Neocon questions: Where is the Palestinian Gandhi? And where is the great Churchill of our times?

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Joseph Lelyveld on a new India famine book in the New York Review of Books focuses on Churchill’s racism, “Winston’s refusal to accept things as they are and not as they were in 1895,” as Leopold Amery, sec’y of state for India, put it.

No one ignited the fury that Churchill brought to any discussion of Indian issues more reliably than Mahatma Gandhi. The two men had met only once, briefly in 1906 when Gandhi was a well-dressed barrister, not a Mahatma. Yet in Churchill’s eyes he stood out in his later guise as a “malignant subversive lunatic” and “thoroughly evil force, hostile to us in every fiber.”… Gandhi is “the world’s most successful humbug.” When in 1943 the imprisoned Mahatma threatens a fast, the prime minister orders Amery to be sure he’s told that “we had no objections to his fasting to death if he wanted to.”…

[Lelyveld speculates that Churchill’s] impressions of Gandhi encapsulat[ed] prejudices agaisnt Hindus brought back from his service as a cavalryman in India for a couple of years, starting in 1896. Hindus, he grumbled, “were a beastly people with a beastly religion.” Or again, “the beastliest people in the world next to the Germans.”

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