When I first learned that Arun Gandhi, the grandson of the great 20th-century peace activist Mahatma Gandhi, was coming to UR, I was excited.

I was proud of my university for making a home for his institute. I expected to learn a lot from this Gandhi.

What I did not expect were his harshly insensitive remarks about Israel and the Jewish people in a recent post on the “On Faith” blog of http://www.washingtonpost.com. He began his post with a definition of the Holocaust as “the result of the warped mind of an individual who was able to influence his followers into doing something dreadful.” But surely this scholar wouldn’t be able to boil down the genocide of millions of “inferior” people into such a concise and sterile sentence, could he? He defined the “Holocaust experience” as “a German burden that the Jews have not been able to shed,” implying that we need to completely forget the past and move on. Strong words for a man who makes his living piggy-backing on the name of his grandfather.

Israel has done anything but maintain the German shackles of Holocaust guilt, as evidenced by the thousands of students exchanged between Israel and Germany every year, the vast amount of technological research and development cooperation between the two nations and the close ties of international trade (Germany is Israel’s largest trading partner in Europe and second in the world after the United States).

However, in the words of Nobel Laureate Eli Weisel, “Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never.” To forgive is one thing, Mr. Gandhi, but to forget is unforgivable.

Gandhi went on to address the state of the Israeli-Arab conflict in the Middle East, defining it as a self-perpetuating “snake-pit” instigated by Israel and implying that we should lay down our defenses and “befriend” those who hate us. We have learned from our past – asking Hitler to be friends didn’t work in the ’30s and inviting Ahmadinejad to tea won’t work now. That’s not maintaining guilt; that’s realism. We aren’t the defenseless spirituals we were sixty years ago and we know that until we have a partner for peace, a standing Jewish army will always be necessary to ensure our basic right of existence on this planet.

That being said, we have also been humbled by our experience as the underdog for all these millennia. Now that we have the strength to protect ourselves, the Jewish people have immediately reached out to the less fortunate of the world. I have had the pleasure of visiting an organization called Save a Child’s Heart, which evacuates children with terminal heart defects from developing countries to be treated in Israel. These children are transported with a parent to Tel Aviv completely free of charge, where Israeli doctors volunteer their time to heal the children of impoverished nations which can’t or won’t. These doctors risk their lives by flying to nations as far away from Israel as Trinidad and Tobago, as close as Gaza and as dangerous as Somalia. I played with these children, I spoke with their mothers, I felt their hearts beat with gratitude. Mr. Gandhi, how dare you accuse Israel of “not reaching out and sharing technological advancement with their neighbors?”

Arun Gandhi claims to be an educator of peace and nonviolence, but his concluding statement – in which he spits, “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” – is surely one of the most violent allegations against the Jewish people I have ever heard. It cuts me deeper than anything Hitler, Arafat or Ahmadinejad could ever have said because Arun Gandhi claims to be a friend of the Jews. A remark like this comes at the Jewish people from behind, and, being a student of the UR, it comes at me from within.

Nacheman is a member of the class of 2009.



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