He issued an apology a few days after his original column -
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.
This is the point that I found most offensive in his remarks - the conflation of the actions of the state of Israel with all Jews, indiscriminately. If he wishes to condemn the actions of Israel, I have no problems with that, and may agree with him in some instances. But on the other hand, even if Jews don't agree with me or with him, that still does not mean that they are guilty of the inciting to violence that he accused us all of.
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 people, 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.
It is certainly a feature of contemporary American Jewish life that the Holocaust does sometimes become the core of people's Jewish identity - I think that this is damaging to people who do this. How can something as horrific as the Holocaust be the foundation of a positive identity? The Jewish tradition is ancient and rich - this is what we should be learning about and transmitting to the next generation. But unfortunately, it is not possible to ignore the Holocaust and its continuing impact on Jews, even those in the third generation after the events of the Shoah.
I do have a fundamental theological disagreement with Arun Gandhi, about the role of forgiveness. According to traditional Jewish thinking, if someone offends you in some way - injures you physically, steals from you, defames you - then there is no requirement to forgive that person for the offense. If, however, the perpetrator comes to you and asks for forgiveness, and offers compensation for your losses, then it is incumbent upon you to forgive that person. If you refuse to do so, then the Jewish court (beit din) can offer the perpetrator forgiveness on your behalf. But the perpetrator's repentance and compensation are integral parts of the process of forgiveness.
How, then, can Jews forgive the perpetrators of the Holocaust? Those who committed the crimes have not come to the Jewish people either individually or as a group to ask for forgiveness, nor have they offered compensation. Adolf Eichmann had to be dragged out of his hiding place by the Mossad - he didn't turn himself in with statements of regret and remorse. If you watch the movie "Shoah" by Claude Lanzmann, he interviewed utterly unrepentant Nazis.
And then, who is it that has the right to give forgiveness? The millions of dead cannot offer forgiveness, because they are gone. The survivors of the killing? Well, have the perpetrators asked their forgiveness? I haven't heard of any such cases. The children of survivors? They are not the ones who directly suffered at the hands of the Nazis? The Jewish people as a whole? How can we offer forgiveness on behalf of others who might not agree with us?
I think that individual forgiveness can be an important part of engaging in a nonviolent struggle against oppression - by someone who has decided to take on that responsibility. But I don't see how Arun Gandhi or anyone else can ask "the Jews" as a people to grant forgiveness.
We certainly cannot blame Germans who lived after the Second World War of complicity in crimes committed before their birth - but I see no reason to forgive those who destroyed one third of the Jewish people.