There are at least three fundamental errors in Arun Gandhi’s interpretation of the Israel – Palestine and historical Muslim – Jewish conflict (“Gandhi’s grandson has a message for Israel. “ )
Arun Gandhi states: ‘History shows that Palestinians and Israelis lived happily together on the same piece of land. So why not now?” I would like to ask him: At what point in history did Islam live in peace with its neighbours? The conquest of Israel by Muhammed’s conquistadors took place between 633-641 CE. At no time under Islamic rule was peaceful coexistence an option. That is not to say that non-Muslims (termed Dhimmi’s) were actively persecuted but, as Bat Ye’or explains it (The Dhimmi. Jews and Christians under Islam) they were a defeated nation, tolerated and dispossessed in their own homeland. As early as 628 CE Muhammad established the relationship of inferiority between the Muslim nation and defeated non-Muslims following the successful conclusion of his attack on the oasis of Khaybar.
While it is true to say that Jews often experienced less violence in Islamic lands than they did in Europe under Christianity, it was not out of any altruistic or benevolent Occupation that they did so, but because Muslims feared Jews less than they did Christians. Christianity, like Islam is a missionary and therefore a conquest faith. Jews as a consequence of not being members of a missionary faith posed less of a threat to Islamic rule. Jews did enjoy cultural and even economic success, in some Muslim lands and at some points in history, but they were also subject to the capricious nature of despotic Muslim rule. Jews were subject to widespread persecution and violence; Jews suffered many massacres and pogroms in the Muslim world. We may argue about the date that the pact of Umar was introduced but its conditional tolerance of captive peoples was, always, no more than a guideline to be breached, time and again, against both Jews and Christians (and Hindus in India).
In Morocco, when not subject to slaughter, the Jews were confined to segregated quarters known as mellahs.
If we look at Islam through the prism of Islamic State, ISIL, ISIS, The Muslim Brotherhood, al Shabab and Al Qaeda, the one thing they all have in common is that they seek to pursue conquest and domination of their physical, socio-political environment via their form of Islamic purity. They are not an aberrant occurrence in the Islamic World. The definition of an ‘aberration’ is both “deviation from truth or moral rectitude” and “the act of deviating from the ordinary, usual, or normal type.” (Dictionary.com) So, it is more correct to say, that the behaviour of those followers of so called ‘extremist’ ideologies within Islam, is not an aberration but simply one of many paths that are viewed as legitimate Islamic lifestyle choices.
The etymology of the word ‘Assassin’ (hashishin) derives from a secretive murder cult that was founded in the 11th Century CE and operated into the 12th Century. Its purpose was to kill any Muslim leader deemed to not be “the right kind” of Muslim.
So, the occasional interlude of peaceful co-existence does not equal security, nor does it justify subservience of one nation to another as Arun Gandhi would suggest.
In the Western World we are guilty of the racism of diminished expectations towards our fellow Muslims. We apply those diminished expectations against any group we think we may have persecuted during our history (except Jews).
To misquote Robert Kagan (The Return of History and the End of Dreams) “the modern liberal mind may not appreciate the enduring appeal of autocracy in this globalised world” but democracy has nearly always been viewed as “the rule of the licentious, greedy, and ignorant mob.” So, while the Muslim world represents an imperialist, colonialist civilisation that has committed cultural genocide as well as physical genocide in the pursuit of its vision of a world based around Islamic order and stability, we have ignored this past (and present) history because it conflicts with our own attempts to make amends for our past and competing imperial, colonial historical misdeeds. It is self-abnegation taken to an extreme that excuses every abomination the Islamic world has committed in its competition with the Christian world for theological, global hegemony.
We have nearly all lived under precarious conditions of theologically mandated forbearance. Our behaviour, appearance, activities, rights and obligations were all scrupulously circumscribed within the Islamic world and to stray from these conditions meant death. And in the Muslim world today, it continues to mean death. How quickly the world has forgotten the Yazidis under Islamic State rule.
Such a precarious existence does not constitute what Arun Gandhi terms “living happily together in the same piece of land.”
Arun Gandhi states that we need to seek peace with the Palestinians, but as a pro-Palestinian “socio-political activist” he ignores the inconvenient truth that it takes both sides to make peace. Nevertheless, if, “we Jews, are too focussed on the Shoah (Holocaust)” as he claims, then the other side to this, is the inexcusable fact that the Palestinians refuse to acknowledge their complicity in the creation and continuance of the refugee problem. The Palestinians lost a war that they began. It was a war they meant to be the final solution of their Jewish problem. They lost a war of annihilation they started but could not finish. They, as Arabs and as Muslims, are a colonialist, imperialist people. It is their theological legacy that ensures they are incapable of accepting defeat. They cannot accept Jewish sovereignty in any part of the Holy Land. Muslim law states that any land, once conquered, remains the eternal patrimony of the global Muslim nation.
This is a non-debatable narrative for the Palestinian side. They have spent the last fifty years trying to rewrite the history books in order to deny any Jewish narrative or any Jewish rights. It means that Jews have no rights as refugees even as the Palestinians assert unique and non-revocable rights for their own people. It is a brilliant strategy endorsed by the United Nations Organisation, which, has aided and abetted the Palestinians and greater Muslim world in attempting to delegitimize, uniquely, Jewish rights.
If Jews have no native rights or even any refugee rights, then they can be murdered as an act of national self-defence. And this is a position that is largely also endorsed by the radical Left as it inches ever closer to commanding the political centre ground. It explains the widespread acceptance and popularity in Britain of her Majesty’s loyal Left-wing opposition Labour Party under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn. It explains the widespread embrace, by the younger generation, of people holding antisemitic positions such as Michigan Representative Rashida Tlaib and Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar. This rewriting of history to fit an immoral agenda is largely accepted by the Western media.
It does not mean that we should acquiesce to this. Mao Zedong famously said: “use the past to serve the present.” We should be fighting this Orwellian intellectual ethnic and cultural genocide of Jewish, Israeli, and Zionist history with every means at our disposal.
But then Arun Gandhi uses an outrageous analogy to explain ‘our’ (in his eyes) “fixation with the Shoah.” “If one drives a car with eyes fixed on the rear-view mirror, it is going to lead to a catastrophic crash. Similarly, if a nation is obsessed with what has happened in history, they cannot create a future.” Remind me never to get into a car that Arun Gandhi is driving. Anyone who has ever passed a driving test will know that it is an automatic failure to not keep one eye intermittently and frequently on the rear-view mirror!
The analogy is fundamentally incorrect. If we forget history, we will relive it, or in our case, suffer annihilation at its grotesquely enthusiastic hands. If history does not, at the very least, fashion our experience and therefore, our understanding of humanity, we are hopeless fools doomed to extinction. In the constant blood-thirsty diatribes of our enemies against us, which includes much of official Palestinian officialdoms public pronouncements to their constituents, an understanding of Palestinian rights is specifically stated that our world-wide (so not just Israel) eradication is not just an acceptable outcome but one that is eminently desirable. At best, a one state solution would mean intermittent antisemitic violence and slaughter; at worse it is a prescription for genocide.
Arun Gandhi has an esteemed lineage. In order to get across his own point of view and to influence us in our contemplation of the future, he has not been sheepish about exploiting his granddad’s reputation.
So, a reminder of what Mohandas Gandhi told us.
Mohandas Gandhi disagreed that Jews needed their own state, he saw no reason for Jews to demand self-determination or, ethnic protection from persecution. This is a strange position to take if we remember that his non-violent struggle was intended to free all Indians from persecution and foreign colonial rule. Zionism, as an anti-colonialist, anti-imperialist movement for Jewish self-determination did not exclude non-Jews. The fascist ideology of pan-Arabism, to which the Arabs of Palestine subscribed, did exclude non-Arabs from its vision. Jews would have been powerless and unprotected; in all probability, wiped out by an Arab community intoxicated with renewed dreams of empire, military empowerment and religious fervour. Gandhi should have understood this.
There were far too many examples of bloody internecine killing that afflicted the nation of India, before the partition of that country into India and Pakistan for him not to have an appreciation of the threat.
Gandhi said, “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 “suffering voluntarily undergone will bring them an inner strength and joy…. 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.”
Gandhi thought that civilisation needed an upgrade. But for that to happen, and believing that ultimately, the nature of all human beings is good, his logical fallacy declared, we just need to show them our quality, for them to be able to show us, theirs.
Even though he understood that Jews had no escape route and no mercy from their tormentors his philosophy was that we would rise above our deaths by showing virtue. The problem is not that Mahatma Gandhi believed this stuff himself but that he expected others to follow his vision, en masse, even after 1945 revealed the extent of man’s inhumanity to man.
Non-violence only worked in India because the hostile forces were a very small minority, akin to ants on the back of an elephant.
There were 390 million Indians in 1947 against less than 100,000 British soldiers. 15 million Indians became refugees as the nation split into two separate countries. Between one and two million Indians were murdered in the paroxysms of violence that followed partition in 1947. 75,000 women were abducted, raped and impregnated. In a culture that prized a woman’s honour above all other virtues, the raping and kidnap of each side’s women became a means of dominating the other group (Anna Tetlow – forces.net).
But Gandhi believed that rape and submission to death could be forsworn by mass suicide, which would in turn, deprive the enemy of their power. So, the highest form of resistance was to kill oneself and one’s loved ones.
His philosophy, that we all make choices, is in its essence, personal to every individual. But preaching for the genocide of an entire race, to satisfy his ideal of global society, is unethical and immoral. As a utilitarian philosophy it is the ultimate in self-abnegation. An entire nation to sacrifice itself, to celebrate its self-genocide for some enormous social experiment. It is hideous, obscene!
Humanity has proven, on too many occasions, its limitless capacity for evil.
Perhaps Gandhi’s understanding of the nature of human conflict was limited by the region of his self-interest? I cannot understand why Arun Gandhi would have the same excuse?
India is the 7th largest country in the world with a total area of 1.3 million square miles compared with Israel’s 8, 522 square miles. India has a population of about 1.4 billion people compared with Israel’s 9 million. India’s population increases by 2.7 times the total Israeli population, every year. 74 years after the end of World War Two, the Jewish population of the world has not yet recovered to its pre-war number. This tragedy is a hereditary, group scar no Gandhi seems capable of understanding or appreciating.
It is this lack of understanding and empathy that bothers me most. By suggesting that we focus too much on the Holocaust (Shoah); that we must free ourselves of the chains of the Shoah and seek peace with the Palestinians, he indicates that he has no understanding of human conflict or, of human nature.
Racists and religiously inspired bigots have throughout history, suggested to Jews that they should always be either the first, or the only people to take the leap of faith, when confronted with evil; that Jews and only Jews (or Zionists) should trust to international institutions for their protection, when at no point in Jewish history has any international institution done anything other than to ignore or to actively collaborate in the persecution of its Jews.
Trust, we are told, must be earned. Should we trust the family of nations, as personified by the multiple organs of the United Nations? All those UN bodies have focussed narrowly on damming Israel and Israel only, at every opportunity. Denying Israel’s truths and damning its attempts at self-defence the UN has studiously ignored every act of genocide committed globally, since its foundation (until it was too late to intervene). Should we put our faith in a body that with some irony, elects to its institutions, perpetrators but rarely if ever, humanities defenders?
It sounds like Arun Gandhi’s problem is that his appreciation of history is fed by prejudice. It is narrow, myopic and predicated on an idealised view of its protagonist’s limitless capacity for goodness. The issue separating Israel from its Arab enemies is presented as one where simply listening to the other side will bring resolution and peace. His solution to issues of complexity are reductive and based on uni-directional action that demands nothing of reciprocal altruism from the Palestinian / greater-Arab world.
Again, Arun Gandhi says: “peace will come to the region by speaking to each other with respect, understanding, acceptance and appreciation. Who takes the initiative in this process depends on who considers him or herself to be progressive, peace-loving and civilized?” In essentialism, we reduce an argument to its bare bones (no matter how trite). It is the kind of cognitive reinforcement that is the propagandists’ favourite tool, superficially reasonable but devoid of plausible content.
It seems to me that it is only ever we Jews who have, as a nation, practiced modesty and obeisance towards those who commit violence and prejudice against us, as an act of ongoing faith.
Israel has been the exception to the Jewish rule because it must learn from history, to survive in a region where, if strong tactics are not used to discourage violence then violence wins. It is an attitude of machismo that the women of the society are committed to supporting as evidence of their religious fealty.
I fear Arun Gandhi’s message because, far too many people on the Left, derive comfort from his message of surrender.