'Jew-hate stems from conflict'
US ambassador in Belgium provides controversial explanation for Muslim anti-Semitism
BRUSSELS – Growing global anti-Semitism is linked to Israel’s policy towards the Palestinians, the American ambassador to Belgium told stunned Jewish conference attendants in Brussels earlier this week.
Speaking Wednesday at a Jewish conference on anti-Semitism organized by the European Jewish Union (EJU,) Howard Gutman told participants he was apologizing in advance if his words are not to their liking. He then proceeded to make controversial statements about his views on Muslim anti-Semitism, Yedioth Ahronoth reported Friday.
A distinction should be made between traditional anti-Semitism, which should be condemned and Muslim hatred for Jews, which stems from the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, Gutman said. He also argued that an Israeli-Palestinian peace treaty will significantly diminish Muslim anti-Semitism.
The American envoy, a lawyer by training, is Jewish and played a major role in fundraising for the Democratic Party. He was appointed to the post by President Barack Obama.
'The so-called Israel critic'
The conference was attended by Jewish lawyers from across Europe. The legal experts at the event were visibly stunned by Gutman’s words, and the next speaker offered a scathing rebuttal to the envoy’s remarks.
“The modern Anti-Semite formally condemns Anti-Semitism and the Holocaust and expresses upmost sympathy with the Jewish people. He simply has created a new species, the “Anti-Zionist” or – even more sophisticated – the so-called ‘Israel critic,’” Germany attorney Nathan Gelbart said.
“The ‘Israel critic’ will never state ‘Jews go home’ but is questioning the legality of the incorporation of the State of Israel and therefore the right for the Jewish people to settle in their homeland. He will not say the Jews are the evil of the world but claim that the State of Israel is a major cause for instability and war in the region,” he said. “There is no other country, no other people on this planet the ‘Israel critic’ would dedicate so much time and devotion as to the case of Israel.”
“For no other country he would criticize or ask to boycott its goods or academics. And this for one simple reason: Because Israel is the state of the Jewish people, not more and not less,” Gelbart said.
'Muslims appreciate Obama'
Conference attendants received Gelbart’s remarks with loud applause, while the American envoy apologized for having to leave the site as result of prior obligations and departed.
Earlier, Gutman also presented participants with a short video clip showing him received with warm applause at a Muslim school in Brussels. While he did not mention what prompted the warm reception, his message was that this is the kind of welcome given to a Jew who supports President Obama’s policy of openness to Islam.
Approached by Yedioth Ahronoth, the US envoy was asked whether Obama’s policy did not cause America to lose its influence in the region. Gutman responded by saying that the Arab world appreciates Obama following his speech in Cairo, referring to an address delivered by the president in 2009.