Home > Daily-current-affairs

Daily-current-affairs / 13 Oct 2023

Gandhi's Legacy and India's Foreign Policy: Navigating the Israel-Palestine Quandary : Daily News Analysis


Date : 14/10/2023

Relevance: GS Paper 2 – International Relations

Keywords – Balfour Declaration, Oslo Accords, PLO, Non-Aligned Movement


Mahatma Gandhi's article 'The Jews' has sparked heated debates over the years. Some view it as a testament to his innocence, while others see it as evidence of his unwavering dedication to non-violence, regardless of the outcomes. In light of the recent conflict in Israel and Palestine, it is crucial to revisit Gandhi's perspective and analyze his thoughts on the matter.


Balfour Declaration (1917): British Support for a Jewish Homeland in Palestine

The Balfour Declaration, issued on November 2, 1917, signified Britain's formal endorsement of establishing a "national home for the Jewish people" in Palestine. This declaration was conveyed in a letter from Arthur James Balfour, the British foreign secretary, to Lionel Walter Rothschild, 2nd Baron Rothschild, a leader in the Anglo-Jewish community.

Oslo Accords: The First Palestinian-Israeli Peace Agreement

The Oslo Accords marked the inaugural direct peace agreement between Palestinians and Israelis, aiming to pave the way for future negotiations towards a two-state solution. Despite the intent, the desired goal of lasting peace and a two-state resolution was not realized.

Mahatma Gandhi's Compassionate Stance towards Jews and Opposition to a Zionist State

Gandhi's Supportive Attitude towards Jews

Mahatma Gandhi's compassion for the Jewish people, who had endured centuries of religious persecution, was evident in his writings. He expressed deep sympathy for their plight, condemning the historical injustices they suffered due to religious prejudice. Specifically, Gandhi criticized the heinous persecution of Jews in Germany, emphasizing the unprecedented nature of their suffering. He openly criticized Britain's appeasement policy toward Hitler before the outbreak of World War II, asserting that even war with Germany would be justified to prevent further persecution of the Jewish population.

Gandhi's Opposition to a Zionist State in Palestine

Despite his empathy for the Jewish people, Gandhi firmly opposed the establishment of a Zionist state in Palestine. He believed that imposing Jews upon the Arabs was morally and ethically wrong. Gandhi adamantly argued that it would be a grave injustice to diminish the dignity of the proud Arab population for the sake of creating a homeland, either partially or entirely, for the Jews. He considered such an act a crime against humanity, reflecting his unwavering commitment to principles of justice and fairness.

Gandhi's Opposition to a Jewish Homeland: Principles and Perspectives

Religious Pretext and Settlement Violence

Mahatma Gandhi staunchly opposed the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine, asserting that the land already belonged to Arab Palestinians. He criticized Britain's active role in enabling Jewish settlement, considering it a fundamentally violent act. According to Gandhi, religious aspirations should not be realized through military force, emphasizing that the bayonet or bomb should not aid religious endeavors. He believed that Jewish settlement in Palestine could only occur with Arab goodwill and without British military intervention.

Contradiction with Global Jewish Struggles

Gandhi argued that the concept of a Jewish homeland contradicted the broader global fight for Jewish rights. He questioned whether Jews, settled in various parts of the world, would truly embrace the idea of being forcibly relocated to Palestine. Gandhi contended that advocating for a national home in Palestine provided a dubious justification for Germany's expulsion of Jews, highlighting the complexities surrounding the notion of a singular homeland. This perspective was not unique to Gandhi; he shared these sentiments with others during his time.

Influence of Mahatma Gandhi’s Beliefs on India’s Foreign Policy

Gandhi's Influence on Nehru: A Paradigm Shift in India’s Foreign Policy

Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s inaugural Prime Minister, was profoundly influenced by Mahatma Gandhi's staunch anti-imperialistic views. This influence played a pivotal role in shaping India's foreign policy for decades. Nehru inherited Gandhi’s perspective, setting the foundation for India’s stance on global issues.

Rejecting Religious Exclusivity: India’s Stance on the Two-Nation Solution and the Palestine Cause

India’s political stance on Israel was firmly established shortly after gaining independence in 1947. Both Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi vehemently opposed the idea of two nations based on religion. They supported the Palestinian cause and rejected the notion of any state founded on religious exclusivity. Despite their sympathy for the Jews, they firmly believed that a state grounded in religious exclusivity could not be sustained morally or politically. This rejection mirrored their opposition to the partition of India and reflected India's commitment to a secular and inclusive world view.

India’s Stand at the UN: Rejecting Israel and Upholding Palestinian Solidarity

India’s stance on the Israel-Palestine conflict was aligned with the Arab world, the Non-Aligned Movement, and the United Nations. During crucial votes at the UN, India consistently sided with the Arab countries, voting against the partition plan of Palestine and Israel's admission to the UN. This solidarity with Palestine was a cornerstone of India's foreign policy.

Recognition with Caution: Acknowledging Israel and Limited Diplomatic Ties

India recognized Israel as a nation on September 17, 1950, following similar recognition by Turkey and Iran. However, India's acknowledgment came with a cautious approach. While Israel was allowed to open a consulate in Mumbai in 1953, New Delhi refrained from establishing full diplomatic relations with the nation.

Engaging with Palestinian Leadership: A Shift in Focus

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) under the leadership of Yasser Arafat emerged as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. India actively engaged with the PLO's largest political faction, Al Fatah, indicating a shift in its approach toward the Palestinian cause.

Pioneering Recognition: Embracing PLO as the Sole Representative

On January 10, 1975, India made a historic decision by recognizing the PLO as the sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. India not only permitted the PLO to establish an independent office in New Delhi but also became the first non-Arab state to extend this recognition, marking a significant milestone in India's foreign policy and its commitment to the Palestinian cause.


Until his death, Mahatma Gandhi maintained his stance on the Palestine-Israel issue, criticizing the unjust treatment of Jews while steadfastly opposing the idea of a separate Jewish state. His perspectives heavily influenced Indian foreign policy for decades. Recently, India shifted its approach, decoupling its relations with Israel and Palestine, forging robust ties with Israel.

Probable Questions for UPSC Mains Exam

  1. How did Mahatma Gandhi's perspective on the Palestine-Israel conflict shape India's early foreign policy? Discuss Gandhi's empathy for Jews and his opposition to a Zionist state. (10 marks, 150 words)
  2. Explain the factors leading to India's recognition of the PLO as the sole representative of Palestinians. How did Gandhi's principles influence India's diplomatic decisions in the Israel-Palestine region? (15 marks, 250 words)

Source – The Indian Express