Monday, 28 January 2008

Ghandi's Grandson Quits Peace Centre

This is the title of an interesting article in the Guardian, which you can read here. On the basis of intemperate remarks made about Jews and Israelis in the Washington Post, Ghandi has had to resign from the peace institute which he himself founded.

Here's what he wrote:

Gandhi wrote that Jewish identity ``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.
``The holocaust was 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.''
Describing Israel as ``a nation that believes its survival can only be ensured by weapons and bombs,'' Gandhi asked whether it would ``not be better to befriend those who hate you?''
``Apparently, in the modern world so determined to live by the bomb, this is an alien concept,'' he wrote. ``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.''
Gandhi later apologized ``for my poorly worded post,'' saying he shouldn't have implied that Israeli government policies reflected the views of all Jewish people.
For an expert, I don't just find these words poorly chosen, I find the analysis behind them naive in the extreme.

What do you think?

9 comments:

John said...

I think we can still learn from Ghandi - the grandfather, that is - but even the grandfather is not best remembered for comments related to Jews and Israel.

The naivete goes back that far and beyond, I'm afraid.

ancienthebrewpoetry.typepad.com

Phil Sumpter said...

I didn't realize Ghandi Senior had made comments on the topic. I remember studying Indian culture during my anthropology course at uni and learning how it was because of Ghandi that the caste system was retained in India, much to the chagrin of the then prime minister, an untouchable, who had campaigned for its abolition.

I've just come across this article, which critiques Ghandi. It looks as if he thought South Africa's blacks were lower than the untouchables ...

J. K. Gayle said...

Learn from Mahatma Gandhi? Yes.

Was he naive? No, not much more than Jesus Christ was (as if to "Jews and Israel"). Let's put MLK Jr. in the mix with them. Gandhi's legacy is one of acknowledged hypocrisy, admitted errors. Here's the man who would not teach his little grandson (yes, this one) to stop eating sweets until he'd tried such a diet himself.

But was Gandhi "blinded" by the message of non-violence of Jesus (as was MLK Jr)? Of course he was. But this is hardly naiveté. As Hitler's armies in 1938 have rolled through, here's Mohandas K. Gandhi, in his own words:

"It is not without hesitation that I venture to offer my views on this very difficult question [of Arabs and Jews in Palestine].

My sympathies are all with the Jews. I have known them intimately in South Africa. Some of them became life-long companions. Through these friends I came to learn much of their age-long persecution. They have been the untouchables of Christianity. The parallel between their treatment by Christians and the treatment of untouchables by Hindus is very close.

And now a word to the Jews in Palestine. . . They can settle in Palestine only by the goodwill of the Arabs. . . They can offer satyagraha in front of the Arabs and offer themselves to be shot or thrown in to the Dead Sea without raising a little finger against them. . . There are hundreds of ways of reasoning with the Arabs, if they will only discard the help of the British bayonet. As it is, they are co-sharers with the British in despoiling a people who have done no wrong to them."

Fascinating words in 2008, when last night George W. Bush calls for democratic Israel to recognize and co-exist with a democratic [Arab] Palestine. This is the same leader who rolled through Afghanistan and Iraq. Bush as military liberator is no racist anti-Semitic Nazi military dictator.

But note the contrast between the Bush doctrine in 2008 and Gandhi's methods in 1938. Gandhi again:

"The Jews in Palestine . . . can offer satyagraha in front of the Arabs and offer themselves to be shot or thrown in to the Dead Sea without raising a little finger against them. They will find the world opinion in the their favor in their religious aspiration.

I am not defending the Arab excesses. I wish they had chosen the way of non-violence in resisting what they rightly regarded as an unwarrantable encroachment upon their country. But according to the accepted canons of right and wrong, nothing can be said against the Arab resistance in the face of overwhelming odds."

So note how the grandson just doesn't get it. He goes beyond Jesus's call to "love your enemies," and he is naive about the history of violence we know as the holocaust, a present threat from men like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Practically, not naively, Mahatma Gandhi called for Jews to "find the world opinion in favor in their religious aspiration." Note how the South African Indian satyagraha campaign is the example he offers. MLK Jr had a similar dream for America. God and humanity are involved for the pacifist.

R.O. Flyer said...

I saw Gandhi's grandson speak a couple years ago and loved what he had to say. Some of these quotes are obviously a little careless, but personally I'm sick and tired of people being lambasted as anti-Semitic for criticizing Israel. Give me a break. Recently, as you may have heard, my university (University of St. Thomas) didn't allow Desmond Tutu to come speak at our campus because of some critical remarks he made of Israel. Well, I've had enough of this type of stuff. For people to say that the Israeli state is totally out of control and the U.S. should stop military aid, is not anti-Semitic it is simply the truth.

Phil Sumpter said...

J.K. Gayle,

thank you for the detailed quotes. It's good to read stuff like that. I have to confess, my knowledge of Mahatma Ghandi, and indeed his grandson, is limited. I like what he had to say. I'm not sure what you mean by Jesus being naive or Ghandi being "blinded" by Jesus, however ...

R.O. Flyer,

I agree, the whole anti-semitism issue in relation to the state of Israel has been abused to the point that the term has been rendered almost meaningless. I don't know what Mr Tutu said, but given his human rights work in other areas it seems an over sensitive reaction of your university.

My accusation of extreme naivite and even historical ignorance is in relation to this statement:

``The holocaust was 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.''

As for his claims about Israel needing to survive by weapons, I'd like to hear a practical alternative. I'm not sure his grandfather's suggestions a generation ago are equally applicable ... Feel free to contradict me!

J. K. Gayle said...

I'm not sure what you mean by Jesus being naive or Ghandi being "blinded" by Jesus, however ...

Phil, I was using hyperbole to say that Gandhi's not more naive than Jesus because Jesus is not naive. And Gandhi is focused (a kind of blindness) and bound to non-violence as he hears that from Jesus.

But Jesus as God in Christ may actually have submitted himself to a certain blindness or naivety, don't you think? John Hobbins talks of this some in this great post: "The situation reminds me of a quote from Lenin: trust is good, control is better. But it appears that God is not a Leninist..."

R.O. Flyer said...

I'm actually unsure what you mean by "As for his claims about Israel needing to survive by weapons, I'd like to hear a practical alternative. I'm not sure his grandfather's suggestions a generation ago are equally applicable." Are you suggesting that there is no practical alternative to the present methods of Israeli repression?

kd said...

Steven Welch writes at 'www.yale.edu/gsp/publications/Holocaust.doc'...

"In a book published in 1995, historian and sociologist Gunnar Heinsohn surveys forty-two different theoretical approaches to explaining the Holocaust—and, of course, he adds a new one of his own for good measure. Heinsohn’s extensive catalog of proposed explanations of the Holocaust highlights the reigning lack of consensus in the field of Holocaust studies. Within the brief compass of this paper it is impossible to discuss even a small portion of the extensive literature dealing with the Holocaust; instead I will simply attempt to map in broad terms some of the more significant features of the vast historiographical terrain of Holocaust studies, providing brief sketches of the five major interpretive paradigms which currently shape the field, while making specific reference to a few representative works. At the end I also offer a short description of the most authoritative recent investigation into the scope of the Holocaust."

(and a little later)

Holocaust as a Successful Expression of the 'Pathology of Modernity':
"During the 1980s a number of historians began invoking the concept of modernity as the key to explaining the horrors of the Holocaust. From a conservative standpoint, Rainer Zitelmann argued against the Holocaust’s uniqueness and asserted that it was not the outcome of German peculiarity or deep-seated antisemitism but rather the result of the totalitarian potential of modernisation.
Zygmunt Baumann’s enormously influential book Modernity and the Holocaust presented the mass murder of European Jewry as a product, not a failure, of modern society. He stressed the cold, mechanical nature of the industrial slaughter engineered by distant and inhumane bureaucrats intent on using destruction as a way of solving pressing social problems. “The Holocaust,” Baumann asserted, “was not an irrational outflow of the not-yet-fully-eradicated residues of pre-modern barbarity.” Rather it was “a paradigm of modern bureaucratic rationality,” the story of whose organization “could be made into a textbook of scientifc management.”

My thoughts...
Modernity hurts badly.

Phil Sumpter said...

J.K. Gayle,

But Jesus as God in Christ may actually have submitted himself to a certain blindness or naivety, don't you think?

Food for thought ...

R.O. Flyer,

when I talk about the complexity of the situation, in which I can't imagine how the state of Israel could simply put down its weapons and practice pacifism en masse, I imagine the situation to be slightly more nuanced than "Israel repressing innocent Palestinians". There are crimes on both sides. The fact that an influential number of Palestinans are commited to a religious solution, one transcending rational dialogue, in which the Jews are to be driven into the seas, means that one cannot expect the Jews to give them the benefit of the doubt. Experience in Lebanon and Gaza has proved this.

kd,

thanks for that! A fascinating article. It's certainly an improvement on Ghandi's ridiculous "product of a single madman" hypothesis!