Martin Buber and Jewish-Arab Peace
Leon, Dan, Cross Currents
The assassination of Mahatma Gandhi and the establishment of the state of Israel were separated by about half a year (January and May 1949). Writing in 1938, Gandhi had not been sympathetic to the Jewish national home in Palestine since he thought that "Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same sense that England belongs to the English or France to the French. Why should [the Jews] not, like other peoples of the earth, make that country their home where they are born and earn their livelihood"?
He urged German Jews "to claim Germany as their home" and to follow the example of civil resistance. "The Jews of Germany can offer Satyagraha under infinitely better auspices than the Indians of South Africa." "The calculated violence of Hitler may even result in a general massacre of Jews (but) to the God-fearing, death has no terror" (1938).
It is doubtful whether the great Indian exponent of nonviolence, whose life has inspired generations of disciples all over the world, ever saw a reply sent to him in February 1939 by the distinguished Jewish philosopher and theologian of dialogue, Professor Martin Buber (18781965). Buber, who came from Germany to live in Palestine in 1938 at the age of sixty, writes of Gandhi's voice as one "which he has long known and honored." But he asked Gandhi: "Do you know, or not know, Mahatma, what a concentration camp is like and what does on there? Do you know of the torments in the concentration camp, of its methods of slow and quick torture? I cannot assume that you know of this." Among Jews in Germany Buber had "observed many instances of genuine Satyagraha" but "a diabolic universal steam-roller cannot thus be withstood...[it is] ineffective, unobserved martyrdom [and] no maxim for suitable behavior can be deduced therefrom."
But the main thrust of Buber's letter concerned Jewish rights in Palestine. He wrote that Jews and Arabs must
develop the land together without one imposing his will on the other. We …
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Publication information: Article title: Martin Buber and Jewish-Arab Peace. Contributors: Leon, Dan - Author. Magazine title: Cross Currents. Volume: 49. Issue: 1 Publication date: Spring 1999. Page number: 39+. © Not available. COPYRIGHT 1999 Gale Group.
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