Rochester Scholar Says Jews 'Overplay' Holocaust

The head of a nonviolence research center that recently relocated to the University of Rochester has angered many Jewish people -- and the university's president -- with blog comments that said Jewish people "overplay" the Holocaust and that Jews and Israel are the "biggest players" in the worldwide "culture of violence."

Arun Gandhi -- who made the comments -- is the founder of the M.K. Gandhi Institute, named for his grandfather, Mohandas K. Gandhi, and devoted to his teachings on nonviolence. Arun Gandhi is a popular speaker on many campuses.

January 14, 2008
 

The head of a nonviolence research center that recently relocated to the University of Rochester has angered many Jewish people -- and the university's president -- with blog comments that said Jewish people "overplay" the Holocaust and that Jews and Israel are the "biggest players" in the worldwide "culture of violence."

Arun Gandhi -- who made the comments -- is the founder of the M.K. Gandhi Institute, named for his grandfather, Mohandas K. Gandhi, and devoted to his teachings on nonviolence. Arun Gandhi is a popular speaker on many campuses.

The comments by Gandhi that set off the controversy came in The Washington Post's "On Faith" series of online discussions on religion. Last week's focus was Jewish identity. In his post, Gandhi wrote: "Jewish identity in the past has been locked into the holocaust experience -- a German burden that the Jews have not been able to shed. It is a very good example of a community can overplay a historic experience to the point that it begins to repulse friends. 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. 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."

After describing his frustration with Israeli policies, Gandhi wrote: "Would it not be better to befriend those who hate you? Can you not reach out and share your technological advancement with your neighbors and build a relationship? Apparently, in the modern world, so determined to live by the bomb, this is an alien concept. 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."

More than 400 people responded, many of them critically, prompting Gandhi to post a new comment: "My Apology for My Poorly Worded Post," in which he said he was sorry that his statements were made "with insufficient care" and said that they "have inflicted unnecessary hurt and caused anger."

He wrote that "I do not believe and should not have implied that the policies of the Israeli government are reflective of the views of all Jewish people." On the Holocaust, Gandhi used a different tone in his second post (and capitalized the word), but stuck to his message about what he sees as the flaws of holding on to certain issues.

"I do believe 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. But as I have noted in previous writings, the suffering of the Jewish people, particularly in the Holocaust, was historic in its proportions. While we must strive for a future of peace that rejects violence, it is also important not to forget the past, lest we fail to learn from it. Having learned from it, we can then find the path to peace and rejection of violence through forgiveness," he wrote.

According to university officials, Gandhi is in India right now.

Joel Seligman, president of the university, released a statement Friday in which he said he was "surprised and deeply disappointed" by Gandhi's post and that "his subsequent apology inadequately explains his stated views, which seem fundamentally inconsistent with the core values of the University of Rochester."

Said Seligman: "In particular 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. 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."

Seligman added: "We are also committed to the right of every person to address complaints or allegations personally and directly. Arun Gandhi currently is in India. I will discuss this matter with him in person as soon as he returns to Rochester later this month."

Read more by

Back to Top