An ambassador smeared
Obama's man in Belgium faces calls for his firing after factual remarks on Israel and anti-Semitism
(Salon.com) -- by Justin Elliott --
The U.S. ambassador to Belgium, Howard Gutman, is facing an intense campaign by hard-line pro-Israel voices in the U.S. who want him fired over remarks he made about anti-Semitism late last month.
Gutman, an Obama fundraiser turned ambassador, as well as a Jew and child of a Holocaust survivor, was addressing a Brussels conference devoted to combating anti-Semitism in Europe last month when he launched into a discussion of the relationship between the Israel-Palestine conflict and tensions between Muslims and Jews.
The first thing to note about the Gutman affair – which has now prompted Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, as well as pundits at Commentary and elsewhere to call for his firing – is that the initial reaction was based on a woefully inaccurate account of his remarks...
The core point that has so many pundits on the right upset is the link between the Israel-Palestine conflict and anti-Semitism. On this, Adam Serwer at Mother Jones makes the crucial point: “Gutman’s suggestion that anti-Semitism would subside if a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could be reached isn’t the same as saying Israelis or Jews are ‘responsible’ for anti-Semitism.”
As it turns out, there is rigorous research that backs up Gutman’s point — that of, in his words, “tension, hatred and sometimes even violence between some members of Muslim communities or Arab immigrant groups and Jews … largely born of and reflecting the tension between Israel, the Palestinian Territories and neighboring Arab states in the Middle East over the continuing Israeli-Palestinian problem.”
The Community Service Trust is a thoroughly mainstream British organization that specializes in the study of anti-Semitism and providing security for Jews. The group publishes an annual survey on anti-Semitic incidents in the U.K., and its most recent study (.pdf) would seem to vindicate Gutman.
It notes what happened after the IDF killed nine pro-Palestinian activists on a flotilla to break the Gaza blockade in May 2010:
The only significant trigger event in 2010 occurred when Israeli forces boarded a flotilla of ships bearing pro-Palestinian activists who were trying to break the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza; nine activists were killed during the subsequent on-board clashes. Reactions to this episode led to a monthly total of 81 antisemitic incidents in the UK in June 2010, compared to 49 in June 2009, when there was no comparable trigger event.And it also discusses the number of anti-Semitic incidents in 2009, the year of the Israeli bombing campaign in Gaza:
The record total [of anti-Semitic incidents] in 2009 was triggered by reactions to the Gaza conflict in January of that year, which led to record numbers of incidents in January and February 2009.Those two points show a correlation between flare-ups in the Middle East and anti-Semitism. But what about causation?
The report explores this complicated question:
Clearly, it would not be acceptable to define all anti-Israel activity as antisemitic; but it cannot be ignored that much contemporary antisemitism takes place in the context of, or is motivated by, extreme feelings over the Israel/Palestine issue. Drawing out these distinctions, and deciding on where the dividing lines lie, is one of the most difficult areas of CST’s work in recording and analysing hate crime.This point by Community Service Trust echoes Gutman’s sentiments almost exactly. And it shows the Gutman affair is more about driving a particular narrative about tensions between the Obama administration and Israel than it is about any supposedly controversial remarks...MORE...LINK