On Jan. 17, Co-founder and President of the M. K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence Arun Gandhi submitted his offer of resignation. While the reasoning for Gandhi’s resignation has not been announced, it can be inferred that it is related to the controversial remarks he wrote for The Washington Post Web site.

Gandhi is on a panel of academics, authors and religious figures for the Post’s “On Faith” Web site, where a new topic is discussed each week.

The topic to which Gandhi responded was, “We know what ‘Jewish identity’ had meant in the past. What will it mean in the future? How does a minority religion retain its roots and embrace change?”

Gandhi’s response included, “Jewish identity in the past has been locked into the Holocaust experience – a German burden that the Jews have not been able to shed.”

He also wrote that Jews overplay the Holocaust.

Gandhi commented on his visit to Tel Aviv in 2004, comparing Israel to a “snake pit.”

“With your superior weapons and armaments and your attitude towards your neighbors would it not be right to say you are creating a snake pit?” Gandhi said. He argued that Israel’s military buildup will alienate it from friendship with other nations and threaten its security.

“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 said.

The post was met with over 430 comments. While a portion of the comments supported Gandhi’s message, many conveyed outrage.

Gandhi wrote a second post, entitled “My Apology for My Poorly Worded Post.” In this message he stated, “I am writing to correct some regrettable mis-impressions I have given.” Gandhi stood by his criticisms of Israeli government, but wanted to correct the statements that he made with insufficient care.

“I do not believe and should not have implied that the policies of the Israeli governments are reflective of the views of all Jewish people,” Gandhi said. “I do believe that when a people hold on to historic grievances too firmly it can lead to bitterness.”

This controversy became particularly relevant to UR, where Gandhi maintained his position as President of the Nonviolence Institute. In response to Gandhi’s words, UR President Joel Seligman issued a statement.

“I was surprised and deeply disappointed by Arun Gandhi’s recent opinion piece,” Seligman said. “I believe that his subsequent apology inadequately explains his stated views, which seem fundamentally inconsistent with the core values of the University of Rochester.

“In particular, I vehemently disagree with his singling out of Israel and the Jewish people as to blame for the ‘culture of violence’ he believes is eventually going to destroy humanity.”

Seligman intends to discuss the matter with Gandhi in person.

Gandhi’s statements sparked an outcry from UR Hillel. In an e-mail sent to the organization’s students, Executive Director of Hillel of Rochester Area Colleges, Joel Miller, explained the issue that has been unfolding since last week.

Miller reprinted the statements by Gandhi and Seligman in the e-mail and gave details about the actions being taken by the Jewish community.

Hillel hosted an informal discussion after dinner on Jan. 18, as well as a meeting in which Seligman invited Jewish Community Federation President Dennis Kessler, Federation Executive Director Larry Fine, Rabbi Matthew Field of the Rochester Board of Rabbis, Hillel of Rochester Area Colleges Board President, Barbara Orenstein and Dean of the College Richard Feldman.

“President Seligman reiterated his concern over the issue, listened to the Jewish community’s concerns and promised as swift a resolution as possible,” Miller said.

Seligman has said the situation is under review. Gandhi is currently in India, scheduled to return this week. The Board of the Institute for Nonviolence will be meeting today, after which further information, as well as a statement by Seligman, will be issued.

Schneier is a member of the class of 2011.



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