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January 22, 2008

WaPo Apology Not Enough to Put the Cat Back in the Bag

The contempt for Jews and Israel expressed by Arun Gandhi in his Jan. 7 post at "On Faith," a website published by the Washington Post, has made its way to another news outlet, this one in Calcutta, demonstrating the limits of apologies in the electronic era.

The article appeared in the Jan. 22 issue of The Telegraph, a newspaper published in Calcutta, India under the byline of K.P. Nayar. According to Nayar, Arun Ghandi's disgrace is not his fault, but the fault of those pesky, "omnipotent" Jews. Nayar writes:

America’s omnipotent Jewish community has forced Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson, Arun Gandhi, to resign from the institute he founded in the US 17 years ago to spread the message of the Father of the Nation.

His resignation offer follows remarks the grandson made about the Jewish identity and the Holocaust in an online discussion on faith and religion on the website of The Washington Post.

The fact is that while Arun Ghandi's remarks on Jewish identity and the Holocaust were offensive, there was a lot more to Ghandi's diatribe than Nayar let on. In particular, Ghandi's assertion that "Jews and Israel" were the "biggest players" in a "culture of violence" was what really drove the controversy. This assertion is, on its face, an empirical falsehood.

Israel is the target of regular attacks on its civilians justified by notions of "total war" -- the idea that there is no distinction between soldiers and civilians. Hamas and Hezbollah attack civilians while hiding behind civilians. Israel, on the other hand, works to avoid civilian casualties.

Bernard Harrison, author of The Resurgence of Anti-Semitism: Jews, Israel, and Liberal Opinion, writes:

The principle that every Israeli, including women and children, is a legitimate target has been repeatedly and expressly proclaimed and acted upon by the Palestinians and rejectionist Arab states both before and after the founding of Israel as a state. To kill civilians has been the whole point of innumerable actions both by Al-Fateh and by such "Islamists" fascists groups as Hamas, Hizbollah, or Islamic Jihad. On the other hand, while actions undertaken by the Israeli armed forces have resulted in the deaths of Arab civilians, the object of these actions has not been to bring about those deaths. Further, although some civilian deaths are inevitable in a war conducted at such close quarters over heavily populated land, Israel has done, on the whole, everything in its power to keep such deaths to a minimum.

Despite all this, Arun Gandhi portrays Israel as the biggest players in the culture of violence. And or some reason, Nayar omits this issue from his story. Arun Gandhi's falsehood was obscured by Nayar's selective reporting.

Nayar also traffics in some pretty obvious stereotyping when he writes that "hundreds of messages assailing Arun and The Washington Post were posted on the website, most of them clearly by Jews." What is his proof that most of these posts were "clearly by Jews"? The suggestion is that in order to disagree with Ghandi's assertions, one must be almost invariably be a Jew.

K.P. Nayar's bit of nastiness came out three weeks after Arun Gandhi's original post. As Arun Ghandi's rant -- published by the Washington Post no less -- has fueled Judeophobia in another venue, thousands of miles away, one has to ask again, do On Faith's moderators, Sally Quinn and Jon Meacham "get it"?

Both Quinn and Meacham seemed to have moved on from the controversy. Quinn has interviewed Christopher Hitchens about his atheism and Meacham has appeared on the Daily Show.

Jews and Israelis, however, still have to contend with the spread of Judeophobic contempt triggered by Arun Gandhi's original article, unchecked by Meacham and Quinn's apology and plea for forbearance.

Posted by dvz at January 22, 2008 03:41 PM


The Calcutta Telegraph would have cared were he not Indian!

The Calcutta Telegraph would have cared if he were not Hindu!

The Calcutta Telegraph would have cared were his name not Gandhi!

What I'm saying is you don't have to be a Hindu Indian named Gandhi to get the Calcutta Telegraph's attention!

You just have to be anti-semitic!

Posted by: elixelx at January 29, 2008 05:45 PM

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