The New York Times has an interesting but minimally informed piece this morning on Gandhi’s advice concerning the Jewish settlement, and ultimate seizure, of Palestine. It brings up the Indian sage’s exchange of views with Martin Buber, the great Jewish philosopher and educator who fled Germany in the 30s and became an advocate for the kibbutz as a model of social and spiritual development. Buber was undoubtedly right that nonviolent resistance was an absurd strategy against the Third Reich. This was an enemy that openly embraced force and terror; there was no “soul” to appeal to.
I will leave it to others to complain about the way the article passes over the long history of nonviolent resistance in the occupied territories. What I missed was the great flash of insight that, if my memory is correct, jumps off the page toward the end of Buber’s Paths in Utopia. (I don’t have my copy with me.) After extolling the kibbutz as a model of egalitarian economic and community life fit for human regeneration in a dark time, Buber emphasizes that “inside” and “outside” social relations are inextricably linked. It will be impossible, he says, for Jews to retain the liberatory aspects of their social order if their relationship with Arabs is one of domination and exclusion. You can’t practice mutuality in one direction and exploitation in another: the psychological wall crumbles. This follows immediately, of course, from the point of view he expressed in I and Thou (Ich und Du), which insists on the universality of all truly engaged human interactions.
Buber endorsed a binational state because, for him, not only social justice, but also a community in full consciousness, was indivisible.