews as the Chosen People, and I say,
well, in a sense, yes. But then all peoples consider themselves to be chosen.

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.
Mr. Gandhi added that unfortunately he had not been to Palestine yet, but that
he hoped to go there some day.

I should love to go, for I have read so much about the Holy Land. Anti-
Semitism is really a remnant of barbarism. I have never been able to understand
this antipathy to the Jews. I have read Zangwill's Children of the Ghetto, and
when I read it, I realised what unmerited persecution Jews had already gone
through and I felt then as I feel now that this persecution is, if I can again say so
in all humility, a reflection upon those who, in the name of Christianity, have
persecuted this long-suffering race.

The remedy? My remedy is twofold. One is that those who profess to be

Christians should learn the virtue of toleration and charity, and the second is for
Jews to rid themselves of the causes for such reproach as may be justly laid at
their door.



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-
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,8 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.


[Dr. Stephen S. Wise, Rabbi of the Free Synagogue, and Chairman of the Political
Committee of the Zionist Organisation of America, speaking at the Dinner of the
Friends of Gandhi in New York, in honour of his sixty-second birthday, made the
following statement. As far as can be ascertained, Dr. Wise was referring to the
interview with Mr. Gandhi, published in The Jewish Chronicle of October 2nd, a
somewhat inaccurate version of which was circulated in America by a news
agency. -The Jewish Chronicle.]

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. Is re-occupation to be
added to the vocabulary of misunderstanding, which already includes such terms
as "landless Arabs", having reference to Arabs who will to dispose of their land
holdings at unreasonably high prices to Jewish settlers? Gandhi is right in saying

Gandhiji was then in London to attend the Round Table Conference.
The Jewish Chronicle, London, October 30, 1931.
that "Zionism, in its spiritual sense is a lofty aspiration", but such a Zionism, if it
remain an aspiration, can little help those Jews who must re-establish themselves
in Palestine because the world has, for the most part, shut its doors. It is not easy
to understand the paradox of Gandhi, "I understand the longing of the Jew to
return to Palestine. He can do so." But Gandhi adds, "provided it is done without
the help of bayonets belonging either to Britain or the Jews." The answer might be
made that British bayonets freed the Arabs of Palestine and gave to the Arabs of
Palestine and neighbouring countries the freedom which they today enjoy. But it
is more important to say and Gandhi is so hospitable to truth that he ought to
know, and if he does not know, he will wish to know - that there were virtually no
British bayonets in Palestine until Arab bayonets perpetrated the massacre of
August-September 1929. 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.

Gandhi closes his beautiful message with the thought, "The real Jerusalem is a
spiritual Jerusalem. That is true, but what would Gandhi say if that answer were
made to him by the British Government respecting India. If "the Jew can realise
this Zionism in any part of the world", then the people of India do not need the
physical abode of India in which to work out the problems of life and peace.
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! There is no loftier nor nobler spiritual enterprise among the
sons of men than the undertaking to re-establish Jewish life in Palestine. This
purpose should have the furtherance and blessing of Gandhi, as Gandhi’s hope for
his people’s freedom has the goodwill of all men who believe in peace and
freedom for all peoples.


I don’t know how to address you. Some years ago, I might have called you
Mahatma (great soul) - the name with which millions of your people have
crowned you. But I know that you have forbidden its use, that in a moment of
spiritual protest you declared yourself to be no more than a "scavenger". Nor do I

Hayim Greenberg, The Inner Eye: Selected Essays. New York: Jewish Frontier Association,
Inc., 1953.
Hayim Greenberg (1889-1953), a prominent Zionist leader, intellectual and journalist, was
editor-in-chief of The Jewish Frontier, New York, from its inception in 1934. He was born in
Bessarabia. He left the Soviet Union in 1921 and settled in the United States in 1924.
dare call you "teacher". I know of you since the days when Tolstoy addressed his
famous "Letter to a Hindu" to you.11 I have followed your work since 1914;12 I
carry sharply engraved in my memory each step of your martyr’s path - each
arrest and trial, each vow, each fast, each triumph and each passing defeat which
never shook your faith. I have read, in the languages familiar to me, all that you
have written and there has been no social-religious thinker who has exerted so
fruitful an influence on me. If, despite the fact that in various periods I have been
stirred to the deeps of my soul by your teaching and your life, I am far from being
your disciple or follower, the fault is not yours. You know how hard it is to
follow you sincerely and completely in India itself, a land where both racial and
cultural heritage have created conditions favourable to the growth of your
teachings; still harder is it in the lands of the West, particularly for a man of my
generation, who grew up in the heroic period of the Russian revolution - an epoch
seething with moral conflicts. But it is easy for me to call you "brother", if only
because I belong to a people from whose prophets thousands of years ago there
flashed the conception of God’s universal fatherhood, as well as of the
brotherhood of all whom He created "in his image". Therefore, permit me to use
the name of "brother" together with the two names you heard in childhood -
Mohandas Karamchand.

But before I take up the purpose of my letter, before I state the request which
will perhaps sound like a challenge, allow me to congratulate you on the recent
great victory in your struggle for human equality. I have in mind the
proclamation of the young Maharajah of Travancore which ended the religious
and political disabilities of the great number of untouchables in that region.
Without questioning the noble intentions of the progressive ruler of Travancore,
and believing that his revolutionary reform sprang from the vigour of his
awakened conscience, we know that the Maharajah would have been unable to
immortalise his name through that greatest reform in the history of new India, if
you had not for years prepared the soil, if you had not, on the one hand, aroused
the untouchables themselves to struggle for their human dignity, and on the other,
stirred the conscience of thousands of members of the privileged castes. I
remember well that throughout those years you were not the only champion of the
millions of "unclean". Possibly, Rabindranath Tagore gave more forceful literary
expression to the moral revolt against the ancient wall standing in India between
man and man. I know of a number of significant figures in your country - men
and women - who have gone farther and more directly towards the goal of
equality. But we may justly ascribe the great reform which sheds lustre on
Travancore primarily to you. All the purely intellectual arguments for the
equalisation of the untouchables, all the theological proofs and textual criticism
which many progressive Hindus have proffered, pale before your brief words: "I
should not like to be born again, but if I am fated to enter the world once more,

Tolstoy's letter (December 14, 1908) was in reply to a letter from Free Hindustan, and was
addressed to the editor. Gandhiji published it in 1909, with an introduction, under the title, "A
Letter to a Hindu".
Mr. Greenberg was in Moscow in 1914, editing a Russian-Jewish monthly, Razswiet.
let it be among the untouchables." Even more influential was the courage you
displayed through "direct action", when you adopted a child from among the
untouchables and made it a member of your family. This practical example in the
breaking down of canonised historical walls proved contagious. Hundreds of
others of the highest castes were stirred to a noble defiance which led them to
engage publicly in the "base" work to which Pariahs were doomed, in order to
expunge the stain of "baseness" through their participation. Your example gave
the untouchables self-respect and moral courage; it made them braver and more
capable of the bloodless uprisings with which they have several times
distinguished themselves. If any concrete proofs were needed to show that not
only exceptionally heroic spirits, but also masses of plain, uneducated people are
capable, under certain circumstances, of being aggressive without resorting to
violence, and that a system of passive resistance may be victorious, the passive
fight of the untouchables must be reckoned as among the most persuasive. Of
greater historic significance is also the fact that if the two million former
untouchables of Travancore may now enter the temples and pray together with
members of the higher castes, if they may use the public wells and highways, and
send their children to the general schools, the outcome is due to an inner
revolution, a spiritual renewal in India itself, rather than to the pressure of
European "civilisers". I remember that for years you were unwilling to use
English dominion for reforming the inner life of India. You would not have been
content with a reform that came from above or from outside. You waited for a
welling up of fighting energy in the degraded masses themselves and for a
growing sense of repentance among the higher castes. I rejoiced that you have
lived to see the first green sprouting on the hard soil you ploughed and sowed.
Without English intervention, without outside pressure, Travancore made its
revolutionary beginning. I am sure that the example of Travancore will affect all
of India, and that the natural rights of the sixty million untouchables will be
restored within our generation.

Those of us in Europe and America who were deeply affected by the

intolerable plight of the untouchables, have long been troubled by the peculiar
theological aspects of the problem. We know that the orthodox Hindus, among
them many individuals not motivated by selfish caste considerations, opposed
emancipation because of a dogma of the Hindu religion. According to this
dogma, the members of the lower castes are being penalised for past sins, "judged
by God". If I am not mistaken, orthodox Hindus have attempted through this
specific interpretation of the caste system, to solve the problem of theodicy - the
same problem of vindicating the ways of God to man which agitated the unknown
author of Job. According to this interpretation, the oppressed castes suffer for
sins committed in past incarnations. They have returned to the world to expiate a
former sin, to purify themselves and perform their period of Karma. In a later
incarnation they may be reborn into a higher caste if their virtues warrant this
promotion. To emancipate an untouchable therefore interferes with the full cycle
of expiation and meddles with the plans of divine Providence. I am in no position
to judge to what extent this dogma or traditional concept is an organic part of
Hinduism. I cannot tell in what measure those untouchables, who some years ago
began turning to Christianity or Islam in order to be free of a religion which
discriminated not only socially but metaphysically against a large number of its
adherents, were justified in their purpose. I am, therefore, not quite clear as to
how orthodox Hindus will reconcile their religious integrity with the
emancipation of the untouchables. However, I was happy to chance on a
publication of the Central Hindu College of Benares (An Advanced Textbook of
Hindu Religion and Ethics) which contained a significant new interpretation of
the doctrine of Karma. According to this viewpoint it is a serious error to explain
suffering in terms of Karma, and to abstain from aiding a sufferer so as not to
interfere with the process of his Karma. Our moral ability to help a man is in
itself evidence that the Karma under which he suffers is fulfilled. Furthermore,
by refusing to help a fellow-being we commit a sin, and so prepare an evil future
Karma for ourselves. It is not the task of the stranger to solve the problems of an
ancient, complex religious system belonging to another people, but I think there
are trends in modern India which indicate that the complete emancipation of the
untouchables will be achieved without a destruction of the Hindu religious system
and without artificial reforms of Hindu doctrine. Jews once believed literally in
the Biblical "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth". The later Talmudical
interpretation of the formula to mean material compensation for an eye or a tooth,
in no wise weakened religious Judaism; on the contrary, it strengthened it. I
imagine that similar organic developments will also take place in the religious life
of India.

And now to turn to the practical purpose of my letter. May I remind you that
untouchables exist not only in India? Not everywhere in the same numbers, nor of
precisely the same status, but nevertheless "untouchables," human beings who are
persecuted, insulted, starved and frequently slain only because they belong to a
different ethnic group, or serve God in their own fashion. There are still millions
of such untouchables in the country from which I write you. You know that
though many years have passed since slavery was abolished, the practical
emancipation of Negroes in the United States is far from complete. And there are
still other millions of "untouchables" scattered over all parts of the globe, in
dozens of countries: these are the millions of my tormented fellow-Jews. To
uncover one’s wounds and seek sympathy is neither pleasant, nor perhaps even
dignified. But no doubt word has reached you of the torment of my people in
countries where they have lived hundreds of years, where the first Jews settled
long before their present oppressors, and which they enriched with their toil and
sweat. After a thousand years of existence in Germany, the remaining 400,000
German Jews find themselves outcast and tormented; their state is made more
tragic by the knowledge of the great contribution, both material and spiritual,
which they and their ancestors have made to the progress of Germany.
Approximately the same thing is happening in Poland and Rumania, and (for the
time being) to a less catastrophic degree, in a large number of other countries.
Disfranchisement, defencelessness, numerus clausus and numerus nullus in the
universities, separate benches and an inferior status for Jewish children in the
public schools, economic and social boycott, murders which are not only tolerated
but often encouraged, lynchings which anti-Semitic governments do not even
trouble to combat, closed doors facing Jews who wish to immigrate into new
countries - this is our lot in many parts of the world at the present time. India is
remote from Jewish wretchedness. She is taken up with her own great cares and
unsolved problems - the destiny of a fifth of the human race - but I am sure that
you have heard of what has happened to millions of my fellow-Jews in Europe,
North Africa and parts of Asia.

We Jews strive to redeem ourselves from our state of "untouchability". We

seek bread, work, freedom and human dignity. These we wish to secure by
emerging from that anomalous state to which history has doomed us - the state of
homelessness and landlessness. For over fifty years, the best of our youth have
been devoting the fullness of their energy toward the recreation of our former
national centre in Palestine. We need a country for the millions of persecuted
Jews, and this country must be the land which cradled the civilisation we once
created there. This need is more than economic or political in its origin. Among
those who are returning to their ancient fatherland are not only refugees driven by
alien might but pilgrims inspired by historic forces - human beings who seek
integrity and harmony in a new life of their own. Judaism is not only a religion, a
system of abstract thought, or a series of tenets and commandments. It is also,
perhaps primarily, a particular way of life, action and self-expression. Our
particular genius, our capacity for self-expression is throttled in us because we
live amid alien environments and cultures. We are always adapting ourselves to
our stronger neighbours, existing in a state of perpetual mimicry dangerous to our
spirit. Zionism is not only a movement for the hungry and persecuted. It draws
to itself increasing numbers of courageous Jews even in those countries which are
free from brutal anti-Semitism and where Jews are not stigmatised as "unclean".
These Jews know - as your great patriot Lajpat once put it - that chains are chains
no matter how gilded. You yourself once lived in a strange land, in the small
Indian Diaspora of South Africa, and you know how the spiritual energy of a
national or racial group which lives as a minority in an alien environment
becomes choked. May I, in this connection, quote the lines of the great modern
Hebrew poet Hayim N. Bialik, lines which I believe you will not misinterpret as
evidence of a materialistic attitude: "Each people has as much heaven over its
head as it has land under its feet."

Landless and heavenless, many thousands of my brothers have in recent years

returned to the soil of their fathers, laid waste through the neglect of centuries.
You in India understand how a land may degenerate and grow barren. One does
not have to be an expert in Indian history to know that your country was once
richer, more fertile and more civilised than it is today. The excavations in
Mohandja Dara have clearly demonstrated that the highly developed civilisation
with large cities, industries and comfortable homes existed in your country 3,500
years before Christ. According to the historian Megasthenes, when the armies of
Alexander the Great invaded parts of India over 2,200 years ago, they found a
people no less civilised and artistic than the Greeks of that time. In Palestine, too,
there once existed a higher state of civilisation than we found when our
generation began to return. The remnants of terraces on the mountains, the
magnificent synagogues excavated in Capernaum and Beth Alpha, the signs of a
former irrigation system, all bear witness to this. During the centuries of our
absence, war and oppression raging for generations reduced our land to a state of
barrenness and decay. This did not dishearten our pioneers. In every spot where
they were given the chance, they built again prospering villages and towns.
Where the earth was swampy they drained it; where it was barren and parched,
they made water spring from hidden deeps. They drove out the curse of malaria.
The mountains of Judea and Galilee had been denuded as far back as the Roman
wars, but this desolation has been lifted by our youth. In many places which
recently were but sand and rock, the green woods of ancient Palestine bloom
resurrected. Within a comparatively short space of time we have developed
Jewish agriculture and industry making possible a still larger mass immigration of
Jews. At the start of our reconstruction work we had psychological as well as
physical difficulties. We had the problems resulting from a false conception of
manual labour. Once a people of shepherds and farmers and artisans, in the
course of our wanderings we had been transformed into a people of tradesmen
primarily. We lost contact with nature, lost the habit of healthful and cleansing
physical labour, and began to look with unjustified, well-nigh sinful, contempt
upon so-called "lower" social functions. Our religious cult of learning
unfortunately changed into the cult of a pseudo-aristocracy. Many of us ceased to
understand the moral and aesthetic worth of simple labour. You are familiar with
the paradoxical ways by which a people arrives at so corrupt a scale of values.
You in India will also have to wage a bitter struggle against the social
implications of this pseudo-aristocratic scholasticism. We understand the
challenge in the title "scavenger" which you assumed. In Palestine and through
Palestine we are freeing ourselves from the moral hump which rose on our backs
during centuries of unsound development. We have given back to physical labour
its dignity and sanctity. We have returned to the truly Jewish, profoundly human
concept of our Talmudists who taught that "he who does not teach his son a
manual trade is like to one who teaches his son robbery". Through our renewed
understanding of the dignity of labour many of us came to understand that all
kinds of labour are of equal social worth and are to be equally rewarded. In the
same places where the pre-evangelical communities of the Essenes, dedicated to
the principle of "mine is thine, and thine is mine", once existed, large villages
built on the basis of voluntary communism have arisen. I have been told on
several occasions that some groups in India have gathered the impression that our
communes are breeding-places of vulgar materialism and atheism. It would take
me far beyond the confines of my letter were I to explain why I regard their
irreligion as true religion. Let me say but one word. Remember the utterances of
your great mystic Ramakrishna who declared that "religion is not for empty
stomachs", and of his flaming disciple, Vivekananda, who said that "as long as a
single hungry man remains in my land, my sole religion will be to feed him"!
Such is the motivation of the "materialism" of our communist experiment in

Arab enemies of my people, and, I am convinced, also of their own people,

have lately mobilised ignorant and fanatical elements against this Jewish
renascence. All impartial observers who have visited Palestine, all honest
students of the question, have come to the conclusion that our movement has in
no way injured the Arab people, that, on the contrary, the mass of the Arab
population has profited socially, economically and culturally from Jewish
immigration. If you would care to acquaint yourself with the available data, you
would see for yourself that the Arab standard of living has risen significantly due
to the peaceful, progressive methods of Jewish reconstruction. In recent history,
Zionism is the first instance of colonisation free from imperialist ambition or the
desire to rule any part of the population. The present Arab rulers know very well
that no danger of Jewish dominion threatens the Arab people through Zionism.
However, they fear that the influence of Zionism on the Arab masses will hasten
the process of economic and social emancipation in Palestine, and will endanger
their selfish caste interests. For this reason, they kindle the savage passions of
national hate and religious fanaticism. They have sent poor ignorant wretches to
destroy Jewish property, to uproot trees planted by Jews, to set fire to Jewish
houses, to murder old and young - men, women and children - to throw bombs
into schools and kindergartens, and to shoot down Jewish nurses who tended Arab
patients in the hospitals. I am sure that you have heard of the anti-Jewish terror
let loose in Palestine for over half a year, and no doubt information has reached
you of the Arab leaders` intention to renew this terror and increase its scope so as
to attain their goal - the stoppage of further Jewish immigration and the
liquidation of Zionism. Whey then, I dare ask you, have you been silent all this
while? Why are you still silent?

I know how small a place the Jewish question must occupy in the
consciousness of the Indian intellectual. I know how enormous are your own
problems and cares. But the drama now being enacted in Palestine has its direct
and indirect repercussions in India. A harmful and thoroughly false propaganda
against Jews and Zionism is now being conducted in your Mohammedan
communities. The none-too-fastidious agents of the present Arab leaders are
spreading malicious lies to the effect that Jews are a menace to Mohammedanism,
that they propose to destroy or tamper with Mohammedan mosques and holy
places. An intense hated of Jews is being fanned among the millions of
Mohammedans in India. Please believe me that I think not only of my own
people, when I feel duty bound to warn you against the effects of this incendiary
propaganda. Jew-hatred is a dangerous poison not only for the hated but for the
haters. For the sake of your country and your people as well as my own, I would
not wish the bacilli now undermining the moral foundations of so many European
countries, to befoul the air of India. I do not understand why you have taken no
note of this kindling of religious fanaticism and blind hate among your
Mohammedan fellow-Indians, why you have ignored the effects of Arab
incitement which became apparent even in the ranks of the Indian National
Congress. You are silent. Your disciple, Nehru, is silent. And, unless I am
mistaken, only your poet and noble champion of human rights, Madame Naidu,13
has raised her voice in behalf of my people.

Let your clear and courageous voice be heard - for our sake, for your sake, for
the sake of the awakening East to which we return. Do that which is in your
power to end the venomous anti-Jewish propaganda amid the millions of
Mohammedans in India. When Hindus and Mohammedans make murderous
attacks upon each other, you declare a fast in protest against fratricide and false
piety. I remember the strict solemnity of your three weeks` fast. I remember also
the effect of this particular "dictatorial" measure: the two religious communities
made peace under the pressure of your prayer and fast. I am not so naive and
egocentric as to assume that you could protest with an equal passion the onslaught
on Jewish work and a Jewish future in Palestine. It is not my right to suggest how
you should influence Moslem public opinion and particularly the leaders of your
National Congress. Do what you can to stop the anti-Jewish agitation for which
Islam is being exploited cynically and destructively. I know how greatly you
honour Islam and its followers. But all your life you have shown daring and
ability to fight against hypocrisy in religious life. As the proven friend of the
Moslems, you have a particular right to protest against the particular exploitation
of Islam and its institutions for unworthy political ends.

May I remind you how a European observer characterised the reaction of a

Hindu to the usual sermon of a Christian missionary? His first answer was,
"Christianity is not true"; his second, "Christianity is now new," and his third
rejoinder was, "Christianity is not you". He perceived the truth in Christianity,
while realising the untruth in the Christian. The same may be said of Islam and
of those who seek to transform a noble doctrine into an instrument for anti-social
and anti-religious purposes. You are the man in India who can challenge the
unscrupulous Arab agitators with the cry, "Islam is not you".

Will we hear your voice, the voice of Young India?



Letter of July 20, 1937 from Segaon:

Mrs. Sarojini Naidu
From Gandhi-Kallenbach Correspondence at the National Archives of India, New Delhi
"I have read the Palestine Report. It makes sad reading but the Commission
could not do anything more. It almost admits the critical blunder a promise to the
Arabs and a contrary one to the Jews. Breach of promise became inevitable. I am
more than ever convince that the only proper and dignified solution is the one I
have suggested now more so than before. My solution admits of no ... If the Jews
will rely wholly on the Arab goodwill, they must once for all renounce British
protection. I wonder if they will adopt the heroic remedy. More when we meet."

Letter of August 16, 1937 from Wardha:

"What you have done is all right. I had a long talk with Andrews. I do not know
what we will be able to do. The more I observe the events happening the more
convinced I feel of the correctness of my advice.

"It is likely to be a voice in the wilderness. Nevertheless if you feel as strongly

as I do, you will take up the firm & only stand that is likely to do good... in the
end. Without that, there will be no happy home for the Jews in Palestine."

Letter of August 28, 1937 from Segaon:

"... I have just read the monograph sent to me at your instance on Zionism. The
sender's name is not given. The statement is very impressive, deeply interesting.
And if it is true a settlement between the Jews & the Arabs might not be difficult.
I quite clearly see that if you are to play any part in bringing about an honourable
settlement, your place is in India. It might be that you might have to go at times to
South Africa. You might have to go frequently to Palestine, but much of the work
lies in India as I visualise the development of the settlement talks. All this I say
irrespective of the domestic arrangement between us as to your coming in

"I am conferring with Andrews also as to what he should do in Palestine. But I

have not the time to tell you all these things. ... the need to know them. It is
enough for you to know that I am redeeming my promise to interest myself in the


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.

Harijan, November 26, 1938; Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Volume 68, pages 137-41.
Gandhiji was apparently approached by several Jewish friends "who implored him to lend his
commanding moral voice in support of Zionism, especially in the light of its efforts to provide
refuge in Palestine for Jews fleeing Nazism". Nahum N. Glatzer and Paul Mendes-Flohr, The
Letters of Martin Buber, page 476n. New York: Schocken Books, 1991.
It is not without hesitation that I venture to offer my views on this very difficult

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

Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same sense that England belongs to the
English or France to the French. It is wrong and inhuman 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. 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 organised 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
satyagrahis is 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 organised 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 dehumanised
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 in 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 hundreds of ways of reasoning with the Arabs, if they will
only discard the help of the British bayonet. As it is, they are co-shares with the
British in despoiling a people who have done no wrong to them.

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 aggression but by loving service. A Jewish
friend has sent me a book called The Jewish Contribution to Civilisation 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
patronised. 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



Take the question of the Jews on which I have written. No Jew need feel
helpless if he takes the non-violent way. A friend has written me a letter objecting
that in that article I have assumed that the Jews have been violent. It is true that
the Jews have not been actively violent in their own persons. But they called
down upon the Germans the curses of mankind, and they wanted America and
England to fight Germany on their behalf. If I hit my adversary, that is of course
violence, but to be truly non-violent, I must love him and pray for him even when
he hits me. The Jews have not been actively non-violent or, in spite of the
misdeeds of the dictators, they would say, "We shall suffer at their hands; they
knew no better. But we shall suffer not in the manner in which they want us to
suffer." If even one Jew acted thus, he would salve his self-respect and leave an
example which, if it became infectious, would save the whole of Jewry and leave
a rich heritage to mankind besides.


I was not unprepared for the exhibition of wrath from Germany over my article
about the German treatment of the Jews. I have myself admitted my ignorance of
European politics. But in order to commend my prescription to the Jews for the
removal of their many ills, I did not need to have an accurate knowledge of
European politics. The main facts about the atrocities are beyond dispute. When

Harijan, December 24, 1938; Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Volume 68, pages 202-03.
This is from a report by Pyarelal, secretary to Gandhiji, on a discussion with several Christian
leaders who had come to India to attend the International Missionary Conference which opened in
Tambaram, near Madras, on December 12, 1938.
Harijan, December 17, 1938; Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Volume 68, pages 189-90.
the anger over my writing has subsided and comparative calmness has returned,
the most wrathful German will find that underlying my writing there was
friendliness towards Germany, never any ill will.

Have I not repeatedly said that active non-violence is unadulterated love -

fellow-feeling? And if the Jews, instead of being helplessly and of necessity non-
violent, adopt active non-violence, i.e., fellow-feeling for the gentile Germans
deliberately, they cannot do any harm to the Germans and I am as certain as I am
dictating these lines that the stoniest German heart will melt. Great as have been
the Jewish contributions to the world’s progress, this supreme act of theirs will be
their greatest contribution and war will be a thing of the past.

It passes comprehension why any German should be angry over my utterly

innocuous writing. Of course, German critics, as others, might have ridiculed it
by saying that it was a visionary’s effort doomed to fail. I therefore welcome this
wrath, though wholly unmerited, against my writing. Has my writing gone home?
Has the writer felt that my remedy was after all not so ludicrous as it may appear,
but that it was eminently practical if only the beauty of suffering without
retaliation was realised?

To say that my writing has rendered neither myself, my movement, nor

German-Indian relations any service, is surely irrelevant, if not also unworthy,
implying as it does a threat; and I should rank myself a coward if, for fear of my
country or myself or Indo-German relations being harmed, I hesitated to give
what I felt in the innermost recesses of my heart to be cent per cent sound advice.

The Berlin writer has surely enunciated a novel doctrine that people outside
Germany may not criticise German action even from friendliest motives. For my
part I would certainly welcome the interesting things that Germans or other
outsiders may unearth about Indians. I do not need to speak for the British. But if
I know the British people at all, they, too, welcome outside criticism, when it is
well-formed and free from malice. In this age, when distances have been
obliterated, no nation can afford to imitate the fabled frog in the well. Sometimes
it is refreshing to see ourselves as others see us. If, therefore, the German critics
happen to see this reply, I hope that they will not only revise their opinion about
my writing but will also realise the value of outside criticism.

Segaon, December 8, 1938


Friends have sent me two newspaper cuttings criticising my appeal to the Jews.
The two critics suggest that in presenting non-violence to the Jews as a remedy
Harijan, December 17, 1938; Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Volume 68, pages 191-93.
against the wrong done to them I have suggested nothing new, and that they have
been practising non-violence for the past two thousand years. Obviously, so far
as these critics are concerned, I did not make my meaning clear. The Jews, so far
as I know, have never practised non-violence as an article of faith or even as a
deliberate policy. Indeed, it is a stigma against them that their ancestors crucified
Jesus. Are they not supposed to believe in eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth?
Have they no violence in their hearts for their oppressors? Do they not want the
so-called democratic powers to punish Germany for her persecution and to deliver
them from oppression? If they do, there is no non-violence in their hearts. Their
non-violence, if it may be so called, is of the helpless and the weak.

What I have pleaded for is renunciation of violence of the heart and consequent
active exercise of the force generated by the great renunciation. One of the critics
says that favourable public opinion is necessary for the working of non-violence.
The writer is evidently thinking of passive resistance conceived as a weapon of
the weak. I have drawn a distinction between passive resistance of the weak and
active non-violent resistance of the strong. The latter can and does work in the
teeth of the fiercest opposition. But it ends in evoking the widest public
sympathy. Sufferings of the non-violent have been known to melt the stoniest
hearts. I make bold to say that if the Jews can summon to their aid the soul power
that comes only from non-violence, Herr Hitler will bow before the courage
which he has never yet experienced in any large measure in his dealings with
men, and which, when it is exhibited, he will own is infinitely superior to that
shown by his best storm troopers. The exhibition of such courage is only possible
for those who have a living faith in the God of Truth and Non-violence, i.e., Love.

Of course, the critics can reasonably argue that the non-violence pictured by me
is not possible for masses of mankind, it is possible only for the very few highly
developed persons. I have combated that view and suggested that, given proper
training and proper generalship, non-violence can be practised by masses of

I see, however, that my remarks are being misunderstood to mean that because
I advise non-violent resistance by the persecuted Jews, by inference I expect or
would advise non-interference by the democratic Powers on behalf of the Jews. I
hardly need to answer this fear. Surely there is no danger of the great Powers
refraining from action because of anything I have said. They will, they are bound
to, do all they can to free the Jews from the inhuman persecution. My appeal has
force in the face of the fact that the great Powers feel unable to help the Jews in an
effective manner. Therefore it is that I have offered the prescription which I
know to be infallible when taken in the right manner.

The most relevant criticism, however, which I have received is this: How do I
expect the Jews to accept my prescription when I know that India, where I am
myself working, where I call myself the self-appointed general, has not accepted
it in toto. My answer is: "Blessed are they that expect nothing." I belong to the
category of the blessed, in this case at least. Having got the prescription and
being sure of its efficacy, I felt that I would be wrong if I did not draw attention to
it when I saw cases where it could be effectively applied.

Hitherto I have refused to deal with European politics. My general position

still remains the same. I presented my remedy almost in suppressed tones in the
case of Abyssinia. The cases of the Czechs and the Jews became more vivid to
me than the case of the Abyssinians. And I could not restrain myself from
writing. Perhaps Dr. Mott was right when he said to me the other day that I must
write more and more articles like those on the Czechs and the Jews, if only
because they must aid me in the Indian struggle. He said that the West was never
more prepared than now to listen to the message of non-violence.

Segaon, December 9, 1938


In dealing with my answer to the criticism that the Jews had been non-violent
for 2,000 years, The Statesman says in the course of an editorial:

"The whole world has heard of Pastor Niemoeller20 and the sufferings of the
Lutheran Church; here many Pastors and individual Christians bore themselves
bravely before People’s Courts, violence and threats; without retaliation they bore
noble witness to the truth. And what change of heart is there in Germany?
Buried in prisons and concentration camps are today, and have been for five
years, members of the Bible Searchers` Leagues who rejected Nazi militarism as
conflicting with Christ’s Gospel of peace. And how many Germans know of
them or, if they know, do anything about it?

"Non-violence, whether of the weak or of the strong, seems, except in very

special conditions, rather a personal than a social gospel. A man’s salvation may
be left to himself; politicians are concerned with causes, creeds and minorities. It
is suggested by Mr. Gandhi that Herr Hitler would bow before a courage
'infinitely superior to that shown by his own Storm Troopers`. If that were so, one
would have supposed that he would have paid tribute to such men as Herr von

Harijan, January 7, 1939; Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Volume 68, pages 276-78.
Martin Niemoeller, anti-Nazi Protestant theologian, who had been arrested by the Gestapo and
imprisoned in a concentration camp
Carl von Ossietzky (1889-1938), German pacifist and writer. He was arrested as an enemy of
the State and imprisoned. While in jail he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace. Hitler was so
enraged that he prohibited Germans thenceforth from accepting such awards.
"Courage to a Nazi, however, seems a virtue only when displayed by his own
supporters: elsewhere it becomes the impudent provocation of Jewish-Marxist
canaille. Mr. Gandhi has produced his prescription in view of the inability of the
great Powers effectively to move in the matter, an inability we all deplore and
would see remedied. His sympathy may do much for the comfort of the Jews, but
seems likely to do less for their enlargement. Christ is the supreme example of
non-violence and the indignities heaped upon Him at His tortured death proved
once and for all that in a worldly and temporal sense it can fail hopelessly."

I do not think that the sufferings of Pastor Niemoeller and others have been in
vain. They have preserved their self-respect intact. They have proved that their
faith was equal to any suffering. That they have not proved sufficient for melting
Herr Hitler’s heart merely shows that it is made of a harder material than stone.
But the hardest metal yields to sufficient heat. Even so must the hardest heart
melt before sufficiency of the heat of non-violence. And there is no limit to the
capacity of non-violence to generate heat.

Every action is a resultant of a multitude of forces even of a contrary nature.

There is no waste of energy. So we learn in the books on mechanics. This is
equally true of human actions. The difference is that in the one case we generally
know the forces at work, and when we do, we can mathematically foretell the
resultant. In the case of human actions, they result from a concurrence of forces
of most of which we have no knowledge. But our ignorance must not be made to
serve the cause of disbelief in the power of these forces. Rather is our ignorance a
cause for greater faith. And non-violence being the mightiest force in the world
and also the most elusive in its working, it demands the greatest exercise of faith.
Even as we believe in God in faith, so have we to believe in non-violence in faith.

Herr Hitler is but one man enjoying no more than the average span of life. He
would be a spent force if he had not the backing of his people. I do not despair of
his responding to human suffering even though caused by him. But I must refuse
to believe that the Germans as a nation have no heart or markedly less than the
other nations of the earth. They will some day or other rebel against their own
adored hero, if he does not wake up betimes. And when he or they do, we shall
find that the sufferings of the Pastor and his fellow-workers had not a little to do
with the awakening.

An armed conflict may bring disaster to German arms; it cannot change the
German heart even as the last defeat did not. It produced a Hitler vowed to wreak
vengeance on the victors. And what a vengeance it is! My answer, therefore,
must be the answer that Stephenson gave to his fellow-workers who had despaired
of ever filling the deep pit that made the first railway possible. He asked his co-
workers of little faith to have more faith and go on filling the pit. It was not
bottomless, it must be filled. Even so I do not despair because Herr Hitler’s or the
German heart has not yet melted. On the contrary I plead for more suffering and
still more till the melting has become visible to the naked eye. And even as the
Pastor has covered himself with glory, a single Jew bravely standing up and
refusing to bow to Hitler’s decrees will cover himself with glory and lead the way
to the deliverance of the fellow Jews.

I hold that non-violence is not merely a personal virtue. It is also a social virtue
to be cultivated like the other virtues. Surely society is largely regulated by the
expression of non-violence in its mutual dealings. What I ask for is an extension
of it on a larger, national and international scale.

I was unprepared to find the view expressed by The Statesman writer that the
example of Christ proved once and for all that in a worldly and temporal sense it
can fail hopelessly!! Though I cannot claim to be Christian in the sectarian sense,
the example of Jesus` suffering is a factor in the composition of my undying faith
in non-violence which rules all my actions, worldly and temporal. And I know
that there are hundreds of Christians who believe likewise. Jesus lived and died
in vain if he did not teach us to regulate the whole of life by the eternal Law of
On the train to Bardoli, January 2, 1939



I have been realising more and more that there is, as matter of fact, no
contradiction between your Satyagraha or non-violence and true Judaism. On the
contrary, all the teachings, views and behaviour of the Jewish people's ancestors,
especially from about 2000 years ago, were just like yours, almost in all details.

The main error that most non-Jewish thinkers commit - among them I have
even to count the great philosopher Schopenhauer - is when they imagine that the
Old Testament and the Pentateuch constitute Judaism. They seem to forget that
like all ancient races the Jews have passed through a long historical development
of which the Old Testament was the early stage, and that during this development
Judaism has reached as high a level as other great religions such as Christianity
and Buddhism.

The Pentateuch, for example, says, "If thou meet thine enemy's ox or his ass
going astray, thou shalt surely bring it back to him again." (Ex. 23-4); and later, to
From: Harijan, January 28, 1939. The date of the letter is not indicated in Harijan, and may
have been late 1938.

The editor's note reads:

"The following is the substance of a letter written to Gandhiji by a Jewish friend in Palestine. It
makes interesting reading."
quote the Testament, "If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he
be thirsty, give him water to drink;" or, "Rejoice not when thine enemy faileth,
and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth."

Then again there are later scriptures of Judaism, as wide as the ocean, of which
non-Jews seem to be unaware e.g. the Mishna and its commentary and the
Talmud. These are filled with passages expressing ideas which can compete with
those in other religions. Hillel said to a Gentile who had come to learn God's law.
"Do not do to your next what you do not wish to be done to yourself. This is
God's law - all the remaining is only a commentary to it." And Bruria, the noble
wife of Rabbi Meir, advised her husband to pray for the conversion of his enemies
and not for their extinction.

Love for animals also finds an important place in these scriptures. Rabbi
Yehuda Hanasi once said to a calf which escaped from a butcher and came to him,
"Go back to the butcher because it is for this purpose that thou hast been created."
And for this sin God punished him with a terrible disease from which the Rabbi
was not delivered until he showed his mercy on a small insect which the maid
servant had thrown away.

In fact, Jesus Christ has added nothing new to Judaism. He has expressed more
intensively the spirit and traditions out of which he himself had grown.

Concerning the very grave problem of Palestine. I must, to my great shame,

admit that your dislike for the Zionist movement, so long as 99 percent of modern
Jews care only for the material building up of this country and desire political and
military power over it for this end is perfectly justified. Such entirely ignore the
spiritual upbuilding of the Holy Land and the sublime religious ideals of social
justice and righteousness with which the visions of our great prophets have
always associated Zion and Jerusalem.

About 40 years ago a prominent Hebrew writer and philosopher, Ahad Haam,
greatly blamed Jewish new-comers to Palestine for their imperious behaviour
towards their Arab cousins, and prophesied that some day there was bound to
come a day of revenge. Ahad Haam resisted all political Zionism and only viewed
Palestine as the spiritual and cultural centre of the Jewish Race. Similarly Rabbi
A.I. Cook emphasised that no return home of Israel to Zion was conceivable
without a preceding revival of the true spirit of the people.

In spite, however, of the apparent victory of violence and cruelty, there is a

movement among Jews as among all nations for a spiritual renaissance. There is
such an organisation of which I am a member in Palestine, specially bound to the
views of the two great men, Ahad Haam and Rabbi Cook, mentioned above, and I
am sure the way shown by them will redeem us in course of time. You will see
that our programme includes nothing contradictory to the principles of your holy


I have two letters from Jewish friends protesting against a remark of mine in a
dialogue reported in Harijan over the Jewish question. Here is one of the letters:

"My attention has been called to a paragraph in Harijan of December 24th,

1938, in which you are reported to have said that 'The Jews called down upon the
Germans the curses of mankind, and they wanted America and England to fight
Germany on their behalf.` I can hardly doubt that you have been misreported, for
there is nothing that could possibly justify such a statement. But as the paragraph
much distressed me, I should be glad to receive from you a word of reassurance."

I am sorry to say that I cannot give the reassurance required. For I did make
the remark put into my mouth by Shri Pyarelal. Hardly a paper comes to me from
the West which does not describe the agony of the Jews who demand retribution
by the democratic Powers for German atrocities. Nor do I see anything wrong in
the attitude. The Jews are not angels. My point was they were not non-violent in
the sense meant by me. Their non-violence had and has no love in it. It is
passive. They do not resist because they know that they cannot resist with any
degree of success. In their place, unless there were active non-violence in me, I
should certainly call down upon my persecutors the curses of Heaven. It is not
contended by my correspondents that the German Jews do not want the big
Powers like England, America and France to prevent the atrocities, if need be,
even by war against Germany. I happen to have a Jewish friend living with me. 24
He has an intellectual belief in non-violence. But he says he cannot pray for
Hitler. He is so full of anger over the German atrocities that he cannot speak of
them with restraint. I do not quarrel with him over his anger. He wants to be
non-violent, but the sufferings of fellow Jews are too much for him to bear. What
is true of him is true of thousands of Jews who have no thought even of "loving
the enemy". With them as with millions "revenge is sweet, to forgive is divine."

Segaon, February 5, 1939


Harijan, February 18, 1939; Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Volume 68, pages 381-82.
Hermann Kallenbach from South Africa was visiting him at the time.
Nahum N. Glatzer and Paul Mendes-Flohr, The Letters of Martin Buber. New York: Schocken
Books, 1991.
February 24, 1939

My dear Mahatma Gandhi,

He who is unhappy lends a deaf ear when idle tongues discuss his fate among
themselves. But when a voice that he has long known and honoured, a great
voice and an earnest one, pierces the vain clamour and calls him by name, he is all
attention. Here is a voice, he thinks, that can but give good counsel and genuine
comfort, for he who speaks knows what suffering is; he knows that the sufferer is
more in need of comfort than of counsel; and he has both the wisdom to counsel
rightly and that simple union of faith and love which alone is the open sesame to
true comforting. But what he hears - containing though it does elements of a
noble and most praiseworthy conception, such as he expects from this speaker - is
yet barren of all application to his peculiar circumstances. These words are in
truth not applicable to him at all. They are inspired by most praiseworthy general
principles, but the listener is aware that the speaker has cast not a single glance at
the situation of him whom he is addressing, that he neither sees him nor knows
him and the straits under which he labours. Moreover, intermingled with the
counsel and the comfort, a third voice makes itself heard, drowning both the
others, the voice of reproach. It is not that the sufferer disdains to accept reproach
in this hour from the man he honours. On the contrary, if only there were mingled
with the good counsel and the true comfort a word of just reproach, giving to the
former a meaning and a reason, he would recognise in the speaker the bearer of a
message. But the accusation voiced is another altogether from that which he
hears in the storm of events and in the hard beating of his own heart: it is almost
the opposite of this. He weighs it and examines it - no, it is not a just one! And
the armour of his silence is pierced. The friendly appeal achieves what the
enemy’s storming has failed to do; he must answer. He exclaims, "Let the lords of
the ice inferno affix my name to a cunningly constructed scarecrow; this is the
logical outcome of their own nature and the nature of their relations to me." But
you, the man of goodwill, do you not know that you must see him whom you
address, in his place and circumstance, in the throes of his destiny?

Jews are being persecuted, robbed, maltreated, tortured, murdered. And you,
Mahatma Gandhi, say that their position in the country where they suffer all this
is an exact parallel to the position of Indians in South Africa at the time you
inaugurated your famous "Force of Truth" or "Strength of the Soul" (Satyagraha)
campaign. There the Indians occupied precisely the same place, and the
persecution there also had a religious tinge. There also the constitution denied

Martin Buber, the eminent philosopher, wrote this letter in response to the article by Gandhiji
in Harijan of November 26, 1938. It was mailed on March 9, 1939, together with a letter by Judah
L. Magnes, President of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, to Gandhiji at his ashram in Segaon.
Martin Buber had been associated with organisations which sought to foster Jewish-Arab
friendship. Before the establishment of Israel, he advocated a binational State in Palestine.
equality of rights to the white and the black race including the Asiatics; there also
the Indians were assigned to ghettos, and the other disqualifications were, at all
events, almost of the same type as those of the Jews in Germany. I read and re-
read these sentences in your article without being able to understand. Although I
know them well, I re-read your South African speeches and writings, and called to
mind, with all the attention and imagination at my command, every complaint you
made therein, and I did likewise with the accounts of your friends and pupils at
that time. But all this did not help me to understand what you say about us. In
the first of your speeches with which I am acquainted, that of 1896, you quoted
two particular incidents to the accompaniment of hisses from your audience: first,
that a band of Europeans had set fire to an Indian village shop, causing some
damage; and, second, that another band had thrown burning rockets into an urban
shop. If I oppose to this the thousands on thousands of Jewish shops destroyed
and burned out, you will perhaps answer that the difference is only one of
quantity and that the proceedings were of almost the same type. But, Mahatma,
are you not aware of the burning of synagogues and scrolls of the Law? Do you
know nothing of all the sacred property of the community - some of it of great
antiquity - that has been destroyed in the flames? I am not aware that Boers and
Englishmen in South Africa ever injured anything sacred to the Indians. I find
only one other concrete complaint quoted in that speech, namely, that three Indian
schoolteachers, who were found walking in the streets after 9.00 p.m. contrary to
orders, were arrested and only acquitted later on. That is the only incident of the
kind you bring forward. Now do you know or do you not know, Mahatma, what a
concentration camp is like and what goes on there? Do you know of the torments
in the concentration camp, of its methods of slow and quick slaughter? I cannot
assume that you know of this; for then this tragi-comic utterance "of almost the
same type" could scarcely have crossed your lips. Indians were despised and
despicably treated in South Africa. But they were not deprived of rights, they
were not outlawed, they were not hostages to a hoped-for change in the behaviour
of foreign Powers. And do you think perhaps that a Jew in Germany could
pronounce in public one single sentence of a speech such as yours without being
knocked down? Of what significance is it to point to a certain something in
common when such differences are overlooked?

It does not seem to me convincing when you base your advice to us to observe
satyagraha in Germany on these similarities of circumstance. In the five years I
myself spent under the present regime, I observed many instances of genuine
satyagraha among the Jews, instances showing a strength of spirit in which there
was no question of bartering their rights or of being bowed down, and where
neither force nor cunning was used to escape the consequences of their behaviour.
Such actions, however, exerted apparently not the slightest influence on their
opponents. All honour indeed to those who displayed such strength of soul! But I
cannot recognise herein a watchword for the general behaviour of German Jews
that might seem suited to exert an influence on the oppressed or on the world. An
effective stand in the form of non-violence may be taken against unfeeling human
beings in the hope of gradually bringing them to their senses; but a diabolic
universal steamroller cannot thus be withstood. There is a certain situation in
which no "satyagraha" of the power of the truth can result from the "satyagraha"
of the strength of the spirit. The word satyagraha signifies testimony. Testimony
without acknowledgement, ineffective, unobserved martyrdom, a martyrdom cast
to the winds - that is the fate of innumerable Jews in Germany. God alone accepts
their testimony' God "seals" it, as is said in our prayers. But no maximum for
suitable behaviour can be deduced from that. Such martyrdom is a deed - but who
would venture to demand it?

But your comparison of the position of the Jews in Germany with that of the
Indians in South Africa compels me to draw your attention to a yet more essential
difference. True, I can well believe that you were aware of this difference, great
as it is, when you drew the exact parallel. It is obvious that, when you think back
to your time in South Africa, it is a matter of course for you that, then as now, you
always had this great Mother India. That fact was and still is so taken for granted
that apparently you are entirely unaware of the fundamental differences existing
between nations having such a mother (it need not necessarily be such a great
mother, it may be a tiny motherkin, but yet a mother, a mother’s bosom and a
mother’s heart) and a nation that is orphaned, or to whom one says, in speaking of
his country, "This is no more your mother!"

When you were in South Africa, Mahatma, 150,000 Indians lived there. But in
India there were far more than 200 million! And this fact nourished the souls of
the 150,000, whether they were conscious of it or not; they drew then, as you ask
the Jews now, whether they want a double home where they can remain at will?
You say to the Jews: If Palestine is their home, they must accustom themselves to
the idea of being forced to leave the other parts of the world in which they are
settled. Did you also say to the Indians in South Africa that if India is their home,
they must accustom themselves to the idea of being compelled to return to India?
Or did you tell them that India was not their home? And if - though indeed it is
inconceivable that such a thing could come to pass - the hundreds of millions of
Indians were to be scattered tomorrow over the face of the earth, and if the day
after tomorrow another nation were to establish itself in India and the Jews were
to declare that there was yet room for the establishment of a national home for the
Indians, thus giving to their diaspora a strong organic concentration and a living
centre, should a Jewish Gandhi - assuming there could be such - then answer
them, as you answered the Jews, that "this cry for the national home affords a
plausible justification for your expulsion"? Or should he teach them, as you
teach the Jews, that the India of the Vedic conception is not a geographical tract,
but that it is in your hearts? A land about which a sacred book speaks to the sons
of the land is never merely in their hearts; a land can never become a mere
symbol. It is in the hearts because it is the prophetic image of a promise to
mankind. But it would be a vain metaphor if Mount Zion did not actually exist.
This land is called "holy", but this is not the holiness of an idea; it is the holiness
of a piece of earth. That which is merely an idea and nothing more cannot
become holy, but a piece of earth can become holy just as a mother’s womb can
become holy.

Dispersion is bearable. It can even be purposeful if somewhere there is

ingathering, a growing home centre, a piece of earth where one is in the midst of
an ingathering and not in dispersion and from where the spirit of ingathering may
work its way out to all the places of the dispersion. When there is this, there is
also a striving, common life, the life of a community that dares to live today
because it hopes to live tomorrow. But when this growing centre, this increasing
process of ingathering is lacking, dispersion becomes dismemberment. On this
criterion, the question of our Jewish destiny in indissolubly bound up with the
possibility of ingathering, and this in Palestine.

You ask, "Why should they not, like other nations of the earth, make that
country where they are born and where they earn their livelihood their home?"
Because their destiny is different from that of all other nations of the earth. It is a
destiny that in truth and justice should not be imposed on any nation on earth. For
their destiny is dispersion - not the dispersion of a fraction and the preservation of
the main substance, as in the case of other nations. It is dispersion without the
living heart and centre, and every nation has a right to demand the possession of a
living heart. It is different, because a hundred adopted homes without one
original and natural one render a nation sick and miserable. It is different,
because, although the wellbeing and the achievement of the individual may
flourish on stepmother soil, the nation as such must languish. And just as you,
Mahatma, wish that not only should all Indians be able to live and work, but that
also Indian substance, Indian wisdom, and Indian truth should prosper and be
fruitful, so do we wish this for the Jews. For you, there is no need to be aware
that the Indian substance could not prosper without the Indian’s attachment to the
mother soil and without his ingathering there. But we know what is essential.
We know it because it is just this that is denied us or was, at least, up to the
generation that has just begun to work at the redemption of the mother soil.

But this is not all. Because for us, for the Jews who think as I do, painfully
urgent as it is, it is indeed not the decisive factor. You say, Mahatma Gandhi, that
a sanction is "sought in the Bible" to support the cry for a national home, which
"does not make much appeal to you". No - this is not so. We do not open the
Bible and seek sanction there. The opposite it true: the promises of return, of re-
establishment, which have nourished the yearning hope of hundreds of
generations, give those of today an elementary stimulus, recognised by few in its
full meaning but effective also in the lives of many who do not believe in the
message of the Bible. Still, this too is not the determining factor for us who,
although we do not see divine revelation in every sentence of Holy Scriptures, yet
trust in the spirit that inspired their speakers. What is decisive for us is not the
promise of the Land - but the command, whose fulfilment is bound up with the
land, with the existence of a free Jewish community in this country. For the Bible
tells us - and our inmost knowledge testifies to it - that once, more than three
thousand years ago, our entry into this land was in the consciousness of a mission
from above to set up a just way of life through the generations of our people, such
a way of life as can be realised not by individuals in the sphere of their private
existence but only by a nation in the establishment of its society: communal
ownership of the land,26 regularly recurrent levelling of social distinctions,27
guarantee of the independence of each individual,28 mutual help,29 a common
Sabbath embracing serf and beast as beings with equal claim,30 a sabbatical year
whereby, letting the soil rest, everybody is admitted to the free enjoyment of its
fruits.31 These are not practical laws thought out by wise men; they are measures
that the leaders of the nation, apparently themselves taken by surprise and
overpowered, have found to be the set task and condition for taking possession of
the land. No other nation has ever been faced at the beginning of its career with
such a mission. Here is something that allows of no forgetting, and from which
there is no release. At that time, we did not carry out what was imposed upon us.
We went into exile with our task unperformed. But the command remained with
us, and it has become more urgent than ever. We need our own soil in order to
fulfil it. We need the freedom of ordering our own life. No attempt can be made
on foreign soil and under foreign statute. The soil and the freedom for fulfilment
may not be denied us. We are not covetous, Mahatma; our one desire is that at
last we may obey.

Now, you may well ask whether I speak for the Jewish people when I say "we".
I speak only for those who feel themselves entrusted with the mission of fulfilling
the command of justice delivered to Israel of the Bible. Were it but a handful -
these constitute the pith of the nation, and the future of the people depends on
them. For the ancient mission of the nation lives on in them as the cotyledon in
the core of the fruit. In this connexion, I must tell you that you are mistaken when
you assume that in general the Jews of today believe in God and derive from their
faith guidance for their conduct. Jewry of today is in the throes of a serious crisis
in the matter of faith. It seems to me that the lack of faith of present-day
humanity, its inability truly to believe in God, finds its concentrated expression in
this crisis of Jewry. Here, all is darker, more fraught with danger, more fateful
than anywhere else in the world. Nor is this crisis resolved here in Palestine;
indeed, we recognise its severity here even more than elsewhere among Jews.
But at the same time we realise that here alone can it be resolved. There is no
solution to be found in the life of isolated and abandoned individuals, although
one may hope that the spark of faith will be kindled in their great need. The true
solution can issue only from the life of a community that begins to carry out the
will of God, often without being aware of doing so, without believing that God
exists and this is his will. It may be found in this life of the community if
believing people support it who neither direct nor demand, neither urge nor
Leviticus 25:23
Leviticus 25:13
Exodus 21:2
Exodus 23:4ff
Exodus 23:12
Leviticus 25:5-7
preach, but who share the life, who help, wait, and are ready for the moment when
it will be their turn to give the true answer to the inquirer. This is the innermost
truth of the Jewish life in the Land; perhaps it may be of significance for the
solution of the crisis of faith, not only for Jewry but for all humanity. The contact
of this people with this land is not only a matter of sacred ancient history; we
sense here a secret still more hidden.

You, Mahatma Gandhi, who know of the connexion between tradition and
future, should not associate yourself with those who pass over our cause without
understanding or sympathy.

But you say - and I consider it to be the most significant of all the things you
tell us - that Palestine belongs to the Arabs and that it is therefore "wrong and
inhuman to impose the Jews on the Arabs".

Here I must add a personal note in order to make clear to you on what premises
I desire to consider this matter.

I belong to a group of people who, from the time when Britain conquered
Palestine, have not ceased to strive for the achievement of genuine peace between
Jew and Arab.

By genuine peace, we inferred and still infer that both peoples should together
develop the Land without one imposing his will on the other. In view of the
international usages of our generation, this appeared to us to be very difficult but
not impossible. We were and still are well aware that in this unusual - even
unexampled - case, it is a question of seeking new ways of understanding and
cordial agreement between the nations. Here again, we stood and still stand under
the sway of a commandment.

We considered it a fundamental point that in this case two vital claims are
opposed to each other, two claims of a different nature and a different origin,
which cannot be pitted one against the other and between which no objective
decision can be made as to which is just or unjust. We considered and still
consider it our duty to understand and to honour the claim that is opposed to ours
and to endeavour to reconcile both claims. We cannot renounce the Jewish claim;
something even higher than the life of our people is bound up with the Land,
namely, the work that is their divine mission. But we have been and still are
convinced that it must be possible to find some form of agreement between this
claim and the other; for we love this land and we believe in its future, and, seeing
that such love and such faith are surely present on the other side as well, a union
in the common service of the Land must be within the range of the possible.
Where there is faith and love, a solution may be found even to what appears to be
a tragic contradiction.
In order to carry out a task of such extreme difficulty - and recognising that we
have to overcome an internal resistance on the Jewish side, as foolish as it is
natural - we are in need of the support of well- meaning persons of all nations,
and we had hope of it. But now you come and settle the whole existential
dilemma with the simple formula: "Palestine belongs to the Arabs."

What do you mean by saying that a land belongs to a population? Evidently

you do not intend only to describe a state of affairs by your formula, but to
declare a certain right. You obviously mean to say that a people, being settled on
the land, has such an absolute claim to the possession of this land that whoever
settles in it without the permission of this people has committed a robbery. But
by what means did the Arabs attain the right of ownership in Palestine? Surely by
conquest and, in fact, a conquest by settlement. You therefore admit that, this
being so, it constitutes for them an exclusive right of possession; whereas the
subsequent conquests of the Mamelukes and the Turks, which were not conquests
with a view to settlement, do not constitute such in your opinion, but leave the
former conquering nation in rightful ownership. Thus, settlement by force of
conquest justifies for you a right of ownership of Palestine, whereas a settlement
such as the Jewish one - whose methods, it is true, though not always doing full
justice to Arab ways of life, were, even in the most objectionable cases, far
removed from those of conquest - do not in your opinion justify any participation
in this right of possession. These are the consequences that result from your
statement in the form of an axiom that a land belongs to its population. In an
epoch of migration of nations, you would first support the right of ownership of
the nation that is threatened with dispossession or extermination. But once this
was achieved, you would be compelled - not at once, but after the elapse of a
suitable number of generations - to admit that the land belongs to the usurper.

Possibly the time is not far removed when - perhaps after a catastrophe whose
extent we cannot yet estimate - the representatives of humanity will have to come
to some agreement on the re-establishment of relations among peoples, nations
and countries, on the colonisation of thinly populated territories as well as on a
communal distribution of the necessary raw materials and on a logical
intensification of the cultivation of the globe, in order to prevent a new,
enormously extended migration of nations which would threaten to destroy
mankind. Is then the dogma of "possession," of the inalienable right of
ownership, of the sacred status quo to be held up against the men who dare to
save the situation? For surely we are witnesses of how the feeling, penetrating
deep into the heart of national life, that this dogma must be opposed is
disastrously misused. But do not those representatives of the most powerful
States share the guilt of this misuse, who consider every questioning of the dogma
as a sacrilege?

And what if it is not the nations who migrate, but one nation? And what if this
migrating nation should yearn toward its ancient home, where there is still room
for a considerable section of it, enough to form a centre side by side with the
people to whom the land now "belongs"? And what if this wandering nation, to
whom the land once belonged, likewise on the basis of a settlement by force of
conquest - and which was once driven out of it by mere force of domination -
should now strive to occupy a free part of the land, or a part that might become
free without encroaching on the living space of others, in order at last to acquire
again for itself a national home - a home where its people could live as a nation?
Then you come, Mahatma Gandhi, and help to draw the barriers and to declare,
"Hands off! This land does not belong to you!" Instead of helping to establish a
genuine peace, giving us what we need without taking from the Arabs what they
need, on the basis of a fair adjustment as to what they would really make use of
and what might be admitted to satisfy our requirements!

Such an adjustment of the required living space for all is possible if it is

brought into line with an all-embracing intensification of the cultivation of the
whole soil in Palestine. In the present, helplessly primitive state of fellah
agriculture, the amount of land needed to produce nourishment for a family is
ever so much larger than it otherwise would be. Is it right to cling to ancient
forms of agriculture, which have become meaningless, to neglect the potential
productivity of the soil, in order to prevent the immigration of new settlers
without prejudice to the old? I repeat: without prejudice. This should be the basis
of the agreement for which we are striving.

You are only concerned, Mahatma, with the "right of possession" on the one
side; you do not consider the right to a piece of free land on the other side - for
those who are hungering for it. But there is another of whom you do not inquire
and who in justice, i.e., on the basis of the whole perceptible reality, would have
to be asked. This other is the soil itself. Ask the soil what the Arabs have done
for her in thirteen hundred years and what we have done for her in fifty! Would
her answer not be weighty testimony in a just discussion as to whom this land

It seems to me that God does not give any one portion of the earth away so that
its owner may say, as God does in the Holy Scriptures: "Mine is the land". Even
to the conqueror who has settled on it, the conquered land is, in my opinion, only
loaned - and God waits to see what he will make of it.

I am told, however, that I should not respect the cultivated soil and despise the
desert. I am told that the desert is willing to wait for the work of her children.
We who are burdened with civilisation are not recognised by her anymore as her
children. I have a veneration of the desert, but I do not believe in her absolute
resistance, for I believe in the great marriage between man (adam) and earth
(adama). This land recognises us, for it is fruitful through us, and through its
fruit-bearing for us it recognises us. Our settlers do not come here as do the
colonists from the Occident, with natives to do their work for them; they
themselves set their shoulders to the plough, and they spend their strength and
their blood to make the land fruitful. But it is not only for ourselves that we
desire its fertility. The Jewish peasants have begun to teach their brothers, the
Arab peasants, to cultivate the land more intensively. We desire to teach them
further; together with them, we want to cultivate the land - to "serve" it, as the
Hebrew has it. The more fertile this soil becomes, the more space there will be
for us and for them. We have no desire to dispossess them; we want to live with
them. We do not want to rule; we want to serve with them.

You once said, Mahatma, that politics enmeshes us nowadays as with serpent’s
coils from which there is no escape, however hard one may try. You said you
desired, therefore, to wrestle with the serpent. Here is the serpent in the fullness
of its power! Jews and Arabs both have a claim to this land, but these claims are
in fact reconcilable as long as they are restricted to the measure that life itself
allots, and as long as they are limited by the desire for conciliation - that is, if they
are translated into the language of the needs of living people for themselves and
their children. But instead of this, they are turned through the serpent’s influence
into claims of principle and politics, and are represented with all the ruthlessness
that politics instils into those who are led by it. Life with all its realities and
possibilities disappears, as does the desire for truth and peace; nothing is known
and sensed but the political slogan alone. The serpent conquers not only the spirit
but also life. Who would wrestle with it?

In the midst of your arguments, Mahatma, there is a fine word which we

gratefully accept. We should seek, you say, to convert the heart of the Arab.
Well, then - help us to do so! Among us also there are many foolish hearts to
convert - hearts that have fallen prey to that nationalist egotism which only admits
its own claims. We hope to achieve this ourselves. But for the other task of
conversion, we need your help. Instead, your admonition is addressed only to the
Jews, because they allow British bayonets to defend them against the bomb
throwers. Your attitude to the latter is much more reserved. You say you wish the
Arabs had chosen the way of non-violence, but, according to the accepted canons
of right and wrong, there is nothing to be said against their behaviour. How is it
possible that, in this case, you should give credence - if only in a limited form - to
the accepted canons, whereas you have never done so before! You reproach us
that, having no army of our own, we consent to the British army preventing an
occasional blind murder. But, in view of the accepted canons, you cast a lenient
eye on those who carry murder into our ranks every day without even noticing
who is hit. Were you to look down on all, Mahatma, on what is done and what is
not done on both sides - on the just and the unjust on both sides - would you not
admit that we certainly are not least in need of your help?

We began to settle again in the Land thirty-five years before the "shadow of the
British gun" was cast upon it. We did not seek this shadow; it appeared and re-
mained here to guard British interests and not ours. We do not want force. But
after the resolutions of Delhi, at the beginning of March 1922, you yourself,
Mahatma Gandhi, wrote: "Have I not repeatedly said that I would have India
become free even by violence rather than that she should remain in bondage?"
This was a very important pronouncement on your part; you asserted thereby that
non-violence is for you a faith and not a political principle - and that the desire for
the freedom of India is even stronger in you than your faith. And for this, I love
you. We do not want force. We have not proclaimed, as did Jesus, the son of our
people, and as you do, the teaching of non-violence, because we believe that a
man must sometimes use force to save himself or even more his children. But
from time immemorial we have proclaimed the teaching of justice and peace; we
have taught and we have learned that peace is the aim of all the world and that
justice is the way to attain it. Thus, we cannot desire to use force. No one who
counts himself in the ranks of Israel can desire to use force.

But, you say, our non-violence is that of the helpless and the weak. This is not
in accordance with the true state of affairs. You do not know or you do not
consider what strength of soul, what satyagraha has been needed for us to restrain
ourselves here after years of ceaseless deeds of blind violence perpetrated against
us, our wives, and our children, and not to answer with like deeds of blind
violence. And on the other hand, you, Mahatma, wrote in 1922: "I see that our
non-violence is skin deep.... This non-violence seems to be due merely to our
helplessness... Can true voluntary non-violence come out of this seemingly forced
non-violence of the weak?" When I read those words at that time, my reverence
for you took birth - a reverence so great that even your injustice toward us cannot
destroy it.

You say it is a stigma against us that our ancestors crucified Jesus. I do not
know whether that actually happened, but I consider it possible. I consider it just
as possible as that the Indian people under different circumstances should
condemn you to death - if your teachings were more strictly opposed to their own
tendencies ("India," you say, "is by nature nonviolent"). Nations not infrequently
swallow up the greatness to which they have given birth. Now, can one assert,
without contradiction, that such action constitutes a stigma! I would not deny
however, that although I should not have been among the crucifiers of Jesus, I
should also not have been among his supporters. For I cannot help withstanding
evil when I see that it is about to destroy the good. I am forced to withstand the
evil in the world just as the evil within myself. I can only strive not to have to do
so by force. I do not want force. But if there is no other way of preventing the
evil destroying the good, I trust I shall use force and give myself up into God’s

"India," you say, "is by nature nonviolent." It was not always so. The
Mahabharata is an epos of warlike, disciplined force. In the greatest of its
poems, the Bhagavad Gita, it is told how Arjuna decides on the battlefield that he
will not commit the sin of killing his relations who are opposed to him, and he lets
fall his bow and arrow. But the god reproaches him, saying that such action is
unmanly and shameful; there is nothing better for a knight in arms than a just
Is that the truth? If I am to confess what is truth to me, I must say: There is
nothing better for a man than to deal justly - unless it be to love. We should be
able even to fight for justice - but to fight lovingly.

I have been very slow in writing this letter to you, Mahatma. I made repeated
pauses - sometimes days elapsed between short paragraphs - in order to test my
knowledge and my way of thinking. Day and night I took myself to task,
searching whether I had not in any one point overstepped the measure of self-
preservation allotted and even prescribed by God to a human community, and
whether I had not fallen into the grievous error of collective egotism. Friends and
my own conscience have helped to keep me straight whenever danger threatened.
Weeks have now passed since then, and the time has come, when negotiations are
proceeding in the capital of the British Empire on the Jewish-Arab problem - and
when, it is said, a decision is to be made.

But the true decision in this matter can come only from within and not from

I therefore take the liberty of closing this letter without waiting for the result in

Sincerely yours,
Martin Buber



Dear Mr. Gandhi,

What you have said recently about the Jews is the one statement I have yet
seen which needs to be grappled with fundamentally. Your statement is a
challenge, particularly to those of us who have imagined ourselves your disciples.

I am sure you must be right in asserting that the Jews of Germany can offer
Satyagraha to the "godless fury of their dehumanised oppressors".

But how and when? You do not give the answer. You may say that you are
not sufficiently acquainted with the German persecution to outline the practical
technique of Satyagraha for use by the German Jews. But one of the great things
about you and your doctrine has been that you have always emphasised the

From Two Letters to Gandhi from Martin Buber and J.L. Magnes. Jerusalem: Rubin Mass, April
1939. (Pamphlet of the group "Bond").
chance of practical success if Satyagraha be offered. Yet to the German Jews you
have not given the practical advice which only your unique experience could
offer, and I wonder if it is helpful merely in general terms to call upon the Jews of
Germany to offer Satyagraha. I have heard that many a Jew of Germany has
asked himself how and when Satyagraha must be offered, without finding the
answer. Conditions in Germany are radically different from those that have
prevailed in South Africa and in India. Those of us who are outside Germany
must, I submit, think through most carefully the advice we proffer the
unfortunates who are caught in the claws of the Hitler beast.

If you take the sentences of your statement as to what you would do were you
a German Jew, you will find, I believe, that not only one German Jew, as you
require, has had "courage and vision", but many whose names are known and
many more who have borne witness to their faith without their names being

"I would claim Germany as my home". There has never been a community
more passionately attached to its home than the German Jews to Germany. The
thousands of exiles now to be found everywhere are so thoroughly German
mentally, psychologically, in their speech, manners, prejudices, their outlook, that
we wonder how many generations it may take before this is uprooted. The history
of the Jews in Germany goes back to at least Roman times and though the Jews
throughout their history there have been massacred and driven out on diverse
occasions, one thing or the other has always brought them back there.

"I would challenge him to shoot me or to cast me into the dungeon". Many
Jews - hundreds, thousands - have been shot. Hundreds, thousands have been cast
into the dungeon. What more can Satyagraha give them? I ask this question in
humility, for I am sure that you can give a constructive answer.

"I would not wait for fellow Jews to join me in civil resistance, but would have
confidence that in the end the rest are bound to follow my example". But the
question is how can Jews in Germany offer civil resistance? The slightest sign of
resistance means killing or concentration camps or being done away with
otherwise. It is usually in the dead of night that they are spirited away. No one,
except their terrified families, is the wiser. It makes not even a ripple on the
surface of German life. The streets are the same, business goes on as usual, the
casual visitor sees nothing. Contrast this with a single hunger strike in an
American or English prison, and the public commotion that this arouses. Contrast
this with one of your fasts, or with your salt march to the sea, or a visit to the
Viceroy, when the whole world is permitted to hang upon your words and be
witness to your acts. Has not this been possible largely because, despite all the
excesses of its imperialism, England is after all a democracy with a Parliament
and a considerable measure of free speech? I wonder if even you would find the
way to public opinion in totalitarian Germany, where life is snuffed out like a
candle, and no one sees or knows that the light is out.
"If one Jew or all the Jews were to accept the prescriptions here offered, he or
they cannot be worse off than now". Surely you do not mean that those Jews who
are able to get out of Germany are as badly off as those who must remain? You
call attention to the unbelievable ferocity visited upon all the Jews because of the
crime of "one obviously mad but intrepid youth". But the attempt at civil
resistance on the part of even one Jew in Germany, let alone the community,
would be regarded as an infinitely greater crime and would probably be followed
by a repetition of this unbelievable ferocity, or worse.

"And suffering voluntarily undergone will bring them an inner strength and
joy". I wonder that no one has drawn your attention to the fact that those German
Jews who are faithful to Judaism - and they are the majority - have in large
measure the inner strength and joy that comes from suffering for their ideals. It is
those unfortunate "non-Aryans", who have a trace of Jewish blood but who have
been brought up as German Christians, who are most to be pitied. They are made
to suffer, and they do not know why. Many of them have been raised to despise
Jews and Judaism, and now this despised people, this scorned religion is, in their
eyes, the cause of their suffering. What a tragedy for them.

But as to the Jews - I do not know if there is a deeper and more widespread
history of martyrdom. You can read the story of it in any Jewish history book, or,
if you wish a convenient account, in the Jewish Encyclopedia published in New
York a generation ago. To take Germany alone, you may be interested in one
document that has come down to us from the middle ages. It is called the
Memorbuch of Nuernberg - Nuernberg of the Nuernberg laws, whose synagogue
has just been torn down and a 15th century covering of a Scroll of the Law stolen
and presented recently to the city's arch-fiend.

The Memorbuch gives a list of the places where massacres took place in
Germany during the Crusades from 1096 to 1298. There are some fifty of these
massacres entered chronologically. There is a further entry of some 65 large
pages containing dates and places with the names of those martyred from 1096 to
1349. Take what happened in this very Nuernberg on Friday the 22nd of Ab 5058
of the Jewish calendar, the 1st August 1298 of the Christian calendar. We find
the names of 628 men, women and children, whole families, old and young,
strong and sick, rabbis and scholars, rich and poor, slaughtered on that day -
burned, drowned, put to the sword, strangled, broken on the wheel and on the
rack. In some places the elders killed the young, and then put an end to their own

In Spain and Portugal where Jews were given the chance of conversion to
Christianity, what usually happened in a stricken town was, that about a third
converted, and a third succeeded in escaping, and always at least a third accepted
their agony with the praise of God and his Unity on their lips. Our Hebrew
literature is in many ways a literature of martyrdom. Our Talmud, which covers
a period of about 1000 years, is a literature that grew up in large measure under
oppression, exile and martyrdom, and it contains discussions, traditions and rules
bearing upon our duty to accept martyrdom rather than yield to "idolatry,
immorality, or the spilling of blood". The Hebrew liturgy throbs with elegies in
which poets and teachers commemorate the martyrs of one generation after

If ever a people was a people of non-violence through century after century, it

was the Jews. I think they need learn but little from anyone in faithfulness to their
God and in their readiness to suffer while they sanctify His Name.

What is new and great about you has seemed to me this, that you have exalted
non-violence into the dominant principle of all of life, both religious, social and
political, and that you have made it into a practical technique both of communing
with the Divine and of battling for a newer world of justice and mercy and of
respect for the human personality of even the most insignificant outcast. What
you could give to help the Jew add to his precious contribution to mankind, "the
surpassing contribution of non-violent action", is not as much the exhortation to
suffer voluntarily, as the practical technique of Satyagraha.

You would have the right to say that some Jew should do this. But we have no
one comparable to you as religious and political leader.

There are, as I am aware, other elements besides non-violence in Satyagraha.

There is non-Cupertino, and the renunciation of property, and the disdain of

The Jews are a people who exalt life, and they can hardly be said to disdain
death. Lev. 18, 5 says: "my judgements which if a man do he shall live in them",
and the interpretation adds as a principle of Jewish life "and not die through
them". For this reason I have often wondered if we are fit subjects for
Satyagraha. And as to property, it is but natural that Jews should want to take
along with them a minimum of their property from Germany or elsewhere so as
not to fall a burden upon others. It would, I am sure, give you satisfaction to see
how large numbers of refugees, who in Germany were used to wealth, comfort,
culture, have without too much complaint and very often cheerfully buckled down
to a new life in Palestine and elsewhere, many of them in the fields or in menial
employment in the cities.

It is in the matter of non-Cupertino that I have a question of importance to put

to you.

A plan is being worked out between the Evian Refugee Committee and the
German Government which appears to be nothing short of devilish. The details
are not yet known. But it seems to amount to this: The German Government is to
confiscate all German Jewish property and in exchange for increased foreign trade
and foreign currency they will permit a limited number of Jews to leave Germany
annually for the next several years. The scheme involves the sale of millions of
pounds of debentures to be issued by a Refugee or Emigration Bank that is to be
created. Whether Governments are to subscribe to these debentures, I do not
know. But certainly the whole Jewish world will be called upon to do so.

Here is the dilemma: If one does not subscribe, no Jews will be able to escape
from this prison of torture called Germany. If one does subscribe one will be co-
operating with that Government, and be dealing in Jewish flesh and blood in a
most modern and up-to-date slave market. I see before me here in Jerusalem a
child who is happy now that he is away from the torment there, and his brother, or
parent, or grandparent. One of the oldest of Jewish sayings is: "Who saves a
single soul in Israel is as if he had saved a whole world". Not to save a living
soul? And yet to cooperage with the powers of evil and darkness? Have you an

You touch upon a vital phase of the whole subject when you say that "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 and province."

But it is on "the pros and cons of such a war" that I would ask your guidance.
The question gives me no rest, and I am sure there are many like myself. Like
you I do not believe in any war. I have pledged myself never to take part in a
war. I spoke up for pacifism in America during the world war alongside of many
whose names are known to you. That war brought the "peace" of Versailles and
the Hitlerism of today. But my pacifism, as I imagine the pacifism of many
others, is passing through a pitiless crisis. I ask myself: Suppose America,
England, France are dragged into a war with the Hitler bestiality, what am I to do
and what am I to teach? This war may destroy a large part of the life of the youth
of the world and force those who remain alive to lead the lives of savages. Yet I
know I would pray with all my heart for the defeat of the Hitler inhumanity; and
am I then to stand aside and let others do the fighting? During the last war I
prayed for a peace without defeat or victory.

The answer given by Romain Rolland in his little book Par la revolution la
paix (1935), seems to be, that while he himself as an individual continues to
refuse to bear arms, he will do everything he can to help his side (in this case,
Russia) to win the war. That is hardly a satisfying answer.

I ask myself how I might feel if I were not a Jew. Is the Hitler iniquity really
as profound as I imagine? I recall that during the last war the arguments against
Germany were much the same as these of today. I took no stock in those
arguments then. Perhaps it is the torture of my own people that enrages me
unduly? Yet it is my conviction that, being a Jew, my sense of outrage at injustice
may, perhaps, be a bit more alive than the average and therefore more aware of
the evils that the Hitler frenzy is bringing upon all mankind. The Jew, scattered
as he is, is an outpost, bearing the brunt earlier of an action against mankind, and
bearing it longest. For a dozen reasons he is a convenient scapegoat. I say this in
order to make the point that if the Jew is thoroughly aroused about an evil such as
the Hitler madness, his excitement and indignation are apt to be based not only on
personal hurt but on a more or less authentic appraisal of the evil that must be

If you will take the trouble of looking at the little pamphlet I am sending,
Fellowship in War (1936), you will see that I have an ineradicable belief that no
war whatsoever can be a righteous war. The war tomorrow for the "democracies"
or for some other noble slogan will be just as unrighteous or as fatuous as was the
"war to save democracy" yesterday. Moreover, to carry on the war the
democracies will perforce become totalitarian. Not even a war against the ghastly
Hitler savagery can be called righteous, for we all of us have sinned, conquerors
and conquered alike, and it is because of our sins, because of our lack of
generosity and the spirit of conciliation and renunciation, that the Hitler beast has
been enabled to raise its head. Even on the pages of the Nuernberg Memorbuch
we find the words "Because of our many sins" this and that massacre took place.
There can be no war for something good. That is a contradiction in terms. The
good is to be achieved through totally different means.

But a war against something evil? If the Hitler cruelty launches a war against
you, what would you do, what will you do? Can you refrain from making a
choice? It is a choice of evils - a choice between the capitalisms, the
imperialisms, the militarisms of the western democracies and between the Hitler
religion. Can one hesitate as to which is the lesser of these two evils? Is not a
choice therefore imperative? I am all too painfully conscious that I am beginning
to admit that if Hitler hurls his war upon us we must resist. For us it would thus
become, not a righteous war, nor, to use your term, a justifiable war, but a
necessary war, not for something good, but, because no other choice is left us,
against the greater evil. Or do you know of some other choice?

I have already written you an inordinately long letter, but I must abuse your
patience further and refer to Palestine, I hope in not too lengthy a way.

I am burdening you with a further pamphlet of mine called Like all the
Nations?. May I refer you to pages 14 and 15, and then to pages 29-32. You will
see that on page 31, I say that we must overcome all obstacles in Palestine
"through all the weapons of civilisation except bayonets .. brotherly, friendly
weapons", and on page 32 the Jew "should not either will or believe in or want a
Jewish Home that can be maintained in the long run only against the violent
opposition of the Arab and Moslem peoples." There are other Jews who hold the
same views and who regard the Mandate as suspect because, as you say, "the
Mandate has no sanction but that of the last war". In an address in New York in
May 1919, I said: "Palestine is, so they say, to be given to the Jewish people. To
my mind, no peace conference has the right to give any land to any people even
though it be the land of Israel to the People of Israel. If self-determination be a
true principle for other peoples, it is just as true for the Jewish people... If we are
to be true democrats we must be true democrats in Jewish life as well. Our new
beginnings in Palestine are burdened by this gift." (page 60 of the above

But the attachment of Israel to Palestine is as old as the Bible, and there has
been no period of history in which this attachment has not expressed itself, and, as
we know more and more clearly from archaeological excavations and the
recovery of lost documents, there has never been a time when Jewish settlements
were utterly absent from the Holy Land.

Jewish life will always be lacking in an essential constituent, if Judaism and

the Jewish people have no spiritual and intellectual Centre in Palestine. It is true
they can exist without it, as history shows, but they have never ceased
experiencing the deep need for such a Centre and of trying to establish it in
Palestine on innumerable occasions. Such a spiritual and religious Centre must,
for the Jewish people, take on the qualities of a National Home. The Jewish
people are not like the Catholic Church for whom the ecclesia is the supreme
authority. Judaism is peculiar in this, that it derives its final authority out of the
life, the sufferings, the aspirations, the accumulated traditions, the God-
consciousness of a people composed of ordinary everyday, hard-working human
beings. It is for this reason that the Jewish Centre cannot be composed only of
priests and scholars. The Jewish Centre to fulfil its true functions should be
endowed with all the problems and possibilities that life itself imposes, and, as no
one knows better than yourself, life expresses itself in many forms, political and
social, as well as religious and spiritual.

It is, I think, in recognition of all of this that 52 nations accepted the doctrine
that the Jews are in Palestine as of "right" and not just on sufferance. Do you not
think that all of this, added to the barbarous treatment meted out to the Jews in all
too many places, constitutes a kind of "right" at least as valid as the other varieties
of "rights"?

But essential as this Centre, or National Home, seems to be, in the opinion of
many, for Judaism and the Jews, I think you would find great numbers of Jews
agreeing with you that "it would be a crime against humanity to reduce the proud

The question is, what is meant by reduce, and are the Arabs being reduced?

You say that "Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same sense that England
belongs to the English".
"Mine is the land" (Lev. 25, 23) saith the Lord.

May I point out at least two ways in which Palestine does not "belong" to the
Arabs as England does to the English?

Usually a land "belongs" to that people which has conquered it. That is an
ugly fact. The Jews conquered the land long ago. They lost it to conquerors, who
themselves lost it, and eventually the Arabs conquered it. But the Arabs lost it to
the Crusaders, and they again to the Arabs, and they to the Mongols and to the
Mameluks, and they to the Turks, from whom it was conquered by the Allied
Powers, primarily by England. The Arabs do not therefore possess political
sovereignty from conquest, and the land does not "belong" to them in this sense.

Palestine does "belong" to the Arabs in the sense that they have been in the
land in large numbers since the Moslem conquest, that most (by no means all) of
those working the land are Arabs, and most (by no means all) of those owning the
land are Arab landholders (a comparatively small number), and Arabic is the chief
spoken language.

But Palestine is different from England also in this, that it is a sacred land for
three monotheistic religions, and in this, that a people, the Jews, who became a
people in Palestine and whose great classic, the basis of whose life, the Bible, was
produced there, have never throughout all the centuries forgotten the land and
ceased to yearn for it.

That is a unique fact of no mean importance.

The basic problem is, as you put it, the need for the Jews of settling in
Palestine "with the goodwill of the Arabs", and not "under the shadow of the
British gun".

I would not be honest if I conveyed the impression to you that in my opinion

my people have always gone at this in the right way. They have done wonderful
things in building up the land. They have planned intelligently and with high
social ideals. They have borne sufferings and hardships willingly. They love the
land and they have rescued it from further decay. They have revived the Hebrew
tongue. In this sense the land also "belongs" to them. But I am sure that it has
been the tragic pressure of Jewish life in Central and Eastern Europe that has
made my people impatient and often intolerant. The tragedy of the Jewish
wanderer and refugee did not begin with Germany. We have had this problem
with us always, and it was one of the chief reasons for the rise of modern
Zionism. And now with the German barbarities, and what is impending in Poland
and elsewhere, the pressure for space and a Home has grown to be almost
During the past three years when the Jewish community here has been under
continual attack, it is a fact that the Jewish community has been non-violent. Our
young men and women are hot-blooded as are others. But there are very few
recorded cases of attack on their part and there have been no ascertained reprisals.
This self-restraint, this Havlaga, as it is called, can be ascribed to many factors.
But, as the never ceasing discussion of Havlaga shows, a deep ethical passion has
been the predominant factor in this non-violence.

I wonder therefore if the question of the Jews offering "Satyagraha in front of

the Arabs" arises in Palestine. The Jewish youth has had organised self-defence
units which are now, for the most part, merged with the constituted forces of the
country. As far as I am aware, you do not advocate the abolition of police or
military forces anywhere. The record shows that in no single instance have the
legalised Jewish forces in Palestine committed an act of aggression. I should like
to know if you think that the Jewish settlements should have remained, or should
now be, unarmed, and that when bands come into a town like Tiberias and murder
and mutilate babes in their mothers' arms, they should offer "themselves to be
shot or thrown into the Dead Sea without raising a little finger against them". As
I have understood Satyagraha, it must, in order to be effective, be offered in front
of Constituted Authority, and not in front of roving bandits.

Will you not speak to the Arabs in terms of Satyagraha? That would also have
a profound influence upon the Jews.

Great as is the need for finding a refuge in Palestine for persecuted Jews, and
great as are the possibilities of spiritual and intellectual, social and political
achievements in the Jewish National Home, there are very many who agree with
you that we must not "reduce" the Arabs. If I understand what you mean by the
word "reduce" I would give it as my opinion, after many years of residence in
Palestine, that the Arabs have not been reduced. But that does not at all absolve
the Jews from the primary duty and the vital necessity of "seeking to convert the
Arab heart". Perhaps you could help us in this through suggestions?

Sincerely Yours,


Jerusalem, February 26, 1939

P.S. You may be interested in a third pamphlet containing a recent address at the
Hebrew University on the Jews of Bologna, Italy, particularly from page 8


In his article concerning the Jewish question, a statement for which certain
elements in Jewry have long waited with impatience, the spiritual leader of Young
India directs against us two important accusations. He blames us for not
exhibiting the heroism of militant pacifism in those lands where Jews are
persecuted, and especially in Germany. On the other hand, he accuses us of
following an aggressively nationalist - almost imperialist - policy in Palestine and
of a desire to deprive the Arabs of their fatherland.

Gandhi’s first accusation is quite natural and is in complete harmony with his
entire world outlook. His temperament does not tolerate passivity and his ethical-
religious convictions dictate to him the duty of heroic and active resistance
according to the principle of Satyagraha.

The motivating idea of Satyagraha is not, as some claim, a practical strategy

which Gandhi "made to order" to meet the concrete demands of the Indian
situation. Long ago he advocated it as a universal ideal which could be applied by
all the oppressed and injured everywhere and independently of the specific
historical situation. Personally, I feel that the individual and group struggles
according to the plan of Satyagraha - aside from its moral-religious implications -
have proved to be practical and effective. The truth of the Satyagraha teaching -
which in another form has been expressed by Jesus and other Jewish teachers
many generations ago - is in my eyes as self-evident as a mathematical axiom.
But I must admit to myself in order to apply Gandhi’s method of struggle, it is
necessary to accept it not only on a purely intellectual plane; it is also imperative
that it be assimilated emotionally, that it should be believed in with all the force of
one’s being. Such faith the Jews of Germany do not possess. Faith in the principle
of Satyagraha is a matter of special predisposition which, for numerous reasons,
the German Jews have not developed. The civilisation in which German Jews
have lived for so many generations, and to the creation of which they have so
energetically and ably contributed, has not prepared them for the "pathos" of
Satyagraha. As a result, they are now defenceless, The accepted defence
methods of the European-American world cannot be applied by the German Jews.
They cannot resort to passive resistance because they lack the heroism, the faith
and the specific imaginative powers which alone can stimulate such heroism.
When Gandhi accuses German Jews of lacking that mentality which, in his
estimation, is the only truly heroic mentality, I am ready to concur with him, but
with one reservation which he also must accept - that this accusation should also
be levelled against the millions of non-Jewish Germans who wear the yoke of the

Hayim Greenberg, The Inner Eye; Selected Essays. New York: Jewish Frontier Association,
Inc., 1953.
Hitler regime with impotent hatred and show no more affinity for Satyagraha
methods than do the Jews; against the millions of Italians who for years have
breathed the contaminated air of their own tyranny; against the tens of millions of
Russians who have exhausted their strength in civil war and do not find their way
to the Gandhi method of resisting the Red despotism; against hundreds of millions
of Chinese who by their military resistance aid the Japanese aggressors to ravage
their country instead of following the path of non-Cupertino.

It is true that one may demand - as Gandhi does - that Jews, and particularly the
Jews of Germany, should be the "pioneers" of new forms of social struggle in the
Western world and should be the first to embrace the practice of Satyagraha.
Gandhi wishes that we should set an example to the non-Jewish Germans, that we
should point the way to a spiritual crusade against their wicked government. He
may have a sound reason for believing that the incomparable suffering and
degradation to which German Jews are subjected "compels" them to act more
heroically and to be more "adventurous" spiritually than their neighbours. I do
not question the idea implicit in Gandhi’s demand, that there is a mutual
relationship between the intensity of suffering and the intensity of the moral
reaction to suffering. But there is no reason to assume that when suffering and
insults transgress certain bounds it is quite natural that the reaction should be a
feeling of futility and despair instead of that heroism which Gandhi suggests.
This is especially true when the group concerned is historically and
psychologically not prepared for such a catastrophe and therefore looks upon it as
a sudden and unexpected occurrence. The prophet of Young India has in this
instance exhibited an unusual lack of psychological understanding.

Gandhi should also have understood that it is far less simple to preach
Satyagraha to German Jews than it is to Indian masses, even to the lowest caste of
"untouchables". We all know the evils of English rule and administration in
India. But one should be wary of drawing comparisons between the situation of
the Indian masses today, or even twenty years ago, and the position of the German
Jews today. Throughout the years that the Indian National Congress conducted its
struggle for emancipation, there existed in India scores of legal newspapers and
journals which voiced the needs and the political demands of the people. The
British government never questioned the right of the oppressed population to live,
to work and to earn their bread; it did not even question their right to hold
responsible government positions. The most brutal British administration bore in
mind that it had to deal with 350 million people living compactly in one area.
Together with Gandhi it understood that, to use his (Gandhi’s) own words, "If we
Indians could only spit in unison, we would form a puddle big enough to drown
300,000 Englishmen" - the entire number of Englishmen who live in India and
govern it. When Satyagraha is practised by an organised group that is backed by
such an immense population it becomes a force that the scattered half million
German Jews cannot even dream of. Let me cite the words of one of Gandhi’s
disciples and colleagues who, just before he was sent to prison, declared: "We can
thank our lucky stars that we are fighting the British and not someone else, for the
British have something in them to which we can appeal." The same British judge
who sentenced Gandhi to prison found it possible and unpunishable to declare,
after pronouncing sentence, that it was the law which sends Gandhi to prison but
that he personally looks upon him as "a great patriot and a great leader"; that
"even those who differed from Gandhi look upon him as a man of high ideals and
of noble and even saintly life." At the same time one of the most prominent
British missionaries compared Gandhi’s trial to the trials of Jesus and Socrates,
and the English Bishop of Madras declared to the entire world: "Frankly I
confess, although it deeply grieves me to say it, that I see in Mr. Gandhi the
patient sufferer for the cause of righteousness and mercy, a truer representative of
the crucified Saviour than the men who have thrown him into prison and yet call
themselves by the name of Christ."

Only recently I met an Englishman, an ex-army officer in India (now a member

of Parliament), who had been brave enough to refuse to carry out the command to
arrest Gandhi, with the full knowledge of the punishment prescribed for such
insubordination. That punishment was not meted out. Even during the days of
General Dyer’s brutal administration in India there did not reign that bestiality
and "moral anaesthesia" which characterise the Germany of today. A Jewish
Gandhi in Germany, should one arise could `function' for about five minutes -
until the first Gestapo agent would lead him, not to a concentration camp, but
directly to the gallows.

Gandhi demands heroism from the Indians; he demands of the German Jews a
measure of super-heroism unexampled in history. Gandhi’s comparison of the
situation of the Indians to that of the German Jews contains an element of
unfairness which crept in against his will and against his intentions.

But if Gandhi demands that we practise super-heroism in Germany, he requests

that in Palestine we should renounce the most elementary rights which every
people may and should claim. When he asks why we do not "like the other
peoples of the earth" make our home in the land where we are born and where we
earn our livelihood he indicates that he has not pondered the unusual drama of the
paradoxical Jewish history. Jews have been dispersed for many generations, and it
could not be an accident that after sojourning in so many lands and with so many
peoples they have not become so rooted in those countries that these should cease
being "stepmother lands". Gandhi should have known of the numerous attempts
the Jews have made throughout the ages to transform lands of refuge into true
homes, beginning with Babylonia and the Hellenic city of Alexandria in Egypt.
The contribution of the Jews to the economic growth and the cultural blossoming
of those countries is sufficient proof of this attempt to become rooted which has
so frequently ended in failure. Gandhi’s question rings like a veiled accusation; it
sounds as if we have purposely refused to become rooted in any country but
Palestine. If it should be true that we have condemned ourselves to remain eternal
strangers, then such an unusual phenomenon in human history should have
evoked Gandhi’s wonder and he should have asked whether the Jews do not bear
within themselves unrealised forces which can only manifest themselves in a
Jewish territorial environment where these may come to fruition.

But Gandhi refuses to recognise our right to a distinct territorial settlement, a

right which is enjoyed, almost without exception, by all the peoples of the world.
Were it not so, he would see the Palestine problem in an altogether different
political and moral light. For when he says that "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 Homeland" he forgets that if national honour is
at stake (this is the burden of his statement, and he knows full well that one may
not repeat the discredited allegations of economic or cultural harm that Jews
supposedly caused to Arabs) he should also have thought of Jewish honour.
Either it is dishonourable to be a minority in a country or it is merely a question of
fictitious prestige for which he can have no sympathy. If only pseudo-honour is
involved, why should he be concerned lest the "proud Arabs" be deprived of the
enjoyment of an inflated pride? But if real national honour is at stake, why should
the Arabs enjoy it throughout the length and breadth of the Arabian peninsula,
Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Trans-Jordan, and Egypt (an area almost as large as the
European continent) while the Jews should be deprived of this honour even in an
area which occupies about one percent of the above-mentioned lands, an area to
which they have historical claims and the natural right they acquired during two
generations of diligent work, initiative, heroism and suffering?

I do not claim that so-called historical rights possess absolute validity. It if is

true, for instance, that Gypsies came to Europe from a certain section of India
and that section is now completely settled, no intelligent being would claim that
the Gypsies have a right to build their national home in that area. They could do
so only through the expulsion of the present population. Jewish historical rights
to Palestine are of an altogether different nature. The country is underpopulated
and inadequately cultivated; it contains room for several times the number of
people that now reside in it. For Jews Palestine is the cradle and the "laboratory"
of their civilisation and their spiritual bond with the country was not broken at any
time during their history. For the Arabs Palestine is, in a certain sense, an
"accidental" geographical unit for which they do not even have a name. To this
day Palestine is only "South Syria" to the Arabs.

Need anything more be added to explain Jewish rights to Palestine? In eastern

Europe an anecdote is current (an anecdote the implications of which are
altogether too frequently overlooked) concerning a thief whom the judge chided
in the following words: "Don’t you know that it is forbidden to take anything that
belongs to others"? But the thief posed an intellectual dilemma before the judge.
"What shall I do," he asked the judge, "since at the time of my birth everything
already belonged to other people?" Absolute poverty, in a world filled with riches,
confers a natural right upon those whom fate mistreated to demand their share,
first of all at the expense of those who possess too much, more than they need or
can use. One may not say to Jews: "The world is already divided up; some
received more and others less but there is nothing left for you and no one is
obliged to share with you, even though he possesses fields which he cannot or
does not wish to cultivate, or factories where the machines are left to rust in
inaction, simply because at one time he succeeded in obtaining these possessions
by force or through trickery." Gandhi does not realise that he has erred in
sanctioning the "absolute" nature of private property and its inviolability. Group
ownership of territories is also a form of private ownership which should be
subjected to control and regulation by a broader human or international principle.
Although he is not a Socialist in the accepted meaning of the term, Gandhi is
aware that the property relationships between individual members of society will
have to be modified in some way in order to attain a minimum of justice. Earnest
and logical consideration should have led him to the conclusion that the same
criterion of justice - the assurance of the necessary minimum to every creature
that is stamped with "the image of God" - must also be applied to entire nations,
races and tribes. Another non-Socialist and non-internationalist (in the modern
sense of the terms), Benjamin Franklin, several generations ago admirably
expressed this simple idea in a letter to Robert Morris. He said: "All property
except the savage’s temporary cabin, his bow, and other little acquisitions
absolutely necessary for his subsistence, seems to me the creature of public
convention. Hence, the public has the right of regulating descents, and all other
conveyances of property, and even of limiting the quantity and the uses of it. All
the property that is necessary to a man for the conservation of the individual and
the propagation of the species, is his natural right which none may justly deprive
him of; but all property superfluous to such purposes is the property of the public,
who, by their laws, have created it, and who may therefore, by other laws, dispose
of it, when ever the welfare of the public shall demand such disposition. He that
does not like civil society on these terms, let him retire and live among savages.
He can have no right to the benefits of society, who will not pay his club toward
the support of it."

Had Gandhi taken the trouble to consider this elementary truth in relation to
present-day reality, he would also not have written in such a tone of near-disdain
about the Mandate. From a purely legalistic point of view, it may be possible to
agree with him that "the mandates have no sanction but that of the last war". This
does not mean, however, that the basic idea of the mandates, and even the
mandatory system as it has been practised during the past twenty years, was born
from the war. The idea underlying the mandates which, according to the
constitution of the League of Nations, should be applied in territories where the
population is not ready for self-government or where local interests must be
subordinated to more important considerations of an international character, is
potentially of great humanitarian significance. It is a prelude to that "civil
society" of which Franklin wrote in the eighteenth century; it is a way to a more
rational and just collective-international control of the world’s wealth. I am not
unaware of the shortcomings with which the League of Nations is weighed down
nor of its sad fate during recent years which also brought misfortune to all
humanity. But whoever observed closely the activities of the League in the
administration of mandated territories - naturally excluding those areas mandated
to Japan, a country which cynically mocked League control even when its
representatives were still sitting at Geneva - must admit that the mandatory
system is a step forward when compared with the uncontrolled colonial regimes
of the past and the present. The fact that a mandatory government is responsible
to the Permanent Mandates Commission, in which the majority of the members
represent governments possessing neither mandates or colonial possessions, is in
itself an advance in the direction of internationalism and the humanisation of the

It is regrettable that Gandhi approached our problem without that fundamental

earnestness and passionate search for truth which are so characteristic of his usual
treatment of problems. He therefore missed the deeper implications of the
Mandates system. He therefore also failed to grasp the unequalled tragedy of
Jewish existence. This is the reason why he can justify the phenomenon of five
Arab States demanding in London the establishment of a sixth one on the eve of
the founding of two other sovereign Arab governments in Syria and Lebanon,
while at the same time sanctioning the denial of refuge to Jews in their old home.
This also explains his stand that Arabs must nowhere be reduced to the status of a
minority while tens of millions of Russians, Poles, Czechs, Germans, Irish and
Italians live in dozens of countries as ethnic minorities and while Jews live as a
persecuted minority on the entire globe.

With all my respect for the Mahatma (I doubt if there is another man living
who evokes within me such a moral awareness of his loftiness), I cannot help
feeling that in the present instance he has betrayed his inner nature. 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. His understandable and praiseworthy desire for a
united front with the Mohammedans, apparently misguided and blinded him to
significant realities and deprived him of that analytical clarity which is a part of
his moral being. Years ago he was, for the same reason, misguided into
supporting the agitation for the re-establishment of the Khalifate, an institution
that is at such variance with his general views. Gandhi was wrong then; he is also
mistaken in the present instance, and the source of these mistakes seems to be the

I know that this is a serious accusation - at any rate a serious suspicion. But
when it comes from a Jew, such an accusation does not indicate a lack of
veneration. Hero worship among Jews is traditionally circumscribed. We
venerate Moses, our first prophet and liberator. But we do not forget that also he
was sinful - so sinful that God denied him entry into the Promised Land and his
earthly remains were interred on the solitary height of Mount Nebo.


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
Harijan, May 27, 1939; Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol 69, pages 289-91.
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

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


In Harijan of December 24 there is a long report of my talk with missionary

friends from Tambaram on non-violence and the world crisis.36 When during the
talk I took the illustration of the Jews, I am reported to have said:

"It is true that the Jews have not been actively violent in their own persons. But
they called down upon the Germans the curses of mankind, and they wanted
America and England to fight Germany on their behalf."

On reading the last sentence a dear friend wrote to me a fiery letter and
challenged me to produce my authority for my remark. He said that I had been
hasty in making the statement. I did not realise the importance of the rebuke. I
did, however, want to produce support for my statement. I put Pyarelal and later
Mahadev on the search. It is not always an easy task to find support for
impressions one carries when speaking or writing. Meanwhile I received a letter
from Lord Samuel supporting the contradiction of the friend referred to above.
Whilst I was having the search made I got the following letter from Sir Philip

"May I take the opportunity of saying that I agree with what my friends Mr.
Polak and Lord Samuel tell me they have written to you about the attitude of the
German Jewish refugees, of whom I have myself seen hundreds since 1933? I
have never heard one of them express publicly or privately the desire for a war of

Harijan, May 27, 1939; Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Volume 69, pages 291-92.
See Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Volume 68, pages 201-07.
vengeance against Germany. Indeed such a war would bring further misery to the
hundreds of thousands of Jews still in Germany as well as untold suffering to
millions of other innocent men and women."

I put greater diligence in my search. The searchers were not able to lay hands
on any conclusive writing. The manager of Harijan put himself in
correspondence with the Editor of the Jewish Tribune, Bombay, who sent the
following characteristic reply:

"This is not the first time that I have come across the imputation made against
Jews that they urge countries like England and America to go to war against
Germany on account of its persecution of Jews. Jews have never urged the
democracies to wage war against Germany on account of its persecution of the
Jews. This is a mischievous lie that must be nailed to the counter. If there is a
war, Jews will suffer more than the rest of the population. This is a fact gleaned
from the pages of history. And the Jew is a great lover and advocate of peace. I
hope you will refute any such allegation that is made against them."

In the face of the foregoing weighty contradictions now enforced by the Editor
of the Jewish Tribune and of the fact that I cannot lay my hands on anything on
the strength of which I made the challenged observation, I must withdraw it
without any reservation. I only hope that my observation has not harmed any
single Jew. I know that I incurred the wrath of many German friends for what I
said in all good faith.

Rajkot, May 22, 1939


A Dutch friend writes:38

"You will perhaps be able to remember me having made a drawing of you at

Romain Rolland's in 1931... I am a Dutchman and lived for many years in
Germany, where I had built up a living as an artist. Nazism, which gained hold in
Germany seven years ago, caused me many conscientious doubts...

"It is just one year ago since I left my house in Munich to spend some time in
Holland... On 10th May, by the use of every possible subtle trick, Holland was
overpowered. After four days of the most ruthless bombing we fled to England

Harijan, August 18, 1940; Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Volume 72, pages 360-61.
Only extracts are reproduced here.
and are now on our way to Java, the country of my birth, where I hope to find

"Hitler aims at nothing less than the destruction of all moral values, and in the
bulk of German youth he has already attained that end.

"Your article in Harijan about the Jewish problem in Germany particularly

interested me since I had many Jewish friends there. You say in it that, if ever a
war were justified, it is this one against Germany. In the same article, however,
you write that, if you were a Jew, you would attempt to soften the hearts of the
Nazis by non-violence. Recently you also advised Britain and the British people
to surrender their beautiful island to the German invader, without resistance by
force, and to conquer him afterwards by non-violence. There is probably no man
in the whole history who has a better knowledge of the practice of non-violence
than yourself. Your views have awakened veneration and love for you in millions
of hearts not only in India but in the outside world as well...

"Through Nazism, the German youth has lost all individuality of thought and
feeling. The great mass of young people has lost its heart and is degraded to the
level of a machine. The German conduct of the war is absolutely mechanical;
machines are driven by robot men who have no qualms of conscience about
crushing under their tanks the bodies of women and children, bombing open
towns, killing hundreds of thousands of women and children, and on occasion
using them as a screen for their advance, or distributing poisoned food. These are
all facts, the truth of which I can vouch for. I have spoken with many of your
followers about the possibility of applying non-violence against Germany. A
friend of mine, whose work it is to cross-examine German prisoners of war in
England, was deeply shocked by the spiritual narrowness and heartlessness of
these young men, and agreed with me that non-violence could not be applied with
any success against such robots..."

The friend has sent his name and address. But I withhold both for fear of harm
coming to him through unnecessary publicity. The letter must be valued on its
own intrinsic merits.

What, however, concerns me is not to so much his characterisation of Nazism

as his belief that non-violent action may have no effect on Hitler or the Germans
whom he has turned into so many robots. Non-violent action, if it is adequate,
must influence Hitler and easily the duped Germans. No man can be turned into a
permanent machine. Immediately the dead weight of authority is lifted from his
head, he begins to function normally. To lay down any such general proposition
as my friend has, betrays ignorance of the working of non-violence. The British
Government can take no risks, can make no experiments in which they have not
even a workable faith. But if ever an opportunity could be given to me, in spite of
my physical limitations, I should not hesitate to try what would appear to be
impossible. For in ahimsa it is not the votary who acts in his own strength.
Strength comes from God. If, therefore, the way is opened for me to go, he will
give me the physical endurance and clothe my word with the needed power.
Anyway all through my life I have acted in that faith. Never have I attributed any
independent strength to myself. This may be considered by men who do not
believe in a higher power than themselves as a drawback and a helpless state. I
must admit that limitation of ahimsa, if it be accounted as such.

Sevagram, August 6, 1940



“The Jewish National Home” was the theme of a conversation that Messrs.
[Sydney] Silverman, M.P., and Honick, the President of the World Jewish
Congress and the head of its organisational side, had with Gandhiji during the
week. Their object in coming to India was to canvass support for the cause of the
“Jewish National Home” in Palestine. They were perturbed over the Congress
Working Committee’s resolution on the question and were anxious to gain
Gandhiji’s support. The theme was not altogether new to Gandhiji as at the
instance of the late Mr. Kallenbach he had made a fair study of it. He had gone
through all the literature that the former had furnished him. With Mr. Kallenbach
it had become a passion. He had identified himself with the Zionist cause and had
dedicated to it a good bit of his fortune. Naturally Gandhiji had tried to take as
favourable a view of it as his friendship with Mr. Kallenbach demanded. In the
end he had given what he considered to be his best advice to Mr. Kallenbach who
had communicated it to Dr. Wise.

“Well, I am half a Jew myself,” said Gandhiji laughing as he greeted his visitors.
And when they looked puzzled he described to them his intimate friendship with
Mr. Kallenbach who was his inseparable companion in almost all he did in South
Africa and Messrs. Polak and Ritch, not to mention several others. “You have my
sympathy,” he continued, “But you have come to the wrong person. I work within
my limitations. I may not, therefore, be able to go far with you in view of your
methods which I hold to be wrong.”

There were two sides to the question, they explained. There was a small section of
terrorist hotheads. What they did was altogether wrong. But there was another
thing, not formally legal either but which he could perhaps understand and even
sympathise with. “If a crazy vessel bringing Jewish refugees comes to the
Palestinian shore,” remarked Mr. Silverman with some warmth. “I for one would
rather help in getting them ashore than help those who want to shoot them down.”

Report by Pyarelal. From Louis Fischer papers at the New York Public Library.
‘I could sympathise and even appreciate that, being a civil resister myself,”
replied Gandhiji. “I sympathised with Poland when they offered resistance to the
Germans against overwhelming odds. But that is not what you want from me.
What I would say to you therefore is that unless you can gain the ear of the Indian
Mussalmans and their active support, I am afraid there is nothing that can be done
in India. I will not be of much use to you. I gave my advice to Mr. Kallenbach and
he appreciated it too. But he could not utter the right word. It would have meant
going into the wilderness. But you try along your lines. You will get the support
of Beni Israel and the Jews in India. For instance there is David Sassoon.”

“Oh no. Money makers do not help us,” replied Mr. Silverman. “All the land in
Palestine was purchased out of the Jewish National Fund which is made of small
contributions of the poor out of their hard-earned savings. As a matter of fact one
thing with which we are reproached is that there is a condition attached to the sale
of the land purchased out of this Fund to the effect that no Arab labour can be
employed on it. We want to create a Jewish peasantry attached to the soil. We do
not want to exploit Arab labour. That should appeal to you. May we take it that
you sympathise with our aspiration to establish a national home for the Jews. We
are the only nation on earth without a country.”

Gandhiji: “Is not even English opinion divided over that issue?”

Mr. Silverman: “No, there is a difference as to the method, none over the
principle. Recently Mr. Bevin speaking in the House of Commons declared
himself in favour of establishing a Jewish Home. The word ‘national’ was
omitted. In reply to a letter which I addressed to him later he explained that
‘Jewish Home’ was only an abbreviation for ‘Jewish National Home.’ In his reply
he quoted the preamble of the Balfour declaration and reiterated that the British
Government continued to adhere to the policy laid down in that declaration.”

Gandhiji: “Let me try to understand the question. Why do you want a national
home in Palestine?”

Mr. Silverman: “Two reasons. Firstly, because six and a half lakhs of Jews are
already settled there. We cannot throw them away and begin anew. Secondly
because there is nowhere else we can go to.”

Gandhiji: “Are there not waste spaces enough in the world to receive you?”

Mr. Silverman: “Palestine itself was a waste space when we went there. We are
cynical enough to say ‘that is how we got it in 1917.’ No one else wanted it. Now
that we have developed it they want to turn us out. What guarantee is there that it
will not be the same elsewhere too? Canada, England, the South Americas,
Australia - it is the same story everywhere. We are treated as unwelcome
"Excuse my ignorance,” rejoined Gandhiji, "May I ask what the attitude of Russia
is towards the Jews?"

“They have devised a formula for the minorities which they have applied to us
too. Yiddish language is recognised in Russia as the medium of education for the
Jews. They enjoy full citizenship rights. Russia is perhaps the only country where
preaching of race hatred is penalised.”

“Now suppose,” asked Gandhiji, “Russia absorbed all the Jews, would it solve
your problem?”

“No more than the existing freedom of the Jews to settle down in the United
States,” replied the friends. “Whilst the Jews have made their contribution to
humanity’s progress wherever they have gone, it is not distinctive of the Jewish
race. Practically half the world today is more or less influenced by the thought
which the Jews sent forth when they were a nation in Palestine. Moreover Russia
would not countenance a mass immigration of the Jews. On that issue its attitude
is just like that of any other country.”

“Then you mean to say you are not a nation but are trying to become one. What
about the Arabs?”

“We are like an uprooted plant living a distorted existence. We want to regain
what we have lost. The Arabs stand to lose nothing thereby. We can settle with
the Arab population. There is no difference between the Arab labourer and the
Jewish. The trouble is created by the Arab League and the seething politics of the
Middle East.”

Gandhiji: “Then you want to convert the Arab majority into a minority?”

Messrs. Silverman and Honick admitted that the status of the Arabs was affected
to that extent and injustice done to them. But they maintained that even if they
lost their status in Palestine there would still be five independent kingdoms left
which they can call their own and with the addition of Syria and Lebanon at no
distant date there will be seven. But if we lose Palestine, we have nothing left to
us. That is our plea. It means 5% of injustice to the Arabs to avoid a denial of all
justice to the Jews.”

“So the Arabs do stand to lose something?”

“Something which they never had.”

“Before the Jewish immigration into Palestine began in 1917?”

“Yes, but under Turkish rule.”

“So you want the Arabs to sacrifice something which you want for yourself?”

“We only want them to make a little sacrifice so that justice might be done to the
general situation.”

“May I ask one thing,” finally said Gandhiji. “Cannot you control the hotheads?”

“We can,” they replied, “and we did keep them under control. They would be
again under control if we could tell them that the policy of establishing a national
home for the Jews outlined in the Balfour declaration would be given effect to.
You know how difficult it is to ask the youths to be calm and collected when five
and three millions in Europe have been massacred.”

“1 admit it is a very difficult and intricate situation,” replied Gandhiji. “But as I

have already said, I have my limitations. I can only hope that a just solution may
be found which will give satisfaction to the Jews. But after all our talk I am
unable to revise the opinion I gave you in the beginning. You should see the
Congress President and Qaid-e-Azam Jinnah too and try to gain their sympathy.
Unless you can get the active support of the Muslims nothing is possible in a
substantial way in India.”

“It is well nigh impossible,” they remarked.

“I do not minimise the difficulty,” replied Gandhiji, “but I won’t say it is


“Would Mr. Jinnah listen? He won’t.”

“He may.”

“Perhaps he may by the same token which he demands a Pakistan.”

“You can tell him that also,” said Gandhiji, and they all had a hearty laugh.


March 8, 1946


Harijan, July 21, 1946; Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Volume 84, pages 440-41.
Hitherto I have refrained practically from saying anything in public regarding
the Jew-Arab controversy. I have done so for good reasons. That does not mean
any want of interest in the question, but it does mean that I do not consider myself
sufficiently equipped with knowledge for the purpose. For the some reason I have
tried to evade many world events. Without airing my views on them, I have
enough irons in the fire. But four lines of a newspaper column have done the
trick and evoked a letter from a friend who has sent me a cutting which I would
have missed but for the friend drawing my attention to it. It is true that I did say
some such thing in the course of a long conversation with Mr. Louis Fischer on
the subject.41 I do believe that the Jews have been cruelly wronged by the world.
"Ghetto" is, so far as I am aware, the name given to Jewish locations in many
parts of Europe. But for their heartless persecution, probably no question of
return to Palestine would ever have arisen. The world should have been their
home, if only for the sake of their distinguished contribution to it.

But, in my opinion, they 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. Their citizenship of the world should have and would have made them
honoured guests of any country. Their thrift, their varied talent, their great
industry should have made them welcome anywhere. It is a blot on the Christian
world that they have been singled out, owing to a wrong reading of the New
Testament, for prejudice against them. "If an individual Jew does a wrong, the
whole Jewish world is to blame for it." If an individual Jew like Einstein makes a
great discovery or another composes unsurpassable music, the merit goes to the
authors and not to the community to which they belong.

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? If they were to adopt the matchless
weapon of non-violence whose use their best Prophets have taught and which
Jesus the Jew who gladly wore the crown of thorns bequeathed to a groaning
world, their case would be the world’s and I have no doubt that among the many
things that the Jews have given to the world, this would be the best and the
brightest. It is twice blessed. It will make them happy and rich in the true sense
of the word and it will be a soothing balm to the aching world.

Panchagani, July 14, 1946

According to the newspaper cutting Louis Fischer had quoted Gandhiji to the effect that the
Jews had a good case but he hoped the Arabs too would not be wronged.

The Jews are a persecuted people worthy of world sympathy and India
sympathises with them. They are energetic, intelligent and progressive. The Arabs
are a great people with a great history and therefore if they provide refuge for the
Jews without the mediation of any nation, it will be in their tradition of


What is the solution to the Palestine problem?

It has become a problem which is almost insoluble. If I were a Jew, I would tell
them: "Don’t be so silly as to resort to terrorism, because you simply damage your
own case which otherwise would be a proper case." If it is just political hankering
then I think there is no value in it. Why should they hanker after Palestine? They
are a great race and have great gifts. I have lived with the Jews many years in
South Africa. If it is a religious longing then surely terrorism has no place. They
should meet the Arabs, make friends with them, and not depend on British aid or
American aid or any aid, save what descends from Jehovah.


GANDHI, JUNE 1, 194744

What do you feel is the most acceptable solution to the Palestine problem?

The abandonment wholly by the Jews of terrorism and other forms of


The Hindu, May 1, 1947; Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Volume 77, page 262. Also
Biharni Komi Agman.
The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi does not indicate the occasion for the message.
Harijan, May 18, 1947; The Hindu, May 6, 1947; Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi,
Volume 87, page 417.
The Bombay Chronicle, June 2, 1947; Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Volume 88, page
This is an answer to one of several questions conveyed by Gerald J. Rock, staff correspondent
of the United Press of America.

Millions of people in India believe in the transmigration of souls. It is not for

me to judge what measure of truth such a belief contains. It is a belief that is
characteristic of more than one religion, and is not entirely foreign to that
religious civilisation in which I, as a Jew, was brought up. Gandhi believed in
reincarnation, and more than once he was asked by some of his followers whose
reincarnation he was. Who had been, so to speak, re-embodied in him. Some
regarded him as the cyclic reincarnation of Buddha; others - in the Occident -
were inclined to the view that the Nazarene had reappeared in his person. I
should say that both were mistaken. If one must seek a prototype of Gandhi in the
distant past, I should rather see in him the reincarnation of the Indian Emperor

My knowledge of India is very inadequate, yet I am certain that in your great

country there have been, and still are today men who, in a certain sense, deserve
the title "saint" more than did Gandhi. Gandhi was not a sadhu, an ascetic who
goes into retreat from the tumult of social life and lives in silent retirement, in
prayer and in pure, undisturbed "contemplation", somewhere in the Himalayas.
He did not follow the path of Buddha’s lonely individualism, and although the
New Testament left a deep impression on him, his life was not an Imitatio Christi.

From a certain point of view, his spiritual physiognomy was more akin to the
Jewish prophets than to Buddha or Jesus. His conscience revolted against that
"cosmic snobbery" which places itself outside and above history, beyond the
stream of social change. For saintliness too can be egoistic, devoid of
responsibility, sinful. The saint who would live outside society, in a world of
pure contemplation, in constant communion with transcendental truths,
undisturbed by concrete sufferings of concrete human beings, by the fate of
billions of fellow men, of nations, of races, arrogates to himself a privileged
position, a luxury which is sinful in its essence. Though he live in state of poverty
and chronic hunger like a Buddhist monk, though he be naked and barefoot and
without shelter like a Franciscan in days of old - he is sinful simply by virtue of
having built a huge pyramid and seated himself, with a carefree, mystical
megalomania, on the sharp point of that pyramid. "Saintly" detachment from
suffering - even from the most "common", "physiological" suffering of fellow-
men and fellow-creatures - is a passive form of cruelty, something tantamount to
sacrilege. That sin of indifference and aloofness, Gandhi sought always to avoid;
he determined to be "less holy" than he would have wished to be or that he could
have been. How often he must have longed for retirement, for solitary prayer,
solitary meditation, and mystical experience. However, he never indulged in this

Hayim Greenberg, The Inner Eye; Selected Essays. New York: Jewish Frontier Association,
Inc., 1953.
"extravagance" for any lengthy period of time - at any rate, never at the expense
of what he considered his duty and his debt to India.

Buddha possessed exaltation without loving-kindness - how can I compare him

to Gandhi, in whose soul loving-kindness was the foremost drive? Jesus of
Nazareth (insofar as we know him) was possessed by a stream of ecstatic
vagrancy, which took as its pattern the "carefree" birds of the air and the lilies of
the field - how can I compare to him Gandhi, the perpetual co-sufferer and co-
martyr? For Buddha, "Caesar" simply did not exist. He withdrew so far into the
lonely trails of the Himalayan altitudes that he became completely unaware of
him. For the Nazarene, "Caesar" was a strongly entrenched and hated reality; he
therefore decided to ignore him: Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s (or what
Caesar claims as his due), and let him leave you in peace, so that you may be
"free" to live in the invisible Kingdom of Heaven. Gandhi did not ignore Caesar.
He did not seek to "bribe" him or pay him a "ransom". His passionate aim was to
destroy tyranny, to unseat Caesar from his throne - but with Gandhi’s own "un-
Caesarian" weapons. Instead of being a sadhu, he became a social crusader.

I remarked earlier that if there really are reincarnations, Gandhi was more
probably a reincarnation of Asoka, of that Indian Emperor who, three centuries
before the Christian era, sought to embody his vision of the Kingdom of Heaven
through historical realisation, in a new social creation, in legislation, in the
framework of a state. That epoch in the history of India is - for me, at least - a
very obscure chapter, and I do not know to what extent that sovereign-genius
succeeded in clothing his dream in flesh and bones. Yet I know what Asoka
aimed at: to establish a state in which there would be no contradiction between
"the measure of law" and "the measure of mercy", to use Hebrew terms, where
law itself would be suffused with mercy. Upon ahimsa, upon the three-thousand-
year-old ideal which sprang up in a unique form in India, upon the principle of
not-killing, not-injuring, not-causing-pain, upon the idea of an all-embracing
loving-kindness, he sought to build up the constitution and the mechanism of the
state. And it is in this "paradoxical" way that Gandhi also set out to make his
life’s journey in our generation.

The tragedy of our age - and not of our age alone - is the thick wall which we
ourselves have erected between the transcendental world and the process of
history, between ends and means, between what some of us experience as eternal
and the everyday stream of life, between religion, ethics and aesthetics on one
hand, and politics (in the broadest sense of the word), on the other hand. It is that
wall which Gandhi sought to destroy. He knew, perhaps more grievously than
others in our generation, that that wall cannot entirely be removed. The absolute
and the relative will never be able to merge and become one. He believed
however, that everyday acts and deeds can be suffused with elements of the
Absolute, and that it is impossible to live and bear a world in which holiness is a
sort of remote and isolated "reservation" that is beyond contact with the broad
highways of life.
Such a view is not foreign to Jewish religious tradition. Despite the long
chronicle of suffering and humiliation in Jewish history, we have until now
triumphed through our martyrdom. For two thousand years, Jews have practised
ahimsa. Some call it "passive resistance", but in reality it has nothing to do with
passivity or acquiescence. Jewish passive resistance against enemies and
oppressors who were immeasurably stronger physically than we were, constituted
activity in the highest degree: Self-concentration upon a truth; fixed determination
not to renounce that truth, not to betray it for untruth (or what we regarded as
untruth), not to capitulate even when we faced physical annihilation, the gallows,
burning at the stake - all this is a far higher and more intense degree of vitality, of
doing, battling and combating, than the use of weapons and physical force.

The Jewish conception of Kiddush ha-Shem (sanctifying the Ineffable Name)

signifies not merely readiness for sacrifice, for triumphant death. It is also an
urge to keep life holy. Not to preserve sanctity shut away in a special tabernacle,
to be opened only at intervals, and then sealed away once more, but to keep the
source of sanctity always open, and let it shine forth into the everyday, penetrate
the secular, imbue with its essence forces operating in history. What in Hindu
religious feeling and in Gandhi’s religiosity is signified by Dharma corresponds
to the code, the Shulkhan Arukh, in the Jewish way of life.

I shall not now assess to what extent Gandhi succeeded in his experiment. He
had long-range vision and the patience of great faith. He planted seeds in the
earth whose full fruit may perhaps be gathered generations later. But he gave the
world - not only India - a demonstration of how to create a kind of "pipe-line"
between the transcendental and the historical, how to fight for holy ends with
means that are not in contradiction to the nature of the ends.

From the procession which yesterday followed his dead body to the shore of
the sacred river, cries were heard: "Victory for Gandhi". The people of that
million-headed mass who uttered those cries knew that a few hours later only a
meagre heap of ashes would be left of Gandhi’s body. Yet they believe that
"somewhere" he still lives, that his spirit is indestructible, and that that spirit will
still achieve great triumphs - in us, through us, for us.