Oakland, California, February 12, 2008. South asian organizations and groups have condemned the forced resignation and campaign of defamation against Arun Gandhi by sending a strongly worded statement to the University of Rochester and the Washington Post blog at which Gandhi posted an article. The statement was drafted by Dr. Sunaina Maira, Associate Professor at the University of California, Davis, and endorsed by South Asians organizations and community members, as well as groups and individuals from from all over the world. The statement condemns the manner in which Arun Gandhi, the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi and the founder/director of the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence at the University of Rochester, was forced to resign from his position.
Arun Gandhi, a respected and renowned public figure who has worked for years to promote non-violence and inter-faith understanding, sparked controversy after writing a two-paragraph commentary titled “Jewish Identity Can’t Depend on Violence.” Posted at “On Faith,” a Washington Post blog, the article criticized Israeli militarism and the misuse of the tragedy of the Holocaust to justify violence against another group and suggested that this was undermining support for Israeli policies. While Gandhi issued a public apology for his “poorly worded” comments and clarified that he did not believe that the Israeli state’s policies were reflective of the views of all Jewish peoples, he was quickly denounced by pro-Israel groups, such as the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the American Jewish Committee, as “anti-Semitic.”
“It was not enough for the University of Rochester that he had been pressured to apologize. Gandhi’s resignation makes it clear that he was the latest casualty of the powerful and highly organized pro-Israel lobby in the U.S. that immediately deems any and all criticism of Israel ’s policies as anti-Semitic,” noted Maira. She continues, “It is shameful that groups such as the Hindu American Foundation who claim to promote tolerance and understanding would support such blatant censorship of Gandhi’s grandson. Perhaps they choose to ignore Mahatma Gandhi’s statement in 1946 that Jewish settlers have erred grievously in seeking to impose themselves on Palestine with the aid of America and Britain and now with the aid of naked terrorism. “
Yasmin Fatima, a member of Friends of South Asia, a non-profit organization working for social justice that has endorsed the statement said, “we are concerned not only with the way Arun Gandhi was treated but is also disturbed by the fact that a powerful lobby has attempted to silence any criticism of the state of Israel, suppress freedom of speech, and intimidate academics and authors who dare to challenge unconditional support for Israel.”
FOSA was joined by over 100 individuals and 16 organizations in endorsing the statement drafted by Dr. Maira. Civil rights acivists and organizations from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, USA, UK, France, Germany, Ireland, Canada, and other countries signed on to express support. The statement was also endorsed by campus groups, such as Students for Justice in the U.S. and the Jawaharlal Nehru University Teachers’ Association in New Delhi, India, in addition to drawing many signatures from individual faculty members from the U.S. to India.
Dr. Philip Beard, founder of the Center for the Study of the Holocaust at Sonoma State University observed, “The actions of the Israeli government and its military, and those of the Jewish lobbying organizations in the U.S. who uncritically support them, are anathema to the lessons of the Holocaust – for example, that we must muster the civil
courage to resist the oppression of the less powerful by more powerful groups.” He commented that while those criticizing Israel are most definitely not anti-Semitic, the true anti-Semites are those “Jews and non-Jews alike, who preach unquestioning support of governments and military establishments that flout international agreements to which
they are party.” Dr. Anil Sadgopal, the former Dean of the Faculty of Education at University of Delhi, drew attention to the parallels between the strong-arm tactics of the right-wing American Jewish groups and Hindu fundamentalist groups (the Sangh Parivar) in India. He wrote, “The intolerance demonstrated by the American Jewish Committee, ADL, as well as Hindu American Foundation is both anti-democratic and un-Gandhian. Such intolerance is becoming commonplace in India too – mostly by Bajrang Dal, Vishwa Hindu Parishad and other members of the Sangh Parivar. We must resist this
decline in social and human values.”
Statement and signatures available at: