Arun Gandhi Quits Peace Institute in Flap Over Blog Posting
Saturday, January 26, 2008
The grandson of Indian spiritual leader Mahatma Gandhi resigned yesterday as president of the board of a conflict resolution institute after writing an online essay on a Washington Post blog calling Jews and Israel "the biggest players" in a global culture of violence.
In his resignation letter to the board of the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence, founder Arun Gandhi wrote that his Jan. 7 essay "was couched in language that was hurtful and contrary to the principles of nonviolence. My intention was to generate a healthy discussion on the proliferation of violence. Clearly I did not achieve my goal. Instead, unintentionally, my words have resulted in pain, anger, confusion and embarrassment."
The institute is housed at the University of Rochester and has a university-paid director. Gandhi submitted his resignation to the board Thursday and it was accepted yesterday.
Board members could not be reached immediately yesterday, but a brief unsigned statement on the university's Web site said: "The essence of Arun Gandhi's work has been to educate and promote the principles of nonviolence. In that spirit, the Institute plans to work with the University of Rochester and other community groups to use the recent events as an opportunity to deepen mutual understanding through dialogue employing the principles of nonviolence and peace."
Gandhi's comments were part of a discussion about the future of Jewish identity on the religion blog On Faith at washingtonpost.com. He wrote that Jewish identity is "locked into the holocaust experience," which Jews "overplay . . . to the point that it begins to repulse friends." The Jewish nation -- Israel, he wrote -- is too reliant upon weapons and bombs and should instead befriend its enemies.
"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," he wrote.
The posting drew 438 comments -- an exceptionally high response for an On Faith essay -- and prompted such a backlash that Gandhi later posted an apology. The Web site also apologized.
On Jan. 11, university President Joel Seligman labeled Gandhi's initial comments stereotyping and said they were "fundamentally inconsistent with the core values" of the school. Yesterday, he called the resignation "appropriate."
The institute will remain at the university, which will host a forum later this year "to provide Arun Gandhi, a leader of the Jewish community and other speakers the opportunity to address the issues raised by Mr. Gandhi's statements and related issues. A University can and should promote dialogue in which we can learn from each other even when the most painful or difficult issues will be discussed," Seligman said in his statement yesterday.