Howard Gutman, the U.S.ambassador to Belgium created a firestorm with his comments suggesting “new” anti-Semitism stems from the failure to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. This is balderdash and only emphasizes the lack of sympatico between this administration and the Jewish state.
Early Sunday Mitt Romney released a statement: “President Obama must fire his ambassador to Belgium for rationalizing and downplaying anti-Semitism and linking it to Israeli policy toward the Palestinians. 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.” By the end of the day Newt Gingrich echoed Romney’s call.
The text of Gutman’s speech should be read in full to appreciate how specious is Gutman’s reasoning. (You will note that the comments were not spontaneous, but written in advance. Was it vetted? And if so shouldn’t that person be canned as well, unless of course the administration agrees with his views ?) Here is the key passage, in which he distinguishes overt, anti-Semitism (ludicrously claiming it’s nearly extinct in Europe) from a purportedly “new” phenomenon:
[T]his second problem is in my opinion different in many respects than the classic bigotry – hatred against those who are different and against minorities generally — the type of anti-Semitism that I discussed above. It is more complex and requiring much more thought and analysis. This second form of what is labeled “growing anti-Semitism” produces strange phenomena and results. . . .
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 here in Europe.
I said that it is both fortunate and unfortunate that the largest part of the solution for this second type of problem — too often lumped under a general banner of anti-Semitism — is in the hands of Israel, the Palestinians and Arab neighbors in the Middle East. It is fortunate because it means that, unlike traditional hatred of minorities, a path towards improving and resolving it does at least exist. It is crucial for the Middle East — but it is crucial for the Jewish and Arab communities in Europe and for countries around the globe — that Mid-East peace negotiations continue, that settlements abate, and that progress towards a lasting peace be made and then such a peace reached in the Middle East. Were a lasting peace in the Middle East to be reached, were joint and cooperative Israeli-Arab attentions turned to focus instead on such serious, common threats such as Iran, this second type of ethnic tension and bigotry here in Europe — which is clearly growing today — would clearly abate. I can envision the day when it disappears. Peace in the Middle East would indeed equate with a huge reduction of this form of labeled “anti-Semitism” here in Europe.
But as most adults who have taken a history class or two know, the Arab nations repeatedly attacked and have refused to recognize Israel because it is a Jewish state. The European fixation on this tiny state (as opposed to, say, Sudan or Venezuela) is because it is a Jewish state. It is the obsession of the United Nations because it is a Jewish state. And the anti-Israel animus that has gushed from Arab lands traces its ideological heritage to the Third Reich.
There was no downturn in anti-Semitic propaganda, Holocaust denial and anti-Jewish state sentiment after the Oslo accords or the Gaza withdrawal. Concessions to the Palestinians don’t stem the “new” anti-Semitism, which is actually a couple thousand years old. As long as there are Jews and as long as there is a Jewish state that chooses to defend itself, the Israel haters will attempt to demonize and delegitimize the Jewish state and maintain a double standard purely for Israel. This is precisely the “3 D’s” test for when anti-Israel criticism morphs into anti-Semitism that was coined by Natan Sharansky and adopted by the Obama administration. (By the way, where is our special envoy on anti-Semitism when you need her?)
Who is Gutman? Like many ambassadors, he got his post because he was a major bundler in the president’s election campaign. He likes to think of himself as a Hollywood player, acting as a consultant for an HBO show and fundraising for (father of George) Nick Clooney’s congressional campaign back in 2004. He’s rather typical of Washington lawyers, not so choosy about the character of his clients. Bolivian President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, accused of of human-rights abuses, was one. In 2001, he sold his legal skills to Susan Rosenberg, a “colleague” of Bill Ayers in the Weather Underground, who was pardoned by President Bill Clinton. In short, he’s a crass political operative, leftist in orientation and decidedly undiplomatic in his vitriol.
In September 2008, you may recall, Gutman was attacking Sarah Palin for not staying home with her kids:
“Your responsibility is to put your family first,” Gutman lectured as he singled out Palin’s Down Syndrome baby and pregnant teenage daughter. “The proper attack is not that a woman shouldn’t run for vice president with five kids, it’s that a parent, when they have a family in need . . .” should get out of the public sphere and stay home.
Given that Gutman knows more about Hollywood than the Middle East it isn’t surprising he’s gotten into trouble before. The Post’s Al Kamen reported on Feb. 19, 2010:
[Gutman] has been pummeled in the media of late for a speech he gave last week to Cercle Gaulois, a business group. A typical headline: “Elephant in Porcelain Shop.” In the speech, Gutman said Vice Premier Laurette Onkelinx could be “the most powerful woman in the world,” just behind the still wildly popular man (in Belgium) Barack Obama. All she has to do, he said, is persuade Belgium’s coalition government to send up to 50 more police trainers and 120 more troops to Afghanistan. . . .
Prime Minister Yves Leterme, reportedly irritated, airily dismissed the speech, noting that Gutman can make any proposals he wants, but that the Belgian government calls the shots. One newspaper pundit said that, in diplo-speak, this amounts to a “sharp reprimand.”
Others considered the speech an undiplomatic foray into the complex world of Belgian politics. A longtime commentator wrote that there was never much chance that Belgium was going to up its ante in Afghanistan or take any more Guantanamo Bay prisoners, but now Gutman has “messed it up in an expert way.”
Gutman, in other words, is an all-too-typical liberal “player,” not a foreign policy expert. He got his spot (and really, how difficult is the ambassadorship for Belgium?) by raising a ton of dough and hobnobbing with connected Democrats. But his views and comments are noxious, his ego unbridled. Unless they dump him, those who rule the roost in the State Department and in the White House will not have merely hired a fat cat donor for a position for which he was unqualified (nothing new in D.C.), but they will have ratified the vile comments of a man too dense to realize he’s mimicking anti-Semitic drivel.