Arun Gandhi’s comments regarding the meaning of “Jewish identity,” posted Jan. 7 on the Washington Post’s “On Faith” blog, ignited uproar. While some readers support Gandhi’s claim, many condemn his message. His subsequent apology did little to quell the outraged responses. UR President Joel Seligman noted in a statement that he was disappointed in Gandhi’s remarks and found his apology insufficient.
Gandhi’s message of peace and forgiveness was obscured by the use of abrasive language and generalizations. His post was inappropriate because he fell back on an underdeveloped metaphor, overshadowing his intended theme of nonviolence. The continuing Palestinian-Israeli conflict deserves attention and discussion. Critics should be able to espouse radical views, but it is paramount that they choose their language carefully and diplomatically.
Rather than condemn Gandhi for his comments, he deserves the chance to adequately explain his opinion; he need not pander to public opinion. Gandhi should take the opportunity to address the UR community via meeting, letter or alternative medium.
The M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence announced on Jan. 17 that Gandhi had submitted a letter of resignation. While Gandhi’s remarks were offensive, his job should not be in jeopardy. As a leading voice for nonviolence, Gandhi’s presence at UR is still merited. Furthermore, the Institute itself has greatly impacted the University and the city of Rochester since it arrived in July. Rush Rhees Library now features the Gandhi Reading Room, which includes the complete set of M.K. Gandhi’s work given to the Institute by the Indian government. Currently, the Institute, together with the community, is planning a program to recognize the Season for Nonviolence, hoping to address concerns regarding community violence.
Upon his return from India, Gandhi is to meet with the Institute’s board and President Seligman. Despite Gandhi’s poorly chosen words, hopefully both the Institute and the University will recognize that it would be best to create a dialogue and foster a campus atmosphere that promotes intellectual exchange.