The United States ambassador to Belgium has sparked Republican anger by saying at a conference in Europe that Israel is causing fresh anti-Semitism sentiment among Muslims in Europe.
Ambassador Howard Gutman said that a new strain of anti-Semitism has sprung from Israel’s recent standoffs with the Palestinian Authority to achieve a peace pact, adding that this is altogether separate from the “traditional” Muslim hatred of Jews, Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported.
“A distinction should be made between traditional anti-Semitism, which should be condemned, and Muslim hatred for Jewish people, which stems from the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians,” Gutman reportedly said at a meeting of the European Jewish Union in Brussels last week.
“There is significant anger and resentment and, yes, perhaps sometimes hatred and indeed sometimes an all too growing intimidation and violence directed at Jews, generally as a result of the continuing tensions between Israel and the Palestinian territories and other Arab neighbors in the Middle East,” Gutman told the audience, according to a transcript of his remarks published in the European Jewish Press.
“Gutman also argued that an Israeli-Palestinian peace treaty would significantly diminish Muslim anti-Semitism,” the newspaper reported.
According to the account in Yedioth Ahronoth, “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.”
Shortly after Gutman’s remarks, the White House issued a statement: “We condemn anti-Semitism in all its forms … There is never any justification for prejudice against the Jewish people or Israel,” it read.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said Obama “must fire” Gutman for “rationalizing and downplaying anti-Semitism and linking it to Israeli policy toward the Palestinians,” Fox News reported.
“The ambassador’s comments demonstrate the Obama administration’s failure to understand the worldwide campaign to delegitimize Israel and its appalling penchant for undermining our close ally,” Romney said.
Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich also commented on Gutman’s remarks with a Twitter message: “Pres Obama should fire his ambassador to Brussels for being so wrong about anti-Semitism.”
Meanwhile, Republican Jewish Coalition Executive Director Matthew Brooks doubted Gutman’s logic.
“The remarks reportedly made by President Obama’s Ambassador to Belgium are outrageous,” Brooks said in a statement.
“The linkage in the ambassador’s remarks, blaming Israel for anti-Semitism, is a short step from the linkage that President Obama has expressed several times himself, that Israel is to blame for the unrest and instability in the Middle East. Both forms of linkage are fundamentally wrong,” he added.
Gutman, who helped raised half a million dollars for President Barack Obama’s presidential campaign back in 2008, said that he regretted his remarks at the conference, adding that they were misinterpreted, Fox News reported.
(Written by Eman El-shenawi)