(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
US Ambassador to Belgium Howard Gutman on Sunday rejected claims that he
“excused” certain types of anti-Semitism, arguing during a gathering in Brussels
that comments he made Thursday were misunderstood.
organizations felt the distinction the ambassador drew between traditional and
new forms of anti-Semitism accepted bigotry against Jews that stemmed from the
“I strongly condemn anti- Semitism in all its
forms,” said the Jewish diplomat, whose father was a Holocaust survivor, in a
press release posted on the embassy’s website.
“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
Jewish groups were outraged by Gutman’s speech,
delivered in the Belgian capital at an event organized by the European Jewish
Union on Thursday.
“This second problem [stemming from the Mideast] 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,” he said, according to a copy of his speech
provided by the US Embassy in Brussels.
“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.
Peace in the
Middle East would indeed equate with a huge reduction of this form of labeled
‘anti-Semitism’ here in Europe.”
One critic said that the envoy’s
comments could be used to excuse a range of anti-Semitic
“Following Gutman’s twisted logic,” said Rabbi Marvin Hier of
the Simon Wiesenthal Center, “Christian anti-Semites who insist that their
hatred of Jews is based on the fact that the Jewish people failed to acknowledge
Jesus as Messiah should also be excused until such time as the underlying reason
for that hate – the Jewish people’s refusal to accept Jesus as Messiah – is
Gutman’s comments drew a response from the White House on
Saturday, which distanced itself from its envoy.
anti-Semitism in all its forms, and that there is never any justification for
prejudice against the Jewish people or Israel,” it said in a statement.