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Einstein, Nehru and Israel

Even though Einstein had declined an offer to be Israel’s President, he worked for Israeli causes and one such instance was when he wrote a letter to Jawaharlal Nehru, the prime minister designate of India in 1947 for supporting the establishment of a Jewish state. Nehru was aware of the sufferings of the Jews, but did not like the idea that the new state would be located on someone else land.

Einstein’s four-page letter of June 13 1947 to Nehru focused on moral and historical arguments. He opened with praise for India’s constituent assembly, which had just abolished untouchability. “The attention of the world was [now] fixed on the problem of another group of human beings who, like the untouchables, have been the victims of persecution and discrimination for centuries” – the Jews. He appealed to Nehru as a “consistent champion of the forces of political and economic enlightenment” to rule in favour of “the rights of an ancient people whose roots are in the East”. He pleaded for “justice and equity”. “Long before the emergence of Hitler I made the cause of Zionism mine because through it I saw a means of correcting a flagrant wrong.”

But then Einstein took the bull by the horns, “the nature of [the] Arab opposition. Though the Arab of Palestine has benefited… economically, he wants exclusive national sovereignty, such as is enjoyed by the Arabs of Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria [sic]. It is a legitimate and natural desire, and justice would seem to call for its satisfaction.” But at the end of the first world war, the Allies gave the Arabs 99% of the “vast, underpopulated territories” liberated from the Turks to satisfy their national aspirations and five independent Arab states were established. One per cent was reserved for the Jews “in the land of their origin”. “In the august scale of justice, which weighs need against need, there is no doubt as to whose is more heavy.” What the Jews were allotted in the Balfour Declaration “redresses the balance” of justice and history. He concluded by appealing to Nehru to brush aside “the rivalries of power politics and the egotism of petty nationalist appetites” and to support “the glorious renascence which has begun in Palestine”. [Einstein’s other theory via Smooth Stone]

Nehru replied back saying that due to India’s national interests (Muslim minority and Arab friendship), we could not support them and India voted with the Muslim states against partition. Einstein’s exchange with Nehru recently surfaced in the Israeli archives and provides details of the mails they exchanged and the mails they did not exchange. Even though Nehru declined Einstein’s request, he went and met him later in 1949.

Nehru’s opposition for the creation of Israel, did not stand his way of asking their help during the 1962 war with China. Nehru asked David Ben-Gurion for help and Israelis sent military equipment. During the 1965 and 1971 wars too Israel sent mortar rounds, while our so called friends did pretty much nothing. India also demanded that while Israel sent ammunition, they remove any Israeli markings from it. The ammunition was obtained regularly as demanded and India condemned them in public and always supported the Palestinian cause.

One Response to Einstein, Nehru and Israel

  1. Dr. D. Chakrabarti April 25, 2009 at 12:09 pm #

    Nehru also did not like (along with Gandhi) to change the name of India, at the time of independence. He was fond of Urdu Hindi than proper Hindi.

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