UPDATED: Washingtonpost.com and Newsweek Feature Anti-Semitic Rant

UPDATE: January 18, 2008

After widespread criticism of the anti-Semitic posting, On Faith moderators Sally Quinn and Jon Meacham published the following apology:  

Gandhi Post Regrettable

As “On Faith” readers know, a post by Arun Gandhi on January 7 has produced an enormous response from readers who found Gandhi’s initial remarks anti-Semitic and his subsequent apology insufficient. When we undertook this project over a year ago, we wrote that our goal was to shed light on a subject—religion—that too often generates heat. The Gandhi post failed to comply with that mission, and we can only ask our readers to extend “On Faith” a measure of forbearance and tolerance as the site endeavors to conduct a civil and illuminating conversation. We regret the initial posting, and we apologize for the episode.


CAMERA’s original, Jan. 11 analysis follows:
Did you know that Israel and the Jews are “the biggest players” in the global “Culture of Violence” that “is eventually going to destroy humanity”? It says so on a Web site.

Yes, any crank can post any stupidity, any obscenity somewhere on the Web. But this posting isn’t just somewhere, it’s on a Web site produced jointly by Washingtonpost.com and Newsweek, called “On Faith.”  And it isn’t by any crank, but one with a pedigree, M. K. “Arun” Gandhi, a grandson of India’s independence leader Mohandas K. Gandhi, president of what he calls the “M.K. Gandhi Center for Nonviolence, now at the University of Rochester.”

Co-moderators Jon Meacham, Newsweek managing editor, and Sally Quinn, a Washington Post staffer and wife of former Executive Editor Ben Bradlee, claim that, in a time of extremism, “On Faith” provides “intelligent, informed, eclectic, respectful conversation among specialists and generalists” about religion. In that case, Gandhi’s January 7th posting — “Jewish Identity Can’t Depend on Violence” — must come down.  It’s neither intelligent, informed, nor respectful; but it is bigoted.
He Can Be Wrong All The Time:

Gandhi feels it is counterproductive and dangerous for Israel to have a security fence and “military build-up” to defend its citizens.  His answer to vicious anti-Semitic incitement ubiquitous throughout the Arab and Muslim world, daily Palestinian rocket attacks against Israel, elected leaders in the Palestinian Authority committed to the destruction of Israel, as well as terrorist attacks that maim and murder?  Gandhi asserts: “Would it not be better to befriend those who hate you? Can you not reach out and share your technological advancement with your neighbors and build a relationship?”

Gandhi wrote that “in the modern world, so determined to live by the bomb,” reaching out to neighbors “is an alien concept. 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.”  (Emphasis added.)

To call those sweeping generalizations would be understatement. To miss the anti-Semitism that violates “On Faith’s” own guidelines is to be self-blinded.
An Apology, But Not From the Washingtonpost.com or Newsweek
In fact, even Gandhi himself eventually realized that his comments may have been problematic. He later apologized. (Sort of. He essentially wrote that he didn’t mean to indict all Jews as “the biggest players” in the “culture of violence” that is “eventually going to destroy humanity,” just the ones who support Israel’s self-defense policies.) The Washingtonpost.com and Newsweek, however, apparently still feel it is okay to sanction bigotry. Editors at those organizations have not apologized, and the anti-Semitic post remains up.
Which begs a number of quesitons:
• Who reviews the content for “On Faith”?
• By what standards?
• Could it be that the anti-Semitic, anti-Zionist nature of Gandhi’s screed was not recognized? It was by numerous kooks who, encouraged by Gandhi, crawled out from under their cyber-rocks and posted responses expected on the bigoted fringes, not in mainstream publications.
• If it was recognized, how was it considered acceptable?
Newsweek Managing Editor Jon Meacham and Washington Post staffer Sally Quinn lend their names to the feature. Are they responsible? Are their bosses? (You can ask these questions of Caroline Little, chief executive officer and publisher, Washingtonpost.Newseek Interactive.)
In the distribution of Gandhi’s toxic posting, the kingpins are those in charge at The Washington Post and Newsweek. As the advertising promotions on Washington Post.com/Newsweek Interactive suggest, their interest is in driving “unique visitors” to the Web site so as to be able to sell more space at higher rates. Accuracy, moral honesty, trafficking in anti-Semitic canards, these apparently are of less concern. Certainly, as of Thursday afternoon, January 10, Gandhi’s original was still up, linked from his subsequent apology.
It appears that Web “content” is one thing, informed commentary another. Could Gandhi’s original posting ever have appeared on The Washington Post Op-Ed page? So far, no t even columns by leaders of the terrorist Hamas organization have accused Jews or even Israel of being the biggest players in a global culture of violence threatening humanity. Could Gandhi’s rambling have appeared as one of Newsweek’s “My Turn” columns by outside writers? Nothing like it has. 

But apparently Washington Post.com/Newsweek Interactive has other standards. The site justifies its existence by claiming it provides “intelligent, informed, eclectic, respectful conversation among specialists and generalists” about religion. Do the editors, then, feel the implication that “the Jews” and their violent tendencies will destroy humanity is respectful or informed?
Other Problems
Gandhi gets much else wrong in his short screed.

* In the real world, there’s a culture of violence, all right, but not that worrying Gandhi. As Amir Taheri writes in “Dubya’s Real Mideast Agenda” (New York Post, January 9), since the collapse of the Soviet empire and its own international culture of violence, “the Middle East has emerged as the chief source of threats to U.S. national security in the context of a new global struggle between the established order and its challengers, who often act in the name of this or that version of Islam [emphasis added].” From Palestinian suicide bombers in Israel, to Al Qaeda roadside bombs in Iraq, to Iran’s covert nuclear bomb efforts and overt threats to “wipe Israel off the map,” there are people determined not just to live by the bomb but to make others — Americans, Arabs, Muslims, and especially Jews, die by them.

* Israel has attempted to reach out to the Palestinian Arabs, including with the 1993 Oslo Accords and the 2000 Camp David offer of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip with eastern Jerusalem as its capital, in exchange for peace. The Arabs replied with violence.

* Gandhi excoriates the Jews for remembering the Holocaust and claims Jews are manipulating it to make the rest of the world feel guilty. Ignorance, or intellectual dishonesty? Declaring “Never again!” and insisting on recollection of the cardinal example of both man’s inhumanity to man and man’s inhumanity to the Jews is not psychological game-playing; it’s a requirement for any civilized, moral person.

* Similarly, Gandhi determines that “the future Jewish identity is bleak,” supposedly fixated on the Holocaust and frozen in anger against the Arabs. The reality is that Israel, with less than six million Jews, on an area smaller than New Jersey, is one of the world’s leaders in high technology, medicine, agriculture, and many other fields, advances it has shared widely. Israel by many standards, from literacy and per capita income to women’s rights, minority equality, religious freedom and democratic governance, is perhaps the most successful of the world’s scores of post-colonial countries. Israel also is the center of Jewish demographic growth. All this while forced to defend itself, and oppressed Jewish minorities elsewhere, against the violence and hatred Gandhi pretends to inveigh against.

The original posting and apology follow:
Original Posting:
Jewish Identity Can’t Depend on Violence
by Arun Gandhi
Posted January 7, 2008

Jewish identity in the past 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 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. But, it seems to me the Jews today not only want the Germans to feel guilty but the whole world must regret what happened to the Jews. 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.

The Jewish identity in the future appears bleak. Any nation that remains anchored to the past is unable to move ahead and, especially a nation that believes its survival can only be ensured by weapons and bombs. In Tel Aviv in 2004 I had the opportunity to speak to some Members of Parliament and Peace activists all of whom argued that the wall and the military build-up was necessary to protect the nation and the people. In other words, I asked, you believe that you can create a snake pit — with many deadly snakes in it — and expect to live in the pit secure and alive? What do you mean? they countered. Well, with your superior weapons and armaments and your attitude towards your neighbors would it not be right to say that you are creating a snake pit? How can anyone live peacefully in such an atmosphere? Would it not be better to befriend those who hate you? Can you not reach out and share your technological advancement with your neigh bors and build a relationship?

Apparently, in the modern world, so determined to live by the bomb, this is an alien concept. 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’s so-called apology
, posted January 10, 2008, at “On Faith” section of Washington Post/Newsweek interactive web site:

My Apology for My Poorly Worded Post
by Arun Gandhi

“I am writing to correct some regrettable mis-impressions I have given in my comments on my blog this week. While I stand behind my criticisms of the use of violence by recent Israeli governments — and I have criticized the governments of the U.S., India and China in much the same way — I want to correct statements that I made with insufficient care, and that have inflicted unnecessary hurt and caused anger.

I do not believe and should not have implied that the policies of the Israeli government are reflective of the views of all Jewish people. Indeed, many are as concerned as I am by the use of violence for state purposes, by Israel and many other governments.

I do believe that when a people hold on to historic grievances too firmly it can lead to bitterness and the loss of support from those who would be friends. But as I have noted in previous writings, the suffering of the Jewish peo ple, particularly in the Holocaust, was historic in its proportions. While we must strive for a future of peace that rejects violence, it is also important not to forget the past, lest we fail to learn from it. Having learned from it, we can then find the path to peace and rejection of violence through forgiveness.”

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