Friday, 13 July 2012

Kallenbach's letters- India buys them, Israel benefits

Kallenbach, now proven to be 'a rampant heterosexual' (Ramachandra Guha) and not Gandhi's gay lover at all, was close to Moshe Sharett, later a Prime Minister of Israel, and came to see Gandhi at his behest in the late 1930's hoping to interest him in a peaceful solution to the Jewish Arab problem in British controlled Palestine. Gandhi, though close to anti-Zionist mainstream Indian opinion, both British and Nationalist, responded not entirely dismissively and envisaged playing a role from India- though what that role might have been is beyond my conjecture.
Kallenbach had passed away by the time of Operation Agatha, in June 1946, when the British staged a massive crackdown on the Jews in order to deter the extremists and secure the return of some kidnapped personnel of their own. During the course of this brutal operation, 'a minority among the British troops exacerbated the situation by shouting "Heil Hitler," scrawling swastikas on walls, and referring to gas chambers while conducting searches.[5]'
The Indian Government has recently bought Kallenbach's letters to Gandhi for what appears to be a modest price. Their motivation is not to 'hush up' a scandal- nothing improper occurred between the two men- but to open up the matter for responsible scholars. Indians, Gandhi included, had a bit of a blind spot when it came to the sufferings of the Jews. They saw that British Jews were successful and prosperous- Montague, Secretary of State for India, and Viceroy Reading were Jews- and assumed that the Jews of Germany and Poland and so on must also be thriving. Jews had never been persecuted in India. Even in Iran- though there was some prejudice against Jews, who were considered 'najis' (unclean)- their position was higher than the Christian or the Zoroastrian. Baghdadi Jews- like the famous Sassoons- had held high position under the Ottomans and, prior to the political ascent of Grand Mufti Husseini, never faced harassment.

Kallenbach, a German Jew in South Africa, had witnessed the terrible sufferings of the Boer women and children- being shipped off to Concentration Camps. His friend, Sharett, came from the Ukraine and had first-hand knowledge of pogroms initiated by the Tzarist regime. Could either of them have envisaged that Germany itself would take the same course? Had Kallenbach lived to witness Operation Agatha- had he seen British soldiers shouting 'Heil Hitler' and cramming Aushwitz survivors into steel cages- would he believed his own eyes? In 1948, who could have predicted that the Jews in Israel would not be massacred, like the Armenians, not by the Palestinians (many of them left having been told that they should only return once the Arab armies had done their business) but by the big powers of the region? It was Stalin's support for the Zionists (which meant that Arab Communist parties also supported Israel)  and some help from the American Jews, together with the battle hardened East European Resistance veterans which enabled Israel to prevail.

Had Husseini not gone over to Hitler, the British might have followed up Operation Agatha by arming the Palestinians under a Glubb Pasha of their own and simply handed over the Mandate to them after giving  some meaningless assurances to one or two Jewish enclaves. After all, the British had abandoned the Smyrna Greeks after building up their hopes, why not the Jews who had been a great thorn in their side?

Had Israel bought the Kallenbach archive- he was a Zionist after all- their scholars could have produced a book which highlights the Jewish side of the story- their 'suppressed history' and shown how starkly it contrasts with that of high caste Hindus, like Gandhi, under British Rule.

Gandhi's ashrams, in India as opposed to South Africa, were simply a money pit and a waste of time. The Palestinian kibbutz, however, was not.  In the 1930's, Gandhi suddenly came out as an Anti-Caste crusader- Temple entry for 'untouchables' and so on.  However, during that same decade, when the 'Black Jews' of Travancore petitioned the two Chief Rabbis of Jerusalem as to whether the segregation of synagogues was 'halacha'- they received the answer, no, the practice must stop. So, the practice stopped. In the 1950's and even into the 1960's and later, the allegation was continually made that the Ashkenazi Jews, in Israel, discriminated against the Sephardic and Mizrachi Jews. Israel was seen as a sort of Apartheid Northern European Colony. But, the truth is, Israel has found an effective way to integrate people of widely different traditions, languages, customs and so on. Gandhian activism appears to have exacerbated or ossified the problems it claims to treat.

The Gandhi- Kallenbach correspondence is not important because it can shed light on who was sodomizing who. On the contrary, it must be read in the light of why Zionism wasn't simply a wank whereas Gandhism was and is nothing else.

Gandhi pictured with his Secretary Sonia Schlesin and Hermann Kallenbach. At this time Gandhi was still wearing European clothes- including his famous 'No fat chicks' T shirt which Sarojini Naidu made him throw away after which he went around bare chested.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Both Grand Mufti Husseini and Moshe Sharett had worked for the Turks- who knows? perhaps a Palestinian- Zionist alliance would have worked better if the Ottomans had remained in power.
Maybe Empires are only really bad things when they fight each other.