December 6, 2011
U.S. envoy to Belgium staying on despite comments on anti-Semitism
U.S. Ambassador to Belgium Howard Gutman will remain in his position, despite his statements that Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians is prompting some global anti-Semitism.
State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters Monday night that the Obama administration has “full confidence” in Gutman.
Asked if the administration agreed with Gutman’s statement, Toner reiterated that “Our commitment to Israel’s security is ironclad. Israel has no greater friend or ally than the United States, and we condemn anti-Semitism in all its forms.”
Toner said that Gutman’s remarks were his own views and not made as a representative of the administration.
Gutman, who is Jewish, said last week at a conference in Brussels on anti-Semitism organized by the European Jewish Union that “A distinction should be made between traditional anti-Semitism, which should be condemned, and Muslim hatred for Jews, which stems from the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.” He added that “an Israeli-Palestinian peace treaty will significantly diminish Muslim anti-Semitism.”
Gutman, an attorney, raised major funds for Obama’s 2008 elections campaign, after which he was appointed ambassador by the president.
On Sunday, Gutman said he regretted that his statements to the conference were “misinterpreted,” according to the European Jewish Press, citing the U.S. Embassy in Belgium.
“My personal history and the history of my family testify to the importance I attach to this subject and my unwavering commitment to fight anti-Semitism,” Gutman, the son of a Polish Jewish Holocaust survivor, reportedly said.
Jewish groups have condemned the remarks. Some Republican presidential candidates have called for Gutman’s firing.
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