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No Thanks, Mr. Gandhi

No Thanks, Mr. Gandhi

I reject your apology because you have missed the point of why your post was so offensive.

by

In a 1938 essay, Mohandas ("Mahatma") Gandhi, the spiritual and political leader of the Indian independence movement, counseled Jews in Nazi Germany to neither flee nor resist but rather offer themselves up to be killed by their enemies, since their "suffering voluntarily undergone will bring them an inner strength and joy."

When all hope is lost, a Jew about to be killed "al Kiddush Hashem" – as a Jewish martyr – is indeed to reach for serenity, even happiness, at the opportunity to give up his life because of who he is. When Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman, the great Lithuanian Jewish religious leader and scholar, was murdered by Hitler's henchmen in 1941, he reportedly told the students about to be killed with him that "In Heaven it appears that they deem us to be righteous because our bodies have been chosen to atone for the Jewish people… In this way we will save the lives of our brethren overseas… We are now fulfilling the greatest commandment… The very fire that consumes our bodies will one day rebuild the Jewish people."

But Jewish martyrdom is not something to be courted. And so Mr. Gandhi's advice for Jews during the Holocaust was, even if consonant with his personal beliefs, from Judaism's point of view profoundly wrong.

And Gandhi's advice was even more disturbing in light of his admission, in that same essay, that the "cry for the national home for the Jews does not make much appeal to me." Jews, he said, should "make… their home where they are born." It is, moreover, he went on, "inhuman to impose the Jews on the Arabs."

Apples, they say, don't fall far from trees. A rotten one fell with a loud splat recently over at The Washington Post. On a weblog – "On Faith" – sponsored by that paper in conjunction with Newsweek Magazine, Arun Gandhi, a grandson of Mohandas and co-founder of the M. K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence at the University of Rochester, opined that "the Jews today" are intent on making Germans feel guilty for the Holocaust (which he chose to spell with a lower-case "h") and that they insist that "the whole world must regret what happened to the Jews."

"The world did feel sorry," he reminded his readers, "for the episode." But "when an individual or a nation refuses to forgive and move on, the regret turns into anger."

Ah, yes, that unpleasant "episode," more than 60 years ago. And those Jews still can't bring themselves to forgive the Nazis.

Like his grandfather was, Mr. Gandhi petit-fils is also concerned with Israel. Addressing those who defend the Jewish State's security barrier and use of weapons to fight terrorism, he challenged: "[Y]ou believe that you can create a snake pit – with many deadly snakes in it – and expect to live in the pit secure and alive?"

And so the man of peace, grandson of the same, reached the conclusion that actions like Israel's "created a culture of violence, and that Culture of Violence is eventually going to destroy humanity."

Interesting. Although his own concern about Jews was not exactly their militarism, Hitler similarly saw them as jeopardizing humanity's survival. Well, whatever.

The focus of your ire should have been not those living in the snake pit, but rather the snakes themselves.

Grandson Gandhi subsequently apologized for his "poorly worded post." In the course of his apology he even took care to capitalize "Holocaust." But his apology itself, unfortunately, consisted solely of his regret at having implied that "the policies of the Israeli government are reflective of the views of all Jewish people." Many Jews, he explained, "are as concerned as I am by the use of violence for state purposes…"

Well, thank you, Mr. Gandhi. But no thanks. I cannot speak for all of the Jewish people, of course, but for my part I must decline your apology. Not because I bear you any grudge or ill will and certainly not because I am hard-hearted. I don't think I have ever rejected an apology in my life, until now.

It's not because I am blinded by some ethnic rage over the unpleasantness of that World War II episode. And not because I am a knee-jerk defender of Israel in whatever her leaders decide to do; I am not.

No, I reject your apology simply because you seem to have missed the entire point of why your original post was so offensive – frankly, revolting. It is astounding that you still don't seem to realize your insult and error.

They lie in where you directed your words. You are welcome to criticize Israeli decisions, even the wisdom of Israel's establishment itself, if you agree with your grandfather's views. But if your ultimate concerns are in fact peace and humanity's survival, then in a world where Jews are regularly attacked simply for being Jews and Israelis simply for being Israelis, where Jewish tombstones are defaced and broken, where Arab countries will not permit Israelis to enter their borders and Arab textbooks teach children to hate Jews as a matter of religious and cultural obligation, where a United Nations routinely ignores murder, mayhem and unspeakable cruelty in scores of countries but just as routinely condemns Israel for defending herself, the primary focus of your ire should have been not those living in the snake pit, but rather the snakes themselves. 

Published: January 19, 2008


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Visitor Comments: 53

(52) Nachiket, July 21, 2009 6:02 AM

So much agony!!!!

I agree to Rohan the post by Riya is heartbraking. We the young INDIANS DO NOT STUDY HISTORY AT ALL and make such harsh statements ( though we think we know all the facts of history generally those so called facts are told by somebody else and not out of our study). Riya you should study Gandhi. One thing for sure he was certainly not Idiot

(51) macrina, March 18, 2009 6:50 AM

varun's hate speech

varun seems to be a guy with a lot of hate, communal disharmony and a person who wishes to spread hurt among people. it's not only sad, to hear what varun has to say for the jews, cause he has no connection with the jews.. he's been spreading hate messages by way of his speech in India as well. he's spreading communal disharmony you could look up news sites of India to read his latest.

(50) Rohan, April 4, 2008 1:56 PM

Calm Down

Seriously, you all need to calm down. Riya, you need to get more education on the facts. Gandhi was a great man, perhaps not perfect, but as Einstein (A Jew) said "Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth". Through misquotations and distortions many people emotionally overreact and arm-chair quarterback judgement of history. Put yourself in the shoes of people in the context of their time, they did not have the luxury of your hindsight. Everything looks 20/20 in hindsight.

Anonymous, March 7, 2012 4:28 PM

Non sense

Einstein was right, it is simply impossible to believe that a person could be so much unaware of reality. Leaders need to have far sight. Gandhi was not a mahatma, he was made a mahatma.

(49) Abraham Mathews, February 20, 2008 8:19 PM

God's own people !

When you are God's own people why worry about anyone else...He has promised your fathers and all of you Jews that he will never diown you. So if God over shodows over you...why care about anyone or fear anything..He is the Almighty. Its in Faith in Him Man conquers...look back into the Old testment..Everytime you turned to him...He protected and won you your wars. So wharever any Gandhi or anyone says has no influence over Jewish People.

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