Arun Gandhi, the fifth grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, is the former president of the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence based at the University of Rochester, and a contributor to the "On Faith" page of the venerable Washington Post. On January 7, Gandhi wrote that "we have created a culture of violence," but made it clear that by "we" he actually meant somebody else, namely the Jews, who are the "biggest players."
Israel, he wrote, is "a nation that believes its survival can only be ensured by weapons and bombs." Wouldn't it be better, he asked, "to befriend those who hate you?"
Gandhi saw this as an "alien concept," in "the modern world so determined to live by the bomb." Grandson Gandhi did not digress on the nuclear arsenals of India, Pakistan, China, or even Frances's force de frappe, and whether those nations believed their survival could only be ensured by bombs.
Further, "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 didn't say when that might happen. Other themes were on his mind.
As for Jewish identity, it "has been locked into the Holocaust experience – a German burden that the Jews have not been able to shed It is a very good example of how a community can overplay a historic experience to the point that it begins to repulse friends."
Gandhi wrote of the Holocaust as "the result of the warped mind of an individual who was able to influence his followers into doing something dreadful . . . 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." Gandhi's charges sparked plenty of that.
Larry Fine of the Jewish Federation of Rochester said Gandhi's post was "reprehensible" and Abraham Foxman called it "shameful that a peace institute would be headed up by a bigot," adding "one would hope that the grandson of such an illustrious human being would be more sensitive to Jewish history."
Arun Gandhi subsequently apologized for his "poorly worded post," with predictable "deep regret." His words were actually quite in keeping with his supposedly illustrious grandfather, Mahatma Gandhi, who also had some rather strange advice for the Jews.
When Hitler, whom Gandhi said was "not a bad man," was at the height of his power, Gandhi urged the Jews to commit collective suicide. As Richard Grenier noted in The Gandhi Nobody Knows, Gandhi later told biographer Louis Fischer, that the Jews died anyway didn't they? To be fair, he also told the English "Let them [the German National Socialist invaders] take possession of your beautiful island with your many beautiful buildings. You will give all these, but neither your souls, nor your minds." Gandhi's letter to Hitler began "Dear friend." Nothing came of it so perhaps it was poorly worded, like his grandson's January 7 screed. The Mahatma's stand on nonviolence, racism and colonialism was also rather shaky.
Mahatma Gandhi opposed South African discrimination against his fellow Indians, but not against blacks. In fact, he volunteered to organize a brigade of Indians to put down a Zulu uprising, and was even decorated for valor under fire, an episode, as Grenier noted, missing from the movie Gandhi. The supposedly anti-colonial Gandhi supported the British Empire, in Boer War, the "Kaffir War," and World War I.
In India's civil war he endorsed "using violence in a moral cause." He even blessed the Nawab of Maler Kotla when he gave orders to shoot ten Muslims for every Hindu killed in his state. Gandhi said he not would flinch from sacrificing a million lives for India's liberty. Estimates range up to four million dead, in a veritable culture of violence.
Richard Grenier called the Gandhi film "straight pacifist disinformation" and noted that India's then-incumbent, Indira Gandhi, justified the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan as a response to provocative measures by the United States and China. The portrait of the Mahatma cleansed him of anything that might make him appear unillustrious, and there was plenty of it. The government of India, which heavily financed the film, does not practice pacifism and possesses nuclear weapons. What it all meant, Grenier wrote, was that he was not going to accept lessons in conduct from Mahatma Gandhi. What his grandson is dishing out is likewise unacceptable.
"An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind," the Mahatma said in Gandhi. All but the willfully blind can see that the "biggest players" in the current cult of violence are Islamofascist militants. Arun Gandhi was rather short on advice for the shock troops of terrorism, and whether they should love their enemies rather than try to kill them. As the Mahatma observed about tyrants and dictators, terrorists may perish in the end, but in the meantime they take many innocent lives in many countries. They need to be fought, not appeased. That's why nobody should take any advice from Arun Gandhi or his grandfather.