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Saturday, December 10, 2011

Were Amb. Gutman’s Remarks All that Controversial?

The U.S. ambassador to Belgium, Howard Gutman, a Jew whose father eluded the Nazis, has caused quite a row with remarks at a recent conference in which he distinguished classic anti-Semitism from anti-Jewish sentiment stemming from the Israeli oppression of the Palestinians. (See also this.) The Republican presidential candidates (except for Ron Paul) have demanded Gutman’s head (the sort of thing Jon Stewart calls a “tuchus-kissoff”), and the Israel lobby wants him fired.

Is such an observation really controversial? Read the transcript of Gutman’s remarks. Commentary magazine claims the transcript is not quite the same as his oral remarks and thinks this is a big deal. Judge for yourself.


Bill the Butcher said...

It's a classic Zionazi ploy - deliberately conflate anti-Zionazism with anti-"Semitism" (anti-Judaism) and muddy the waters with mention of the Holocaust. Worldwide that shopworn tactic is wearing thin. Not in the US apparently.

Roderick T. Long said...

Well actually, if someone starts hating Jews in general because some particular group of Jews has done something bad, then I don't really see much moral difference between that and traditional anti-Semitism.

In other words, among these options:

a) traditional anti-Semitism
b) anti-Semitism motivated by the misdeeds of the Israeli government
c) specific opposition to the misdeeds of the Israeli government

I think (b) is in moral terms closer to (a) than to (c). They're both examples of collectivist thinking.

Sheldon Richman said...

I accept the point and certainly agree it is unjust to hold someone outside the Israeli government responsible for its unjust acts simply because the person is Jewish. But I believe it is worthwhile to distinguish (without excusing) that form of injustice from traditional anti-Semitism for this reason: Israel and its champions insist that it is the state of "the Jewish People" regardless of where members of that group live and that to criticize Israel's government is to criticize the Jewish People.

The distinction is also important because, as Gutman argued, we can expect that form of ant-Jewish feeling and action to diminish as the rights of the Palestinians are recognized.

Obviously the oppression of the Palestinians does not excuse violence or even nonviolent anti-social behavior toward innocent Jewish individuals. Nevertheless in my view the distinction Gutman made is worth making.

Bill the Butcher said...

Apparently, all Muslims, everywhere, seem to have some kind of unspoken imposition to condemn any Islamic terrorist crimes, anywhere. Time for Jews to stand up and make themselves heard against the crimes of the Zionazi pseudostate. A lot of them do, but a lot more remain silent, and a very large number actively support and defend those crimes. As a percentage of the population defending terror crimes, I wonder how that stacks up compared to Muslims.

Sheldon Richman said...

BtB, you make a good point, but I think the discussion is set back by terms such as "Zionazi." It seems calculated not to persuade the persuadable but rather to horrify those who disagree. I prefer to see the discussion advance, not stagnate in rhetorical trench warfare. Thanks.