Gandhi's grandson blasts Israel, Jews

He then apologizes for "poorly worded" remarks that Jews are "locked into Holocaust experience."

gandhi 224 (photo credit: Courtesy)
gandhi 224
(photo credit: Courtesy)
A grandson of the late Indian leader Mohandas Gandhi has penned some thoughts on Jewish identity that were published this week on the Washington Post's Web site. "Jewish identity in the past has been locked into the Holocaust experience," wrote Arun Gandhi, who heads the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence at the University of Rochester in New York. "It is a very good example of [how] a community can overplay a historic experience to the point that it begins to repulse friends." According to Gandhi, "The world did feel sorry for the episode [the Holocaust,] but when an individual or a nation refuses to forgive and move on, the regret turns into anger." Gandhi is pessimistic about the future of Jewish identity, which "appears bleak" because "any nation that remains anchored to the past is unable to move ahead, and especially a nation that believes its survival can only be ensured by weapons and bombs." In the blog entry, posted to the Washington Post's On Faith blog on Monday and titled "Jewish Identity Can't Depend on Violence," Gandhi wonders whether Israelis would not be better served "to befriend those who hate you" rather than turning Israel into "a snake pit" through "your attitude toward your neighbors." "Apparently, in the modern world, so determined to live by the bomb, this is an alien concept," he wrote, concluding: "You don't befriend anyone, you dominate them. We have created a culture of violence (Israel and the Jews are the biggest players) and that culture of violence is eventually going to destroy humanity." The blog posting is followed by an apology posted on Thursday. "I am writing to correct some regrettable misimpressions I have given in my comments on my blog this week. While I stand behind my criticisms of the use of violence by recent Israeli governments - and I have criticized the governments of the US, India and China in much the same way - I want to correct statements that I made with insufficient care, and that have inflicted unnecessary hurt and caused anger," he wrote. Gandhi insists he does "not believe and should not have implied that the policies of the Israeli government are reflective of the views of all Jewish people," but affirms that "when a people hold on to historic grievances too firmly it can lead to bitterness and the loss of support from those who would be friends." Nonetheless, he concludes, "The suffering of the Jewish people, particularly in the Holocaust, was historic in its proportions." For Dr. Efraim Zuroff, the Simon Wiesenthal Center's Israel director, Arun Gandhi's thoughts on "Jewish identity" are "exceptionally strange, especially in light of the fact that there's never been any history of anti-Semitism in India and among Hindus." According to Zuroff, the notion that Jewish identity is "locked into" the Holocaust and causes resentment, coupled with the statement that "Israel and the Jews are the biggest players" in a "culture of violence [that] is eventually going to destroy humanity," clearly amount to anti-Semitism. Furthermore, Gandhi's words reflect his grandfather's misunderstanding of the Jewish situation, Zuroff said. "Sometimes people become obsessed with their own agenda to the extent that they think it's the solution to every problem," he said. "Even the great Mohandas Gandhi did not have a monopoly on wisdom, and the best proof of that was his suggestion that Jews engage in passive resistance against the Nazis. It's an absurd response in the face of absolute totalitarianism and a movement like Nazism. It's like saying the Indian army should disband and let the Taliban and al-Qaida and the Pakistanis overrun the country." Arun Gandhi's comments "obviously show his distinct lack of ability to analyze history. With all due respect to his lineage and the wonderful idea he represents, this is an outrageous statement that does no credit to him, his family or his institution," Zuroff said. The original blog post garnered more than 500 responses, many expressing support for what they understood as Gandhi's anti-Zionist statements. Gandhi is not new to controversy regarding Israel. During a visit to Israel in 2004 he called on tens of thousands of Palestinians in Jordan to march across the Jordan River and enter Israel in a nonviolent protest. He also reportedly said at the time that the Palestinians' situation was "10 times worse" than that of blacks under South Africa's apartheid regime.