WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama’s administration on Monday rejected Republican calls to fire the US ambassador to Belgium after he said that the Middle East conflict was partly to blame for anti-Semitism.
Ambassador Howard Gutman, who is Jewish and the son of a Holocaust survivor, said in a speech that a new type of anti-Semitism has emerged in Europe that is not “classic bigotry” but instead linked to the conflict and hence resolvable.
Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, the front-runners for the Republican presidential nomination, both called on Obama to dismiss Gutman and renewed charges that his administration was not supportive enough of Israel.
“We have full confidence in him,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters. He said that Gutman, a political appointee and longtime fund-raiser for Obama’s Democratic Party, was expressing his personal opinion.
White House spokesman Jay Carney separately defended the administration’s record, saying it has opposed “one-sided” condemnation of Israel at the UN Human Rights Council and spoken out against incitement in the Arab world.
“This administration has consistently stood up against anti-Semitism and efforts to delegitimize Israel, and we will continue to do so,” Carney said.
Gutman, who was addressing a conference last week on anti-Semitism in Europe, opened his speech by apologizing for not “saying what you would expect me to say.”
Pointing to his own experience, Gutman said he has been warmly received in Europe including by Muslims and did not believe that anti-Semitism “for the sake of hating” was on the rise in the continent that produced the Holocaust.
But Gutman said a new, more complex form of anti-Semitism was growing, in which Jews are targeted because of resentment over the Arab-Israeli conflict.
“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.
“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,” he said.
Gutman later issued a statement to stress that that he condemns all forms of anti-Semitism, adding: “I deeply regret if my comments were taken the wrong way.”
Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, accused Gutman of “rationalizing and downplaying anti-Semitism.”
“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 in a statement.
Gingrich, the former speaker of the House of Representatives, wrote on Twitter that Obama should fire Gutman “for being so wrong about anti-Semitism.”
Republicans have seized on Obama’s calls for Israel to cease settlements and his rocky relationship with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, seeking to increase their standing among Jewish voters and supporters of Israel in general.
Last week, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta demanded that Israel “get to the damn table” for peace talks and Israeli ministers reacted angrily after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was quoted expressing concern over the future of democracy in the Jewish state.
Toner declined to discuss Clinton’s remarks, which were at an off-record conference, but said she has “spoken very clearly about the importance of a free and unfettered civil society.”
A proposed law in Israel would limit foreign funding for certain non-governmental organizations, in what activists charge is an attempt to cut money for groups critical of the treatment of Palestinians.
Fox’s Lou Dobbs: Man who plowed truck into ICE protesters is the real victim — and ‘well within his rights’
Fox Business host Lou Dobbs praised a corrections officer who intentionally plowed his truck into a crowd of protesters outside a Rhode Island ICE facility, saying the attack was justified.
A correctional officer at the Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls, Rhode Island, intentionally drove his pickup truck into protesters demonstrating against the detention of migrants by ICE on Wednesday, the Providence Journal reported. Capt. Thomas Woodworth was placed on administrative leave after protest organizers said a 64-year-old protester suffered internal bleeding and a broken leg in the attack and another protester was injured as well. Fellow corrections officers sprayed protesters with pepper spray, sending three other people to the hospital.
Michael Moore breaks down why Trump is ‘scared’ of The Squad: ‘They’re the force out there!’
Legendary filmmaker Michael Moore revealed why President Donald Trump is so scared of the women of color in Congress known as The Squad.
The Squad is made up of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI).
"So, Michael, when your political opposition tells you this is the play we’re going to run and the president underscores it, and they’re running this play, is there any — is The Squad blameless for giving the president a steady stream of oxygen and ammunition?" MSNBC's Brian Williams asked.
"I’m so glad he’s that frightened of them, both he and [Benjamin] Netanyahu are scared of them. And the reason they are is — and this is why Trump isn’t as dumb as he comes off," Moore said.
Trump has spent his vacation golfing, watching cable TV — and panicking about a recession: AP
While President Donald Trump has been able to golf frequently while on vacation in New Jersey, he may not return to DC well-rested.
"Trump has spent much of the week at his New Jersey golf club, many of his mornings on the links, his afternoons watching cable television and his evenings calling confidants and business executives to get their take on the market’s volatility," the Associated Press reported Friday.
"Though he has expressed private worries about Wall Street, he is also skeptical about some of the weaker economic indicators, wondering if the media and establishment figures are manipulating the data to make him look bad, according to two Republicans close to the White House, not authorized to discuss private conversations," the AP noted.