No evidence Gandhi ever said: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
Roger Waters, formerly of Pink Floyd, endorsed the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) movement in 2011.
On March 17, 2014, Waters wrote an “exlusive” column for Salon.com, Why I must speak out on Israel, Palestine and BDS.
In the Salon.com “exclusive,” Waters details the routine justifications, but then pulls out a supposed quote from Mahatma Gandhi to prove that Waters is on the right side of history (emphasis added):
In the furor that exists in the U.S. today about BDS and the right and wrong of a cultural boycott of Israel, a quote from one of my heroes, Mahatma Gandhi, has been on my mind. He prophetically said, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” The BDS movement is fulfilling its promise and fits Gandhi’s description. Once dismissed by many as a futile strategy that would “never work,” BDS has gained much ground in recent weeks, bringing with it the expected backlash.
…. I think it’s safe to say BDS is in the “then they fight you” stage.
This is a common quote used by the BDS movement. The anti-Israel Mondoweiss website used it, as has a Northeastern Students for Justice in Palestine Facebook commenter and a commenter at the anti-Israel Electronic Intifada.
This student at the recent Northeastern University anti-Israel protest used it to fire up the crowd:
The only problem is that it’s a fake quote.
All available evidence is that Gandhi never said it, as The Christian Science Monitor noted in 2011, Political misquotes: The 10 most famous things never actually said:
8. ‘First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they attack you. Then you win.’ – Mohandas Gandhi
This line is probably the best summary of Gandhi’s philosophy of satyagraha as you can get in 16 words. But there’s no evidence that the Great Soul ever said this.
We don’t know where this quote came from, but it is strikingly similar to something that the trade unionist Nicholas Klein gave in a 1914 address to the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America in Baltimore:
“First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you. And that, is what is going to happen to the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America.”
Here’s an image of the Nicholas Klein quote:
Even WikiQuote lists it as “Disputed.”
When it comes to BDS rhetoric, fact check everything.
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