- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 4, 2011


The U.S. ambassador to Belgium, a Jewish lawyer and son of a Holocaust survivor, created a firestorm of controversy over remarks widely seen as blaming Israel for anti-Semitism among Muslims in Europe.

Ambassador Howard Gutman on Sunday tried to justify his remarks, saying his speech last week to the European Jewish Union was misunderstood.

“I strongly condemn anti-Semitism in all its forms and deeply regret that my words were misinterpreted,” he said in a statement posted on the U.S. Embassy website in Brussels.

In his Nov. 30 speech, Mr. Gutman tried to draw a distinction between “classic bigotry” held by a “small sector” of Europeans against Jews and “growing anti-Semitism” in Europe, which he said he thinks is caused by Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians.

He noted that “throughout the Muslim communities” he has visited in Belgium and, “indeed, throughout Europe, there is significant anger and resentment and, yes, perhaps sometimes hatred and … 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.”

Mr. Gutman cited Israeli housing projects as one cause of tension in the Middle East.

“It is the area where every new settlement announced in Israel, every rocket shot over a border or suicide bomber on a bus and every retaliatory military strike exacerbates the problem and provides a setback here in Europe for those fighting hatred and bigotry,” he said.

An Israeli newspaper that covered his speech reported that the audience was “visibly stunned” by the ambassador’s remarks and that a speaker who followed him delivered a “scathing rebuttal.”

German lawyer Nathan Gelbart said he viewed Mr. Gutman’s remarks as justifying anti-Zionism - attacks on Israel’s right to exist, which he called a modern form of discrimination against Jews, according to the Yedioth Ahronoth daily newspaper.

“The modern anti-Semite formally condemns anti-Semitism …. He simply created a new species, the anti-Zionist … or the so-called Israel critic,” he said.

“The Israel critic will never state, ‘Jews go home,’ but [he] is questioning the legality of the incorporation of the state of Israel and, therefore, the right of 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.”

The newspaper reported that the audience responded to Mr. Gelbart with “loud applause.”

The controversy reverberated in Washington, where a Jewish organization denounced the ambassador’s remarks and a White House spokesman distanced the administration from the remarks, saying the United States condemns “anti-Semitism in all its forms.”

Matthew Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, noted that Mr. Gelbart, a political appointee, was reflecting President Obama’s views on Israel.

Story Continues →