buber's original plan was to work towards a jewish renaissance in the land of israel but without establishing on it, or on a portion of it, a political sovereign entity legally defined as a jewish state. his vision was to create a joint democratic republic of jews and arabs in the land of palestine/israel. a land of two peoples as he defined it, rather than a land divided between two peoples. the greatest minds of jewish culture at the time, such as gershom scholem, hanna arendt, judah leib magness, albert einstein, and many others, were members of buber's group named brith-shalom (the covenant of peace) and later on the yichud (union). after 1948 and the establishment of the sovereign state of israel in a portion of the formerly british mandatory palestine, buber advocated full civic rights for the arab minority, and a sovereign palestinian state on the other portion of palestine living side by side with israel in peace and mutual recognition.
the jewish renaissance buber envisioned was going to be cultural and religious, not political. ("religious" in the dialogical manner by which he interpreted that term.). buber therefore wanted a jewish commonwealth in the land, not a jewish nation-state. buber believed that a jewish settlement in the land will be able to fulfill the historic role of reconstituting a humanist prophetic hebrew culture, but only if it rejected the statist project rather than embarking on one. buber expressed his views in his now famous letter of 1939 to the mahatma gandhi.
martin buber's socialist-libertarian philosophy envisioned a world where human societies would no longer organize themselves as separate nation-states. as a socialist, buber did not believe that individuals or peoples, should have the right to lay claims of exclusive national ownership over any segments of the earth. as a libertarian, he privileged the realm of the social over that of the realm of the political, and argued for the abolition of the political-state and its replacement by a federation of free societies founded on the principles of communal cooperatives of production and distribution. as a pacifist, buber opposed the organizing of militias and armies and the use of any manner of violence and coercion as a means for the accomplishment of political goals. buber believed in organizing, but only for the purpose of dialogue between peoples. for buber socialism cannot be political, as for him it was a choice between two models of revolution: "moscow or jerusalem".
from within this overall philosophical context, buber proposed a different jewish national project: before the 1948 establishment of the state of israel, buber advocated the establishment of a joint jewish-arab independent and sovereign bi-national democratic republic on the land of palestine/israel. this binational jewish-arab republic will be a first step towards the fulfillment of a larger project aimed at the restructuring of society as a whole in the model of cooperative communities, and until such project could be made feasible. buber, together with some of the greatest minds of his generation, formed his two activist organizations for the purpose of advancing the bi-national project. buber hoped that rather than two separate jewish and arab states, a federation of free associations, communities and commonwealths would emerge in a shared jewish-arab republic.
martin buber and his associates believed that the jewish renaissance on the land will help usher the renaissance of community everywhere. in may of 1948, after the jewish state of israel was established following the relevant united nations resolutions and the recognition granted to the new state at the time by the two largest super-powers, the united states and the u.s.s.r, buber shifted his focus to activities of reconciliation and peaceful coexistence.
this day, in 1948, mahatma gandhi was assassinated in india. during the period of the second world war gandhi spoke on numerous occasions and on diverse forums of his support for the plight of the jews of europe in light of the "godless fury of their dehumanised oppressors". he said of the jews that "they have been the untouchables of christianity. the parallel between their treatment by christians and the treatment of untouchables by hindus is very close. religious sanction has been invoked in both cases for the justification of the inhuman treatment meted out to them. apart from the (personal) friendships (with jews), therefore, there is the more common universal reason for my sympathy for the jews".
at the same time, gandhi criticized zionism for "it is wrong to enter it (palestine) under the shadow of the british gun. a religious act cannot be performed with the aid of the bayonet or the bomb. they can settle in palestine only by the goodwill of the arabs. they should seek to convert the arab heart. the same god rules the arab heart who rules the jewish heart. they can offer satyagraha in front of the arabs and offer themselves to be shot or thrown into the dead sea without raising a little finger against them." satyagraha for gandhi was not just passive resistance: "non-violence, if it may be so called, is of the helpless and the weak." satyagraha is active non-violence, it is "renunciation of violence of the heart and consequent active exercise of the force generated by the great renunciation." he advised that the jews of germany apply satyagraha and that if the do so "the stoniest german heart will melt. great as have been the Jewish contributions to the world's progress, this supreme act of theirs will be their greatest contribution and war will be a thing of the past."
it is near impossible to fully evaluate these great offerings for they never came to pass. martin buber wrote a letter to gandhi in 1939 articulating his support, as well as his objections. buber wrote to gandhi that satyagraha is what the jews have been practicing for the two thousand years of their exile. hitler and nazism were an evil of not only a different magnitude, but of a different nature.
i believe that we must be engaged with gandhi's thought. we must dialogue with his vision and philosophy from within the conditions and the circumstances of our present times and places. pacifism must remain our guiding principle, and to extent that we follow this path, the transformation of society as a whole will become ever more possible. i have no doubt that pacifism remains the only answer. there never was any other option, and there never will be.
text of the letter that martin buber wrote to the mahatma gandhi in 1939 in regards to zionism