Squaring the Circle: Mahatma Gandhi and the Jewish National Home

P. R. Kumaraswamy

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When it comes to Jews, Jewish nationalism and their aspirations in Palestine, even Mahatma Gandhi was not infallible. His abiding empathy for the Jews was negated by his limited understanding of Judaism and Jewish history. His perception of the Palestine issue and his support for the Arabs was rooted in the domestic Indian context. The conventional understanding that Gandhi was ‘consistently’ opposed to Zionism and the Jewish aspirations for a national home in Palestine does not correspond with his later remarks.

While demanding Jewish non-violence both against Hitler and in Palestine, Mahatma was prepared to understand, the ‘excesses’ of the Arabs who were facing ‘overwhelming odds.’ His position on the domestic situation largely influenced his stand viz-à-viz Palestine and hence his demand for Jews to abandon their collaboration with imperialism and follow the path of negotiation should be read within the Indian context.

So long as India pursued a recognition-without-relations policy toward Israel, one could rest on Gandhi’s shoulders and adopt a self-righteous attitude. However, can one rely on the Gandhian paradigm to explain India’s new-found bonhomie toward Israel without sounding selective, hypocritical or both?

P. R. Kumaraswamy P. R. Kumaraswamy is a professor of contemporary Middle East Studies in Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi. From 1992 to 1999 he was a research fellow at the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace, Jerusalem. Since joining JNU in September 1999, he has been researching, teaching, and writing on various aspects of the contemporary Middle East. His works include India’s Israel Policy (Columbia University Press, 2010) and Historical Dictionary of the Arab Israeli Conflict (Lanham, Ma: Scarecrow Press, 2015, second edition).

Prof. P R Kumaraswamy has edited a number of volumes and published research articles in a number of refereed and non-refereed international journals and regularly contributes to Indian as well as international media outlets. In February 2010 he set up the virtual Middle East Institute, New Delhi (www.mei.org.in) and serves as its honorary director. He is the editor of Contemporary Review of the Middle East (Sage) and the series editor of Persian Gulf: India’s Relations with the Region.

Contents
Preface and Acknowledgements

1. Introduction
2. Jewish Friends
3. The Zionist Courtship
4. Kallenbach, the Jewish-Zionist Friend
5. The Khilafat Phase
6. Palestine, the Jazirat-ul-Arab
7. Congress vs. League: The Political Tussle
8. The Harijan Article: The Jews, November 1938
9. Unfamiliarity with Judaism
10. Zionism: An Enigma
11. Demand for Jewish Non-Violence
12. Conclusion

Bibliography
Index

 

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