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Gandhi grandson resigns over remarks

Comments seen as offensive to Jews

Arun Gandhi apologized 'for my poorly worded post.' Arun Gandhi apologized "for my poorly worded post."
Email|Print| Text size + By Ben Dobbin
Associated Press / January 26, 2008

ROCHESTER, N.Y. - A relative of Mahatma Gandhi has resigned from a peace institute after drawing condemnation for comments he made in an online forum that Israel and Jews "are the biggest players" in a global culture of violence.

Arun Gandhi, the fifth grandson of the revered pacifist, said yesterday that the board of the M. K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence based at the University of Rochester had accepted his offer a day earlier to step down as president.

Gandhi cofounded the institute with his wife, Sunanda, at Christian Brothers University in Memphis in 1991 and relocated it to the University of Rochester campus in June, a few months after her death.

Gandhi was on a panel of scholars, writers, and clergy who discuss a new topic weekly on the Washington Post's "On Faith" page and his comments, posted Jan. 7, drew a torrent of criticism, much of it unfavorable.

He wrote that Jewish identity "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 (how) 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. . . . 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." Describing Israel as "a nation that believes its survival can only be ensured by weapons and bombs," Gandhi asked whether it would "not be better to befriend those who hate you?"

"Apparently, in the modern world so determined to live by the bomb, this is an alien concept," he wrote. "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."

Gandhi later apologized "for my poorly worded post," saying he shouldn't have implied that Israeli government policies reflected the views of all Jewish people.

"My intention was to generate a healthy discussion on the proliferation of violence," Gandhi said in a statement yesterday. "Instead, unintentionally, my words have resulted in pain, anger, confusion and embarrassment. I deeply regret these consequences."

Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, called it "shameful that a peace institute would be headed up by a bigot." The school's president, Joel Seligman, said in a statement that Gandhi's resignation was appropriate and his remarks "did not reflect the core values" of the university or the institute.

The institute offers courses, workshops, and seminars on nonviolence. Its research library contains multiple photographs and 100 volumes of writings by his grandfather, who led India to independence in 1947 and was assassinated in January 1948.

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