Republicans Demand Obama Fire Ambassador to Belgium Over Comments on Anti-Semitism

Wednesday, December 07, 2011
Ambassador Howard Gutman

Conservatives have demanded that President Barack Obama fire his ambassador to Belgium for remarks linking anti-Semitism to the unresolved Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

 
The two leading Republican candidates for president, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, said ambassador Howard Gutman must go for rationalizing and downplaying anti-Semitism and linking it to Israel’s policy toward the Palestinians. Democrats said the remarks were taken out of context and weren’t controversial, and that the attack on Gutman was mostly about Republicans attempting to drive a narrative that the Obama administration and Israel were at odds. 
 
Speaking before the European Jewish Union conference last week, Gutman, who is Jewish and the son of a Holocaust survivor, told his audience there are two forms of anti-Semitism: One consists of “classic bigotry” against Jews; and a second type of “growing anti-Semitism” has resulted from the inability to create peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
 
Criticism of Gutman also came from some Jewish groups that claim the Obama administration has been too hard on Israel for its policies vis-à-vis the Palestinians.
 
The White House stood by Gutman and rejected the calls for him to resign.
 
The ambassador said in a statement: “I strongly condemn anti-Semitism in all its forms. I deeply regret if my comments were taken the wrong way. My own personal history and that of my family is testimony to the salience of this issue and my continued commitment to combating anti-Semitism.”
 
The controversy comes as Belgium, on Tuesday, ended 541 days of political deadlock with the formation of a new government. It was the longest time any country in recent history has gone without a government. Belgium has had a caretaker administration since the last government resigned in 2010. 
–Noel Brinkerhoff
 
An Ambassador Smeared (by Justin Elliott, Salon)

Howard Gutman (AllGov)

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