TO MARK THE 145TH BIRTH ANNIVERSARY OF MAHATMA GANDHI: Gandhi’s pacifism and views on Palestine

Nearly seven decades after his assassination Gandhi lives in the hearts of millions, if not billions of people across the globe.  Gandhi’s greatness lies in the fact that he single handedly stood up against the mighty British Empire and compelled the then colonial power to quit and to give India its independence.
In India, 2nd October is observed as a national holiday.  In Mauritius the Mahatma Gandhi Institute hosted the Gandhi memorial lecture delivered this year by His Excellency Anup K. Mudgal, High Commissioner of India.  In fact there are a few countries in the world where something or the other is not being organized in the name of Gandhi.  For Mauritians at large this year Gandhi Day commemoration is of paramount importance as our Prime Minister, the Honourable  Dr  Navin Ramgoolam  has been invited by the prestigious Gandhi foundation to deliver the Gandhi Memorial lecture entitled “ The rule of law and nation building”.  Last year at the inner temple in London the Rt Hon Vince Cable MP, secretary  of state for business innovation and skills had the privilege to speak on the very  occasion on “what would a Gandhian Business model look like”.   The name of Gandhi now transcends the boundaries of race, religion and nation states.  Gandhi is remembered in every corner of the world for his passionate adherence to the practice of non-violence and his supreme humanism in our times when there is a global non- violent awakening.  
The Father of the nation Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam fondly quoted Gandhi whenever the occasion presented to him.  From the Dalai Lama to Desmond Tutu, Martin Luther King to Nelson Mandela, Awng  San Suu Kyi to Mubarak Awad, the non-violent Palestine leader and many others have been inspired by him.  Among the various portraits that  adorn the office of Barack Obama in America is one of Mahatma Gandhi.  He is reported to have said during the presidential campaign  “In my life,  I have always looked to Mahatma Gandhi  as an inspiration, because he embodies the kind of transformational change that can be made when ordinary people come together to do extraordinary things”. It is from Gandhi that many Indian leaders who advocated independence learnt not to fear the gun. It is fearlessness that is the absolute condition to bring the oppressor to reasons.  Someone has rightly remarked that “It is not power that corrupts but it is fear”.  Since Gandhi’s philosophy has transcended frontiers it is always interesting to examine Gandhi’s views on Palestine especially a time when the conflict between the Jews and the Arabs goes on unabated.
In the Harijan Newspaper published on 26th November  1938 (a multilingual  newspaper  in English, Gujrati and Hindi) launched by Gandhi in February  of the same year while being held captive in the Yervada Jail by the British Gandhi clearly spelt out his views about the Arab- Jew question on Palestine.  Gandhi states that he has known the Jews intimately in South Africa and some of them became his lifelong companions. He sympathizes  with them as he describes them as the untouchables of Christianity.  He draws a parallel between their treatment by Christians and the treatment of untouchables by Hindus.
However Gandhi goes on to say that his sympathy with the Jews does not blind him for the requirement of Justice.  He says that the cry for a national home for the Jews does not make
much appeal to him.  Why should they like other peoples of the earth, make that country their home where they are born and where they earn their livelihood? Palestine belongs to the  Arabs in the same sense that England belongs to the English or France to the French. 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.
He further addresses the Jews as follows “ 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 aggressions  but by loving service.  The Jews can command the attention and respect of the world by being the chosen creation of God instead of sinking to the brute who is forsaken by God.
In this article Gandhi says that he is not defending the Arab excesses and would have preferred them to have chosen the way of non-violence in resisting what they rightly regarded as encroachment upon their country.  But according to the accepted canons of right and wrong, nothing can be said against the Arabs resistance in the face of overwhelming odds.
Gandhi  substantiated his arguments by saying that “the same God rules the Arab heart who rules the Jewish heart.  They will find the world opinion in their favour in their religious aspiration.  There are hundred ways of reasoning with Arabs”.
In an interview published in the Harijan on July 21, 1946 Gandhi said “No wonder that my sympathy goes out to the Jews in their unenviably plight.  But one would have thought adversity would teach them lessons of peace.  Why should they depend upon America money or  British arms for forcing themselves on an unwelcome land? 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 an undeniable  fact that Gandhi had long range vision.  He planted seeds in the earth whose fruits can be gathered generations to come.  He demonstrated to a world  weary with wars and continuing destruction that adherence to truth and non-violence can be applied to settle differences among nations. Albert Einstein’s tribute can be quoted here to conclude this humble note. “ Generation to come, it may be, will scarce believe that such one as this even in flesh and blood walked upon this earth”.

01/10/2014


Commentaires

That's a vey good article that promotes the idea of satyagraha in our daily struggles. Please also enjoy this marvelous piece the Palestinian struggle by another spiritual leader:
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar on Aug 06, 2014

Israel-Palestine: The Only Way To Resolve Conflict
The first thing needed to resolve conflict is to build trust between the two sides. But a long history of bitter war between Israel and Palestine makes this difficult. There have been talks to resolve the dispute earlier but they have not been effective due to the absence of trust. Attempts at ceasefire have not been long lasting either.

Often war rhetoric unites people in a strange way. Nationhood and religious ferocity take it beyond borders complicating a local issue and making it an international one. A conflict arises over small differences initially but when it runs into decades, it become a career for some on both sides and instead of resolving it, their intent is to keep it alive. Blinded by hatred and narrow-minded political motives, these fanatic elements, often occupying positions of influence, become numb to the suffering that their own people go through due to violence. Even in this case, liberal leaders on both sides who have made efforts to establish friendliness have come under fire by extremists from their own side. The conflict thrives on fanaticism in the garb of righteousness.

A prolonged war gives rise to generations of people who grow up without ever knowing peace, thinking of it only as a distant, impossible dream. Distressed by volatile emotions created by volatile circumstances, many of them end up joining the fight and become fuel to sustain the conflict.

Every conflict should be seen beyond its regional identity. To end the vicious cycle of violence, leaders should place humanness above religious identity, irrespective of nationhood. Dialogue based on trust is essential for peace. The door of dialogue should never be closed even if it may sometimes be hard to find solutions. In this effort, all vested interests like the arms lobby should be kept out. Often Track 2 diplomacy (people-to-people contact) works well. Public polls clearly indicate that people on both sides are eager for a peaceful settlement. Leadership on both sides have to evaluate their commitment to peace and consolidate public opinion towards it instead of inciting aggression. This is the only way