June 19th, 2007

Dying to leave: Palestine, Lahore, and fanaticism

Donald Sensing notes that since 2000, the beginning of the Second Intifada (which followed the breakdown of Camp David, when Arafat failed to miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity), Palestinians have desired to escape from Gaza and the West Bank in greater numbers. Many have filed to leave, but lately a Muslim cleric—actually, the Palestinian Authority’s chief mufti—has become alarmed at the prospect and issued a fatwa forbidding them to do so.

The desire to get away is hardly surprising; the place has been mired in ever-escalating ruin and murder for quite some time now. I remain convinced that the majority of people (even Palestinian Muslims, who’ve been brainwashed into a cult of death and dying for a long time) still want to live and have a more pleasant experience while they’re about it. Emigrating from Palestine probably sounds like an excellent way to do that.

I’m also not surprised that the PA cleric issued a fatwa to try to stop them, although I have no idea how much he will be listened to. The prospect of the local population shrinking down to near-nothingness would be an interesting twist on the old saying, from “what if they gave a war and nobody came?” to “what if they gave a war and nobody stayed?”

The PA cleric’s admonition rang a bell with me, and I realized that sound emanated from what would appear to be an unlikely source: Gandhi. Yes, folks, that man of peace (whom I’ve written about at great length before, here), had a similar message in a similar time of civil war.

Of course, Gandhi’s motive was utterly different from that of the PA cleric; you might say it was the opposite. But the effect of his plea—if heeded—would have, strangely enough, been the same: to keep potentially victimized people from saving their own skins, and to what purpose?

Gandhi was speaking to Hindus on the occasion of the partition of India and Pakistan, an event marked by migrations and horrific violence on both sides. Gandhi, who had opposed partition, reacted in the following manner:

During [Gandhi’s] prayer meeting on 1 May 1947, he prepared the Hindus and Sikhs for the anticipated massacres of their kind in the upcoming state of Pakistan with these words: “I would tell the Hindus to face death cheerfully if the Muslims are out to kill them. I would be a real sinner if after being stabbed I wished in my last moment that my son should seek revenge. I must die without rancour. You may turn round and ask whether all Hindus and all Sikhs should die. Yes, I would say. Such martyrdom will not be in vain.” (Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, vol.LXXXVII, p.394-5) It is left unexplained what purpose would be served by this senseless and avoidable surrender to murder.

Even when the killing had started, Gandhi refused to take pity on the Hindu victims, much less to point fingers at the Pakistani aggressors. More importantly for the principle of non-violence, he failed to offer them a non-violent technique of countering and dissuading the murderers. Instead, he told the Hindu refugees from Pakistan to go back and die. On 6 August 1947, Gandhiji commented to Congress workers on the incipient communal conflagration in Lahore thus: “I am grieved to learn that people are running away from the West Punjab and I am told that Lahore is being evacuated by the non-Muslims. I must say that this is what it should not be. If you think Lahore is dead or is dying, do not run away from it, but die with what you think is the dying Lahore…

“Die with the dying Lahore” is a phrase that resonates with the ring of fanaticism. The PA mufti is also a fanatic, dedicated to an idea of war that is very different from Gandhi’s. Gandhi was a fanatic dedicated to an ideal of peace—but one that uses methods that run so counter to human nature it can never be realized on earth, and in the name of that dream he made suggestions that can only be described as insane.

Despite the desire of most people to continue living, human beings can—and regularly do—lay down their lives for a greater good. That is something we all applaud, and we call those people “heroes.” But there is nothing heroic in staying in a failed and miserable country being torn apart by a civil and/or gang war between corrupt and vicious leaders, just as there is nothing heroic in being asked to stay in a country to be slaughtered by marauding mobs. Fanatics will sometimes ask it of us, nevertheless.

27 Responses to “Dying to leave: Palestine, Lahore, and fanaticism”

  1. dana Says:

    i am so glad to hear someone mention gandhi in the context of the mess third world asymmetrical warfare has become. i think he is one of the most malign influences on western thinking in history.

    there is, in my opinion, a straight line leading from gandhi’s “non-violent” action to terrorism today. it was gandhi who first understood how to use the West’s own morality as a weapon against itself. it was gandhi who taught the 3rd world to do it.

    sure, in his time he was able to use non violent action to accomplish his ends of shaming the british into leaving india, but its only a hop skip and a jump from there to hiding among civilians and painting “baby milk factory” on a buildings roof.

    his kind of self sacrificial altruistic ethic is murdering the west, not muslims. we sacrifice our own soldiers on the altar of human rights and geneva conventions while our enemy never hesitates to commit the vilest atrocity against us.

  2. gcotharn Says:


    You have abandoned the liberal left in so many ways. Your latest transgression is to make an unambiguous moral judgment:

    “there is nothing heroic in being asked to stay in a country to be slaughtered by marauding mobs”

    You have committed the sin of intellectually discriminating between better vs. worse. You have abandoned gray area, and declared an instance of black and white. You cannot be forgiven this ultimate transgression. You have truly gone to the Dark Side.

  3. alphie Says:

    Trying to track this story to its source:

    Neo>Donald Sensing>Jerusalem Post>Unnamed Palestinian Authority Sources>???

    I couldn’t find the name of the “mufti” from anyone in the above chain, but I see this exact same story appears every couple months in Israeli papers.

    Anyone know who the “mufti” is?

  4. Lee Says:

    Sheik Hamad Al-Bitawi. Here ya’ go:


    Every couple of months, huh? I guess so many are fleeing the duly elected Hamas government they gotta trot out the threats on a regular basis.

  5. dana Says:


    i believe the “fatwas” are publicly published notices.

    here is the jerusalem post story that contains the body of the posted fatwa


    “Entitled “No Permission to Emigrate from Palestine,” the fatwa reads: “There has been much talk in Palestine about emigration, especially among the young people, due to the difficult security and economic situation. This is being done in search of a better life abroad. Many are continuing to rush to the gates of the embassies and consulates of the Western nations with requests for visas in order to reside permanently in those countries.

    “We hereby declare that emigration from the blessed lands is not permitted according to religious law. The people living in these areas must remain in their homes and must not leave them to conquerors. Those who abide by this ruling will perform an honorable deed and will support the Aksa Mosque.” ”

    the PA top official mufti is ikrama sabri

    here is a story about him issuing the fatwa where he is named:


    not real sure what your point is or why you couldn’t find that info

  6. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

    We do indeed honor people who will die for something, even foolish things as some sort of heroes. But what are we to make of people who ask others to die for the negation of an idea?

  7. dustoffmom Says:

    I can’t help but reflect that for as long as I have been seriously paying attention the ‘talking head elites’ have been bemoaning and pleading that the Palestinians need a ‘homeland’…..a land of their own. That is all they ever wanted I have been told, they want peace as much as we all do, give them their land and all will be well. So…they were given land, the land they said they wanted and must have. I won’t bother detailing the results. Peace? Hardly.

  8. miriam Says:

    I wish them well in leaving their war-torn country for a better life. Just don’t seek it here. Try Iran.

  9. Ymarsakar Says:

    Ghandi seemed to have been a true believer in either nirvanna after death or some kind of existential reward for the common good through sacrifice.

    It would explain his effortless ease with conscious efforts to excell sacrifice of a group. Perhaps he thinks that if they embrace death through the hand of butchers, that they will go to his equivalent of heaven. Such a motivation can be great indeed, as we have seen with the Islamic Jihad.

    The threat with those that believe too much in a life after death, is that they do indeed come to embrace death. Of course you can have nihilists like the Left, that embrace death because they think life isn’t worth living but Ghandi doesn’t seem like a nihilist to me.

  10. Ymarsakar Says:

    The existential rewards might be sourced from the belief that if they allow themselves to be slaughtered, this will create a moral pressure on the slaughterer to stop. You know, sort of like what the Islamic Jihad does to the US and Israeli, except with Ghandi I don’t think it would have worked on anybody except the British and the US at that time in India’s history.

    This is correlated with the combo of existential rewards and heavenly rewards for suicide bombers. Saddam’s payment of thousands to the family, a credible and notable proof of rewards in this world combined with a heavenly reward that is unseen. This combo is very effective at behavior control of human beings. With such a combo, I can easily see Ghandi advocating those suffer mass slaughter with a smile. Certainly jihadists smile when they push the button to activate their vest. That is of course, assuming somebody else, their handlers, hadn’t pushed the button first.

  11. alphie Says:

    lee, dana,

    You guys realize that you have linked to two different stories…reported two months apart.

    I found one story that says Palestinians shouldn’t leave Israel due to the “population battle”, but nothing that says they shouldn’t leave Gaza or the West Bank.

  12. Lee Says:

    So, what’s the problem, Alphie. Two articles two months apart talking about the same thing from two different people. Yet, you’re still “looking for the source” as though you don’t “believe it”, or something. You’ve already insinuated it’s mere “Israeli propaganda”,but what are we to expect from a guy who took Saddam at his word, yet calls his President a “liar”.

  13. Zeno Says:

    Yeah, I agree with Dana. And I think ghandi’s “pacifism” has been overvalued. He in some ways was in favour of genocide!

  14. alphie Says:


    Both articles say Palestinians are free to go work or study abroad as long as they return home.

    I didn’t see anything about staying to fight in a battle that’s over.

  15. Matthew M Says:

    Ghandi was the ultimate altruist. If someone is hungry, give them the product of your effort; if someone wants to murder you, give them your life. Apparently, there is no claim made on a person by others that can be denied.

    I have a claim to make of others: respect my rights.

    Of all the obligations assigned to people by altruists, why is mine never among them? The essence of altruism is not to help others but to sacrifice one’s self. Would altruists be pleased if there was no one around to make claims on the lives of others, i.e. if everyone was happy?

    Altruism is compulsory suicide, NOT good will. No idea could be more evil in its intent, more preposterous in its self-righteousness or more ironic in its self-contradiction.

    The British would have been performing a supremely moral act had they put a bullet in Ghandi’s emaciated body.

  16. Good Ole Charlie Says:

    I always have thought that Ghandi was the supreme hypocrite of the twentieth century….the kind that urges self-sacrifice upon others, but balks at going the same.

    Even in a Brit prison he has his ‘Three hots and a cot”.

    I would like to see him try Auschwitz on for size before I would take him seriously. At that point, he’d make a nice bar of soap.

    “Spare no self-sacrifice of someone else…”. From Pogo I believe.

  17. drzz Says:

    Cheers from a French surrounded by stupid liberals who become, like you, a neocon.


  18. Ymarsakar Says:

    English translated page of drzz

  19. Bozoer Rebbe Says:

    “Palestinians” are trying desperately to get out of “Palestine”. Ironic, no? There are hundreds at the Erez crossing by Gaza, and enough that want to leave from the West Bank that those fatwas are issued.

    I think this speaks to one of the foundational Palestinian myths, a key point of their manufactured national narrative. The Arabs have always claimed that the so called naqba, catastrophe, of 1948 was that the Jews drove them out of the land with threats of war crimes like allegations about Deir Yassin. Zionists, responding to these charges say that Arab leaders encouraged the Arabs of Palestine to flee during the hostilities and return once the victorious Arab armies drove the Jews into the sea. While Zionists have been able to document radio broadcasts and loudspeaker trucks, the Palestinian narrative is believed by many.

    But here we have Palestinian Arabs running away again.

    So far, only two Israeli leaders have been assassinated by Palestinians or their supporters, Rabbi Meir Kahane and Rehavim Ze’evi. Both were pretty much on the extreme fringe of Israeli politics. In R. Kahane’s case, his Kach party was outlawed. Ze’evi was more fortunate and at the time he was killed his party was part of the coalition gov’t so he was Minister of Tourism, but Ze’evi’s party only had a few seats in the Knesset. So why kill these two guys who didn’t have much of a following? What R. Kahane and Ze’evi had in common was that they both advocated “transfer”, a population transfer that would evict most Israeli Arabs from Israel, and possibly Palestinians from the West Bank as well. Advocates of “transfer” insist, btw, that it isn’t ethnic cleansing but rather the completion of a population exchange that began when 750,000 Jews were expelled from Arab countries in the late 1940s and 1950s.

    The Palestinian Arabs feared Kahane and Ze’evi precisely because they know they ran away in 1948, and they know some of them tried to run away in 1967 (only to be retrieved by the Israeli army who didn’t want even more “refugees”), and now we see that they want to run away in 2007. Just like they are running away today, they ran away in 1948.

    BTW, Gandhi’s non-violent protest only worked because Great Britain is fairly moral. Also, he knew he was playing good cop to the bomb throwing bad cops.

    Martin Luther King Jr., who was influenced by Gandhi, succeeded because he framed the civil rights movement as getting America to live up to it’s own values.

  20. Steve Says:

    You didn’t mention Ghandi’s admonishment to German Jews in 1938 to let Hitler kill them:

    If I were a Jew and were born in Germany and earned my livelihood there, I would claim Germany as my home even as the tallest Gentile German might, and challenge him to shoot me or cast me in the dungeon; I would refuse to be expelled or to submit to discriminating treatment. And for doing this I should not wait for the fellow Jews to join me in civil resistance, but would have confidence that in the end the rest were bound to follow my example. If one Jew or all the Jews were to accept the prescription here offered, he or they cannot be worse off than now. And suffering voluntarily undergone will bring them an inner strength and joy […] the calculated violence of Hitler may even result in a general massacre of the Jews by way of his first answer to the declaration of such hostilities. But if the Jewish mind could be prepared for voluntary suffering, even the massacre I have imagined could be turned into a day of thanksgiving and joy that Jehovah had wrought deliverance of the race even at the hands of the tyrant. For to the God-fearing, death has no terror.

  21. neo-neocon Says:

    Steve: I’ve written about it, here.

  22. Lee Says:

    Ahh, I see…
    God says it’s okay to emigrate, as long as you don’t really “emigrate”. Just as long as you remain our subjects wherever you go, God won’t be mad.
    So much nicer when you put it that way, Alphie…

  23. Ymarsakar Says:

    King also had a more revolutionary counterpart, Malcom X.

  24. Shourik Says:

    Thanks for the informative post. Having been raised to be aware of my Indian heritage, Gandhi has always occupied a special place in any narrative about the independence movement in India. I thought I would share some ideas with you.

    It is only through detailed analysis – such as your articles – that the romanticism with which Gandhi is viewed by most Indians can be placed into context.

    Yes, he did achieve, through non-violent principles, what countless other independence activists could not – publicity throughout the world of the atrocities carried out against Indians in the name of the Empire. (Jallianwala Bagh being an obvious example) He made the country proud and made the majority of Indians realise they could self-govern, not just the urban politicised elite. He did, many times, go on fasting for days in an attempt to achieve a political or social solution.

    But the thoughts of Gandhi the man (like any human being I suppose) cannot all be praised 100% unquestioningly. There is no doubt that, in addition to the comments have noted above regarding Jews and Gandhi’s record of philandering with his nieces (detailed in EXPERIMENTS WITH THE TRUTH, I think it is called) tells me that this man probably enjoyed the pedestal that society placed him upon. Like many other leaders, he simply lost touch with reality.

    Towards the end of his life, particularly when communal tensions in India began to rise – mainly between Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians – he would regularly seek to try and solve problems by commencing a public fast. This was a man who would have loved to become a political leader of a united India but refused to be involved in the process once Muslims sought an independent homeland. (Although this issue is not black and white either and deserves further discussion)

    I wish he could have engaged with the British once they had decided to partition India before leaving and use his influence to persuade them to respect the nuances of language and culture in the “new” India and Pakistan. Unfortunately, the British could not make a decision about Kashmir (still disputed) and proceeded to rule a straight line through Punjab (partly a province in Punjab and a state in India). Gandhi could have, had he wished, prevented these injustices by nudging the British to refine their partition idea. May that would have changed the Home Office memo that stated that the whole region would collapse into civil war by 1955 and that India and Pakistan would be begging the British to come back!

    (By the way, who drew up the maps of Palestine, Transjordan etc etc after WWI?? Hhhhmmmm. And they want to send Tony Blair to help after he leaves office? hehehe)

    Gandhi-ji will always have the respect of Indians for his sacrifices, passion and determination. Had he lived on, (he was shot dead in January 1948 about 6 months after India achieved independence) however, and continued his
    publicity-seeking fasting at the drop of a hat, I wonder whether the world would have seen him in the same light.

  25. WEVS1 Says:

    democratiya.com“What R. Kahane and Ze’evi had in common was that they both advocated “transfer”, a population transfer that would evict most Israeli Arabs from Israel, and possibly Palestinians from the West Bank as well. Advocates of “transfer” insist, btw, that it isn’t ethnic cleansing but rather the completion of a population exchange that began when 750,000 Jews were expelled from Arab countries in the late 1940s and 1950s.”

    Jabotinksy advocated transfer as well:


  26. james wilson Says:

    I read your link to the previous Gandhi article. Illuminating.
    The essentially flaw in logic (and there is much more than logic that is flawed in Gandhi) is that were his ancestors to have practiced what he practiced it is extremely unlikely Gandhi whould have ever existed.
    To say Gandhi was impractical would be to do violence to the term. There was a whale of an ego, and perhaps narcissism behind the conceits of his self-contruction.
    Paul Johnson has written about him in his book “Intellectuals”. In it he portrays various well known ‘humanitarians’ through the reality of their personal lives, which are amazingly horrible. That does indeed include Gandhi.

  27. A companion-piece post to my essay about Israel’s morality — the Gandhi edition Says:

    […] 2007, Neo wrote the almost prescient Dying to leave: Palestine, Lahore, and fanaticism, which discusses the tragedy of ordinary Palestinians trapped behind terrorist lines. Even better, […]

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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