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January 24, 2008

Gandhi grandson resigns after criticism of anti-Semitic article

Judea Pearl goes straight to the chairman of the Washington Post

http://www.jewishjournal.com/world/article/gandhi_grandson_resigns_after_criticism_of_antisemitic_article_20080125

Arun Gandhi

Arun Gandhi

The president of the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence at the University of Rochester resigned Thursday amid criticism of a short opinion piece he wrote for The Washington Post online titled "Jewish Identity Can't Depend on Violence."

Penned by Arun Gandhi, the fifth grandson of Mohandas K. "Mahatma" Gandhi, the article was widely condemned. The essay was first posted on Jan. 7 on WashingtonPost.com's On Faith blog, a commentary consortium of some of the world's leading religious scholars. The blog's editors, Sally Quinn and Jon Meacham published an apology today (Jan 18).

"As 'On Faith' readers know, a post by Arun Gandhi on January 7 has produced an enormous response from readers who found Gandhi's initial remarks anti-Semitic and his subsequent apology insufficient," the apology states. "When we undertook this project over a year ago, we wrote that our goal was to shed light on a subject that too often generates heat. The Gandhi post failed to comply with that mission, and we can only ask our readers to extend 'On Faith' a measure of forbearance and tolerance as the site endeavors to conduct a civil and illuminating conversation. We regret the initial posting, and we apologize for the episode."

Among the voices of protest was that of Judea Pearl, president of the Daniel Pearl Foundation. Pearl, an op-ed columnist for The Jewish Journal whose son was killed by Islamic extremists at least in part because he was Jewish, directed his protest to Donald Graham, chairman of The Washington Post Co., the text of which is reprinted on the blog.

"In his final moments," Pearl wrote, "Danny told his captors on camera: 'My father is Jewish, My mother is Jewish, I am Jewish,' and, as President Bush said in the White House last month: 'These words have become a source of inspiration to Americans of all faiths.'

"My son Daniel died mighty proud of his Jewish identity. He, like the millions of decent and peace-seeking Israelis, and Americans who proudly carry on their Jewish heritage, did not see his identity as 'dependent on violence' as the title of Gandhi's article implies.

"Mr. Graham, the article your editors have allowed to be posted is a painful insult to everything Daniel stood for, to everything America stands for, and to every decent person inspired by Daniel's words.

"Too many people were killed, abused or dispossessed in the past century by words of irresponsible authors, often disguised as scholars or humanitarians, who pointed fingers at, and blamed one segment of society for the ills and maladies in the world.

"Arun Gandhi did just that."

Gandhi, who is in India, could not be reached for comment. His three-paragraph article, published Jan. 7, accused Jews of using the Holocaust to promote a culture of violence.

"The holocaust was the result of the warped mind of an individual who was able to influence his followers into doing something dreadful. But, it seems to me the Jews today not only want the Germans to feel guilty but the whole world must regret what happened to the Jews," Gandhi wrote. "The world did feel sorry for the episode but when an individual or a nation refuses to forgive and move on the regret turns into anger. The Jewish identity in the future appears bleak."

Gandhi concluded: "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."

Reaction was sharp and immediate. More than 400 people commented, some supporting, others opposing, the article. Four days after the article was published, Rochester President Joel Seligman said he was "deeply disappointed" by Gandhi's comments.

"I vehemently disagree with his singling out of Israel and the Jewish people as to blame for the 'culture of violence' that he believes is eventually going to destroy humanity," Seligman said in a statement. "This kind of stereotyping is inconsistent with our core values and would be inappropriate when applied to any race, any religion, any nationality, or either gender."

Gandhi was expected to return next week to meet with the Seligman and board of the Institute for Nonviolence. (The institute did not return calls for comment.)

PhotoIn a brief phone interview, Pearl, whose most recent column referred to Arun Gandhi as a "cult of the superficial," said he first called Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, when he read Gandhi's comments. The ADL had already issued a statement saying even Gandhi's apology was offensive and did not ease concerns that he believed Israel and Jews propagate a "culture of violence."

"This outrageous libel of an entire people and of a country that wants nothing more than to live in peace and security with its neighbors -- and has said so repeatedly -- is mind-boggling coming from someone so respected in the field of nonviolence education and advocacy," the ADL said in a statement.

Pearl, however, wanted an apology from The Washington Post, whose chairman he met four years ago at an event honoring journalists who had lost their lives in the field.

"Who reads the Web site of the ADL? People read the Post," Pearl said. "And I worried that they would get the impression, that it was stylish to make anti-Jewish remarks and anti-coexistence remarks."

Pearl (photo) said he believed that Graham would understand the disparity between his son's life and death and Gandhi's accusations that Jews thrived on a violent identity.

"His pronouncements reflect that conflict between the theory he wants to abide by and reality," Pearl said of Gandhi. "You can find him making statements like two and two is five on one day, and two and two is four on another day. I was not surprised he was willing to apologize one day, resign on another and tomorrow I would not be surprised if he repeated his allegations."

Judea and Ruth Pearl talk about Daniel's last words

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