Would Gandhi have relished your death?

The key problem I have with pacificism is the readiness of the pacifist to sacrifice the innocent in service to the ideal. This is illustrated, above all, by the life and character of Gandhi. From “Among the Hagiographers” — Andrew Roberts’ review of Joseph Lelyveld’s Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle with India (Knopf, March 2011):

We do know for certain that he advised the Czechs and Jews to adopt nonviolence toward the Nazis, saying that “a single Jew standing up and refusing to bow to Hitler’s decrees” might be enough “to melt Hitler’s heart.” (Nonviolence, in Gandhi’s view, would apparently have also worked for the Chinese against the Japanese invaders.) Starting a letter to Adolf Hitler with the words “My friend,” Gandhi egotistically asked: “Will you listen to the appeal of one who has deliberately shunned the method of war not without considerable success?” He advised the Jews of Palestine to “rely on the goodwill of the Arabs” and wait for a Jewish state “till Arab opinion is ripe for it.”

In August 1942, with the Japanese at the gates of India, having captured most of Burma, Gandhi initiated a campaign designed to hinder the war effort and force the British to “Quit -India.” Had the genocidal Tokyo regime captured northeastern India, as it almost certainly would have succeeded in doing without British troops to halt it, the results for the Indian population would have been catastrophic. No fewer than 17% of Filipinos perished under Japanese occupation, and there is no reason to suppose that Indians would have fared any better. Fortunately, the British viceroy, Lord Wavell, simply imprisoned Gandhi and 60,000 of his followers and got on with the business of fighting the Japanese.

Gandhi claimed that there was “an exact parallel” between the British Empire and the Third Reich, yet while the British imprisoned him in luxury in the Aga Khan’s palace for 21 months -until the Japanese tide had receded in 1944, Hitler stated that he would simply have had Gandhi and his supporters shot. […]

Telling the Muslims who had been responsible for the massacres of thousands of Hindus in East Bengal in 1946 that Islam “was a religion of peace,” Gandhi nonetheless said to three of his workers who preceded him into its villages: “There will be no tears but only joy if tomorrow I get the news that all three of you were killed.” To a Hindu who asked how his co-religionists could ever return to villages from which they had been ethnically cleansed, Gandhi blithely replied: “I do not mind if each and every one of the 500 families in your area is done to death.” What mattered for him was the principle of nonviolence, and anyhow, as he told an orthodox Brahmin, he believed in re incarnation.

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