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Gandhi’s Opposition to Jewish Nation-State Resurfaces Amid Israel-Palestine Conflict


The opposition of Mahatma Gandhi to a Jewish nation-state in Palestine has gained renewed attention because of ongoing conflict and tensions between Israel and Palestine.


GS II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Gandhi’s Opposition to a Jewish Nation-State in Palestine
  2. Gandhi’s Influence on India’s Israel-Palestine Policy

Gandhi’s Opposition to a Jewish Nation-State in Palestine

  • In the 1930s and 1940s, Jewish people in Europe faced severe persecution, notably under Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime, which implemented the Holocaust, resulting in the loss of approximately six million lives.
Gandhi’s Sympathy for the Jewish People:
  • Gandhi expressed immense sympathy for Jews historically persecuted for their religion.
  • He drew parallels between Jewish persecution in Europe and the plight of untouchables in India, emphasizing inhumane treatment of both groups.
  • Gandhi was deeply concerned about Nazi persecution of Jews and considered a war with Germany justifiable to prevent it.
The Zionist Movement and the Balfour Declaration:
  • The Zionist movement aimed to establish a national homeland for Jews in Palestine.
  • Momentum increased after World War I, spurred by the 1917 Balfour Declaration, which supported a Jewish national home in Palestine.
  • In 1947, the United Nations proposed a partition plan for separate Jewish and Arab states in Palestine, with Jerusalem as an international city.
  • The plan was accepted by Jewish leaders but rejected by Arab leaders, leading to violence.
  • Israel officially declared independence on May 14, 1948.
Gandhi’s Opposition:
  • Gandhi opposed a Jewish nation-state in Palestine, considering it wrong and inhumane.
  • He believed it would be a crime against humanity to displace the native Arab population for a Jewish homeland.
  • Gandhi insisted that Jews could settle in Palestine only with Arab goodwill, and the British should not enforce it.
  • He argued that religious acts, like Jews returning to Palestine, should not be enforced with force but rather with Arab goodwill.
  • Gandhi questioned whether Jews, who had settled worldwide, would welcome the idea of leaving other regions if Palestine became their sole home.

Gandhi’s Influence on India’s Israel-Palestine Policy

Gandhi’s Influence on Nehru:

  • Gandhi’s anti-imperialism and his stance against a Jewish nation-state in Palestine deeply influenced India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru.
  • This influence shaped India’s foreign policy for decades, including its vote against UN Resolution 181 partitioning Palestine.

India’s Recognition of Israel:

  • India recognized the state of Israel in 1950, but official diplomatic relations were established in 1992, during Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao’s tenure.

Support for Palestine:

  • India was among the first non-Arab nations to recognize the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as the sole Palestinian representative.
  • In 1988, India recognized Palestine as a state.

Evolution of India’s Policy:

  • India’s policy on Israel and Palestine evolved over time, taking into account its strategic and economic interests.

Dehyphenation Policy:

  • In recent years, India has shifted towards a dehyphenation policy, seeking to balance its relationships with both Israel and Palestine.
  • It supports a Two-State Solution and the right to self-determination for both nations in a peaceful manner.

-Source: Indian Express

December 2023