Lobby Wars on Gandhi

Lobby Wars on Gandhi

By Punyapriya Dasgupta

Punyapriya Dasgupta’s ZSpace Page

 

The problem the Israelis and their supporters have with Gandhi refuses to go away..  In what they call their pre-State era, they tried to  get  Mahatma Gandhi to endorse their campaign to dispossess the Arabs and transform Palestine into a Jewish homeland.  He not only branded their enterprise unjust but even made comments which lend support to the Palestinian resistance that has been calumniated  more recently by Israel and its American backers as terrorism.  Today, the Israel lobby in America is baying for the blood of Arun Gandhi for his temerity in advising the Jews in Israel that it is time they got over their holocaust fixation and  for their own secure future moved on to build peace and friendship with their neighbours.

 

Arun Gandhi, a grandson of  the Mahatma, together with his wife Sunanda, founded the M.K.Gandhi Institute of Non-Violence in Memphis to spread the Gandhian philosophy in America and later made it a part of the University of Rochester.    Early last month Arun Gandhi wrote in a Washington Post blog:  “The Jewish identity in the past has been locked into the holocaust experience – a German burden that the Jews have not been able to shed.  It is a very good example of a community that can overplay a historic experience to the point that it begins to repulse friends.  The holocaust was the result of the warped mind of an individual who was able to influence his followers into something dreadful.   But it seems to me that the Jews today not only want the Germans to feel guilty but the whole world must regret what happened to the Jews.  The world did feel sorry for the episode but when an individual or a nation refuses to forgive and move on, the regret turns into anger.  The Jewish identity in the future appears bleak.  Any nation that remains anchored to the past is unable to move ahead and especially a nation that believes its survival can only be ensured by weapons and bombs.  In Tel Aviv in 2004, I had the opportunity to speak to some MPs and peace activists all of whom argued that the wall and the military build up was necessary to protect the nation and the people.  In other words, I asked, you believe that you can create a snake pit with many deadly snakes in it – and expect to live in the pit secure and alive?  What do you mean? they countered.  Well, with your superior weapons and your attitude towards your neighbours would it not be right to say you are creating a snake pit?  Would it not be better to befriend those who hate you?  Can you not reach out to share your technical advantage with your neighbours and build a relationship?”

 

 This is vintage Gandhian logic about the means to an end.  Arun Gandhi is a true inheritor of Gandhism except in such obsolete externals  as the asceticism the Mahatma espoused in dress to identify himself with the poorest Indian nearly a century ago.  When the Israel lobbyists turned on him for what they regard as sacrilege of the holocaust, Arun responded with more of Gandhism.  He resigned from the presidentship of the institution of non-violence  he had himself founded and issued an apology:

 “My statement on the recent Washington Post blog was couched in language that   was hurtful and contrary to the principle of non-violence.

My intention was to generate a healthy discussion on the proliferation of violence.  Clearly I did not achieve my goal.  Instead, unintentionally, my words have resulted in pain, anger, confusion and embarrassment.  I deeply regret these consequences.

I would like to be a part of as healing process.  The principles of non-violence are founded on love, respect, understanding and compassion.  It is my sincere hope that this situation will give me and others the opportunity to work together and transform anger and negative emotions, create deeper mutual respect and understanding and build more harmonious communities.”

 

The Zionist response was typical too.  Not only was Arun Gandhi abused as soon as the blog appeared, even his apology was rejected as not enough or inconsequential.  The Anti-Defamation League adjudged him guilty of a classic attempt at blaming the victim. Arun Gandhi was branded anti-semite by the Israel lobbyists The director of the Simon Wiesenthal Institute seized it as a not-to-be lost opportunity to extend his sneer retrospectively to the Mahatma, a revered figure in world history.  Efraim Zuroff was quoted by the Jerusalem Post as saying:  “Even the great Mohandas Gandhi did not have a monopoly on wisdom, evidence his suggested passive resistance against the Nazis.”  Someone may take this cue and say that Arun Gandhi betrayed poor wisdom for he advised the Palestinians to defeat the Israelis with a massive non-violent march. John Mearsheimer who along with Stephen Walt wrote about the Israel lobby and faced its full fury, offered a consolation to Arun Gandhi with a comment that he would have gotten into serious trouble with the lobby even if he had chosen his words carefully ”simply because he had criticized Israel and its American supporters, which one does at his or her own peril.”

 

Sixty years after his death Mahatma Gandhi still remains a thorn on  Zionism’s side.  His view, written in 1938, remains in indelible print and sharply relevant even now. “Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same sense that England belongs to the Englih 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 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.  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 unwarranted 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.”

 

Punyapriya Dasgupta, journalist, can be reached at siliserh@yahoo.co.in

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