Arun Gandhi said he learned at his grandfather's feet that the world's major conflicts can only be tackled by first solving the little problems.
"It's the little problems that accumulate and become big problems," the fifth grandson of revered pacifist Mahatma Gandhi said when he moved his M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence to the University of Rochester last June.
Now, intemperate remarks about Israel and Jews being "the biggest players" in a global culture of violence have gotten Gandhi removed as president of the peace center he launched in 1991.
"My intention was to generate a healthy discussion on the proliferation of violence," Gandhi said Friday, a day after the institute's board accepted his resignation. "Instead, unintentionally, my words have resulted in pain, anger, confusion and embarrassment. I deeply regret these consequences."
The institute offers courses, workshops and seminars on nonviolence and will "continue its mission" at the University of Rochester, which provides office space and staff support, said the school's president, Joel Seligman.
Gandhi co-founded the center with his wife, Sunanda, at Christian Brothers University in Memphis, Tenn., and relocated it to the Rochester campus a few months after her death last February.
'Regret turns into anger'
Gandhi's resignation "was appropriate" because his remarks "did not reflect the core values" of either the university or the institute, Seligman said in a statement. But a forum will be held later this year to allow Gandhi to discuss issues he raised with Jewish community leaders and other speakers, Seligman said.
"I think it's shameful that a peace institute would be headed up by a bigot," said Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, an international group that opposes anti-Semitism. "One would hope that the grandson of such an illustrious human being would be more sensitive to Jewish history."
Gandhi was on a panel of scholars, writers and clergy who discuss a new topic weekly on the Washington Post's "On Faith" page and his comments, posted Jan. 7, drew a torrent of criticism, much of it unfavorable.
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.