Jews fell Bapu grandson - Arun forced to quit US institute over online views

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By K.P. NAYAR in Washington
  • Published 21.01.08

Washington, Jan. 21: America’s omnipotent Jewish community has forced Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson, Arun Gandhi, to resign from the institute he founded in the US 17 years ago to spread the message of the Father of the Nation.

His resignation offer follows remarks the grandson made about the Jewish identity and the Holocaust in an online discussion on faith and religion on the website of The Washington Post.

“The Board of the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Non-violence has received Mr Arun Gandhi’s offer of resignation as president of our organisation,” the institute said in a statement released through the University of Rochester in New York state, where it is housed since June last year.

“We are scheduling a board meeting with him upon his return from India (this) week,” the statement added.

India is unlikely to say or do anything in defence of Arun even though the huge controversy here revolves around Gandhi and his ideals of non-violence, officials here privately said.

New Delhi cannot afford to even tangentially annoy the American Jewish community because successive Indian governments have relied on this community for at least 15 years to bring Indo-US relations to its present health. The nuclear deal between India and the US would not have got to its present phase of implementation without the active involvement of the American Jewish community in its favour.

Arun’s offer to resign follows several days of grovelling apologies by him, by the moderators of the online discussion on the Post website and defensive statements by University of Rochester president Joel Seligman for having associated with the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Non-violence.

Hundreds of messages assailing Arun and The Washington Post were posted on the website, most of them clearly by Jews. The powerful American Jewish Committee’s executive director David A. Harris pre-empted any Indian reaction by hinting in a statement that India was being ungrateful for all that his organisation did for New Delhi.

“We are proud at the American Jewish Committee to have played a vital role in nurturing the India-Israel bilateral relationship, as well as strengthening the bonds between American Jews and Indian Americans,” Harris said.

Arun’s original remarks, which triggered the controversy, argued that “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.”

Recalling his visit to Tel Aviv in 2004, Arun said he spoke to members of the Israeli parliament and asked in Gandhian tones: “Would it not be better to befriend those who hate you? Can you not reach out and share your technological advancement with your neighbours and build a relationship?”

When a storm of protest erupted over these remarks, Arun apologised. “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.”

Seligman issued a statement that the apology was inadequate and that he was “deeply disappointed by Arun Gandhi’s recent opinion piece... which seem(s) fundamentally inconsistent with the core values of the University of Rochester.”

The Post website’s moderators said: “We regret the initial posting, and we apologise for the episode”, begging readers for “a measure of forbearance and tolerance as the site endeavours to conduct a civil and illuminating conversation.”

Local newspapers demanded Arun’s resignation and asked the University of Rochester to sever ties with the M.K.Gandhi Institute for Non-violence. The AJC called Arun’s comments “reprehensible” and said “Mr Gandhi has fallen short in his subsequent apology.”

In addition to heading the Institute, Arun is a regular participant in “Renaissance Weekend” deliberations with former US President Bill Clinton and other Rhodes Scholars.