The recent publication of the letter of Indian father of nation – Mahatma Gandhi to A.E. Shohet, president of the Bombay Zionist Association, and the naming of a circle in Kiryat Gat in his honour have led people to believe that Mahatma Gandhi was a friend of the Jews and supported the creation of the State of Israel.
That is incorrect, and for this purpose I as a historian have taken upon myself to prepare this detailed article, showing exactly who Mahatma Gandhiwas vis-a-vis the Jews and Israel.
Mahatma Gandhi was against the creation of Israel. It was Gandhi through Nehru who opposed India’s recognition of the Jewish state. It was Gandhi who declared that the Arabs were the rightful occupants of Palestine and that the persecuted Jews should return to their countries in the Diaspora.
The author, born in India, has great respect for India and its wonderful people, and has personally thanked them in all his public lectures for their kindness and hospitality toward the Jewish people who lived alongside them in India for more than 2,000 years. The author has been a pioneer in the improvement of good political and defense relations between India and Israel, and past ambassadors and staff of the India Embassy in Israel and the Defense Ministry in India are witnesses to this.
Furthermore, he has great respect and regards for Mahatma Gandhi and the manner in which he achieved freedom for India through a radical new concept of non-violence called Satyagraha. But two events that occurred recently have forced me to write this article to correct some of the misconceptions that they created.
1. Recently an article appeared in various newsletters and journals that the National Library of Israel has obtained a letter signed by M.K. Gandhi (in 1939) to Shohet wishing the Jews of India a happy Rosh Hashanah, implying Gandhi’s love for the Jews and his concern for the Jewish people.
2. Recently a traffic circle in Kiryat Gat was named in memory of this great Indian personality, creating the impression that he was some sort of a pro-Israel, pro-Jewish patron of the return of the Jews to the Holy Land.
The author would support the concept of a circle being named after, say, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, or the Maharaja of Jamnagar Jam Saheb Digvijay Singh, who accepted 500 Polish and Jewish refugees in spite of the objections of the governor of the then Bombay presidency, and who settled them at his own expense – including housing, food and schooling – at Balachadi in the state of Gujarat.
But Gandhi was totally insensitive to the plight of the Jews in Europe during the Holocaust, even though he was completely aware of the mass murder of the Jews. Note that both Modi and Gandhi are from Gujarat – but what a difference between the two! The author would not only support but even sponsor the establishment of not one circle but maybe even 10 or more circles in Israel in honour of Modi. This man is a true friend of Israel.
While leading the Indian freedom movement, Mahatma Gandhi was under the medical care of his Jewish physician, Dr. Abraham Solomon Erulkar, who tended to Gandhi during several of his fasts.
When Gandhi was hospitalized for appendicitis in Poona, he was operated upon in the Sassoon Hospital, a Jewish hospital. Yet in spite of all the help and support that he received from Jews, and his supposed knowledge of Adolf Hitler’s extermination campaign, he wrote a conciliatory letter to Hitler right at the start of World War II addressing him, “Dear friend.”
In a subsequent letter to the fuhrer, he wrote: “We have no doubt about your bravery or devotion to your fatherland, nor do we believe that you are the monster described by your opponents.”
When there was an outcry in all the newspapers at that time, his suggestion to the Jews was that they “should have offered themselves to the butcher’s knife. They should have thrown themselves into the sea from cliffs. It would have aroused the world and the people of Germany.”
It is not the intent of the author to belittle in any way the great contribution that the Mahatma made to the independence of India. But he was no friend of either the Jews or of Israel. It should be noted that much of the suffering of the people of India – due to the partition of India and the problem of Kashmir that Modi’s government is today trying to correct – is the direct result of Gandhi’s misconception of radical Islamic intentions globally.
Nissim Moses, the founder and president of the Bene Israel Heritage Museum & Genealogical Research Centre, is the author of Bene Israel of India – Heritage and Customs. Originally Published By The Jerusalem Post