Faster, Please!

The Post, Newsweek, and the Jews

I am arriving late to the story of Arun Gandhi–grandson of the famous Indian reformer and sometime pacifist–and his disgusting whine against the Jews on January 7th in the “On Faith” blog of “Newsweek” and the “Washington Post.”

Gandhi is the head of an Institute for Nonviolence at the University of Rochester, and he’s quite the preacher. “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,” he intoned. And that’s only a part of what annoyed Mr. Gandhi about the Jews. He’s greatly annoyed that people keep talking about the Holocaust, which he calls “a German burden that the Jews have not been able to shed.” He thinks that the Jews’ refusal to “forgive and move on” has antagonized the rest of the world. And he doesn’t like the Israelis’ determination to fight against the Palestinians; he thinks they should do away with the security fence, share military technology with Hamas and Fatah, and “build a relationship.” Otherwise, you can take it from him that “the Jewish identity in the future appears bleak.”

As it happens, this sort of advice to the Jews is an integral part of the Gandhi family album. At the beginning of that annoying Holocaust, Mahatma himself advised the Jews of Europe to offer themselves up to the Fuhrer without any resistance.

If only the Jews of Germany had the good sense to offer their throats willingly to the Nazi butchers’ knives and throw themselves into the sea from cliffs they would arouse world public opinion, Gandhi was convinced, and their moral triumph would be remembered for “ages to come.” If they would only pray for Hitler (as their throats were cut, presumably), they would leave a “rich heritage to mankind.” …Even after the war, when the full extent of the Holocaust was revealed, Gandhi told Louis Fischer, one of his biographers, that the Jews died anyway, didn’t they? They might as well have died significantly. (From Richard Grenier’s essay, “The Gandhi Nobody Knows,” in “Commentary,” March 1983).

Mahatma Gandhi’s advice to die with dignity wasn’t very attractive, but at least he didn’t blame the Jews for those who were determined to exterminate them. That noxious accusation was made by his grandson on the “Washington Post” religion blog. And Arun Gandhi, perhaps relying on his family name to protect him from criticism, didn’t even take the usual precaution of wrapping his Jew hatred in the mantle of legitimate concern about the policies of the state of Israel. He makes it quite clear that his beef is with the Jews AND Israel, but above all, with the Jews.

After the predictable firestorm erupted, Gandhi came forth with a mealy-mouthed “apology,” saying that he shouldn’t have suggested that Israeli policies reflected the “views of all Jewish people,” and adding that some Jews even agree with him. In other words, “don’t blame me; some of my best friends are Jews.” And then he offered his resignation to the University of Rochester, whose president had strongly condemned Gandhi’s remarks.

By January 18th–eleven days after the original tirade–the two key figures at the blog, “Newsweek” managing editor Jon Meachem and the “Post”’s celebrated Sally Quinn, posted a straightforward apology. “We regret the initial posting, and we apologize for the episode.” More power to them, and would that we got more such apologies. It could have been faster and stronger–Quinn and Meachem should have done more than “regret” the Gandhi post, in my opinion. They should have denounced him for what he is, a disgusting anti-semite. But let’s not be churlish; they had the honesty and courage to apologize. And let’s try to understand what it all means.

Above all, it bespeaks a considerable indifference to Jew hatred. I have long since stopped subscribing to either publication, and I would have missed this story had it not been for blogs like Powerline, and emails from organizations like CAMERA. One of the reasons I stopped subscribing was the ease with which totally false statements are published in “Newsweek” and the “Post,” and I think my judgment was confirmed when the infamous Mr. Kos, in his maiden column in “Newsweek,” repeated lies about my daughter, for which others had already been forced to apologize.

There are many other examples of their indifference to the truth. The man who sits atop the corporate pyramid that includes “Newsweek” and the “Post” is Donald Graham, who is famous in my family for failing to take action when, early in the Iraq war, he was personally given films from Saddam’s regime that documented the horrors regularly practiced on the Iraqi people. The “Post” buried the story in the back of the front section, and even wondered out loud if the films were American propaganda. Graham knew better, but let the misleading and underreported story stand.

Now I don’t for a moment think that Donald Graham, Sally Quinn, or Jon Meachem is an anti-Semite. But I do think they are accustomed to screeds against Israel–their publications are full of them–and so they just didn’t notice that Gandhi was talking about the Jews, and blaming the Jews for their enemies’ bigotry. I think that shows that the much-vaunted dividing line between “legitimate criticism of Israel” and outright anti-semitism is often a rhetorical trick. Gandhi gave it away when he failed to make enough distinctions between “Israel” and “the Jews,” and the editors showed their own bias when they failed to see what Gandhi was up to.

Finally, the whole sequence suggests that the editors hoped Gandhi’s “apology” would get them out of the mess they’d created, and they only came forward when it was clear that Gandhi had only made things worse.

It will be interesting to see what the University of Rochester does when Gandhi shows up on the 24th to learn whether his resignation’s been accepted. As it will be interesting to see whether the dead-tree versions of “Newsweek” and the “Post” cover that story.