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Posts

Right wing hound ambassador for saying Israel/Palestine conflict fuels antisemitism

The story so far: on November 30 this year Howard Gutman, the American, and Jewish, ambassador to Belgium, gave a careful speech on antisemitism to the European Jewish Union. Reports of the speech, which accidentally or malignly, distorted key aspects, have led to a furore in the USA. Republican candidates and right-wing blogs and publications, have accused Mr Gutman of blaming Israel for Muslim antisemitism and thus excusing it. The State Department backs Mr Gutman but wriggles wildly trying to defend him and avoid condoning criticism of Israel at the same time

We post here four relevant pieces:
1) report of the speech and antisemitism in the UK in Salon;
2)
Mother Jones report of Conservative use of the speech;
3)
transcript of speech long and serious;
4) transcript of questions to State Department, long but comical


An ambassador smeared

Obama’s man in Belgium faces calls for his firing after factual remarks on Israel and anti-Semitism

By Justin Elliott, Salon
06.12.11

The U.S. ambassador to Belgium, Howard Gutman, is facing an intense campaign by hard-line pro-Israel voices in the U.S. who want him fired over remarks he made about anti-Semitism late last month.

Gutman, an Obama fundraiser turned ambassador, as well as a Jew and child of a Holocaust survivor, was addressing a Brussels conference devoted to combating anti-Semitism in Europe last month when he launched into a discussion of the relationship between the Israel-Palestine conflict and tensions between Muslims and Jews.

The first thing to note about the Gutman affair – which has now prompted Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, as well as pundits at Commentary and elsewhere to call for his firing – is that the initial reaction was based on a woefully inaccurate account of his remarks.

Gutman was paraphrased by the Israeli news outlet Ynet as saying, “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.” The clear suggestion is that Gutman was engaging in apologetics for certain forms of Jew hatred.

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz then put that line in quotation marks even though no such words had passed Gutman’s lips. In fact, a reading of his real remarks shows that he explicitly repudiated the idea that any anti-Semitism should be tolerated, rather than condemned.

It’s worth quoting Gutman at length. He did make a distinction between anti-Semitisms, referring to the risk of “oversimplifying and of lumping together diverse phenomena.”

He then described what might be called classical anti-Semitism:

“There is and has long been some amount of anti-Semitism, of hatred and violence against Jews, from a small sector of the population who hate others who may be different or perceived to be different, largely for the sake of hating. Those anti-Semites are people who hate not only Jews, but Muslims, gays, gypsies, and likely any who can be described as minorities or different. That hatred is of course pernicious and it must be combated. We can never take our eye off it or just dismiss it as fringe elements or the work of crazy people, because we have seen in the past how it can foment and grow.”

This type of anti-Semitism, he said, rears its head from time to time, but does not appear to be growing.

But there is another phenomenon, Gutman argued, that is on the rise.

“It is the problem within Europe of tension, hatred and sometimes even violence between some members of Muslim communities or Arab immigrant groups and Jews. It is a tension and perhaps hatred largely born of and reflecting the tension between Israel, the Palestinian Territories and neighboring Arab states in the Middle East over the continuing Israeli-Palestinian problem.”

Then – contrary to the right-wing portrayals of his remarks, such as Romney’s description of them as “rationalizing and downplaying anti-Semitism” – Gutman explicitly called this phenomenon unacceptable:

“It too is a serious problem. It too must be discussed and solutions explored. No Jewish student – and no Muslim student or student of any heritage or religion – should ever feel intimidated on a University campus for their heritage or religion leading to academic leaders quitting in protest. No high school or grammar school Jewish student – and no Muslim high school or grammar school student or student of any heritage or religion – should be beaten up over their heritage or religion.

“But this 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.”

He then goes on to explore how this problem might be addressed, including by a resolution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

The core point that has so many pundits on the right upset is the link between the Israel-Palestine conflict and anti-Semitism. On this, Adam Serwer at Mother Jones makes the crucial point: “Gutman’s suggestion that anti-Semitism would subside if a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could be reached isn’t the same as saying Israelis or Jews are ‘responsible’ for anti-Semitism.”

As it turns out, there is rigorous research that backs up Gutman’s point — that of, in his words, “tension, hatred and sometimes even violence between some members of Muslim communities or Arab immigrant groups and Jews … largely born of and reflecting the tension between Israel, the Palestinian Territories and neighboring Arab states in the Middle East over the continuing Israeli-Palestinian problem.”

The Community Service Trust is a thoroughly mainstream British organization that specializes in the study of anti-Semitism and providing security for Jews. The group publishes an annual survey on anti-Semitic incidents in the U.K., and its most recent study (.pdf) would seem to vindicate Gutman.

It notes what happened after the IDF killed nine pro-Palestinian activists on a flotilla to break the Gaza blockade in May 2010:

The only significant trigger event in 2010 occurred when Israeli forces boarded a flotilla of ships bearing pro-Palestinian activists who were trying to break the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza; nine activists were killed during the subsequent on-board clashes.Reactions to this episode led to a monthly total of 81 antisemitic incidents in the UK in June 2010, compared to 49 in June 2009, when there was no comparable trigger event.”

And it also discusses the number of anti-Semitic incidents in 2009, the year of the Israeli bombing campaign in Gaza:

“The record total [of anti-Semitic incidents] in 2009 was triggered by reactions to the Gaza conflict in January of that year, which led to record numbers of incidents in January and February 2009.”

Those two points show a correlation between flare-ups in the Middle East and anti-Semitism. But what about causation?

The report explores this complicated question:

“Clearly, it would not be acceptable to define all anti-Israel activity as antisemitic; but it cannot be ignored that much contemporary antisemitism takes place in the context of, or is motivated by, extreme feelings over the Israel/Palestine issue. Drawing out these distinctions, and deciding on where the dividing lines lie, is one of the most difficult areas of CST’s work in recording and analysing hate crime.”

This point by Community Service Trust echoes Gutman’s sentiments almost exactly. And it shows the Gutman affair is more about driving a particular narrative about tensions between the Obama administration and Israel than it is about any supposedly controversial remarks.



Republicans Go After…Obama’s Ambassador to Belgium?

By Adam Serwer, Mother Jones
05.12.11

GOP presidential candidates are demanding President Obama fire his ambassador to Belgium over remarks suggesting that Muslim anti-Semitism is related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Ambassador Howard Gutman argued in a speech delivered last week at a meeting of the European Jewish Union in Brussels that there is a distinction between “classic” anti-Semitism, that is general hatred of Jews, and “hatred and indeed sometimes and all too growing intimidation and violence directed at Jews generally as a result of the continuing tensions between Israel and the Palestinian territories and other Arab neighbors in the Middle East.” Gutman also said that “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.”

The Romney campaign Sunday, sent out a statement demanding that Obama fire Gutman “for rationalizing and downplaying anti-Semitism and linking it to Israeli policy toward the Palestinians,” while rival Newt Gingrich tweeted to his roughly 1.3. million Twitter followers that “Pres Obama should fire his ambassador to Brussels for being so wrong about anti-semitism.” Conservative media pounced on Gutman’s remarks (frequently and conveniently failing to mention that Gutman himself is a Jew and the son of a Holocaust survivor), while seeking to link his comments to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s Friday speech urging Israel to end its “isolation from its traditional security partners in the region” and to renew efforts to reach a two-state solution with the Palestinians.

Gutman’s remarks were clumsy—it’s true that the impasse in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process inflames anti-Semitism; it’s also true that anti-Semitism frequently borrows concepts from what Gutman calls “classic” anti-Semitism. It’s one thing to protest Israeli government policies, such as settlement expansion in the West Bank and military incursions that kill civilians, it’s another to react to them by collectively blaming Jews. That said, Gutman’s suggestion that anti-Semitism would subside if a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could be reached isn’t the same as saying Israelis or Jews are “responsible” for anti-Semitism.

The conservative reaction has two purposes: The first is to bolster a narrative that Obama has thrown Israel “under the bus,” as Romney likes to say, a view not shared either by a majority of Israelis or the Israeli national security establishment. The other is to enable the self-destructive trajectory of Israel’s current right-wing government, which has abandoned sincere efforts at reconciliation, by conflating any criticism of Israeli government policy with anti-Semitism.

The irony is that the Obama administration has been so on the defensive when it comes to Israel that it has failed to pressure the Israeli government into taking the necessary steps to reach a two-state solution, which given demographic realities in the region is the only way to ensure Israel’s future.



Anti-Semitism

Thinking About Anti-Semitism in Europe “Conference on Fighting Anti-Semitism in Europe: What is Next?

Speech by Ambassador Howard Gutman on November 30, 2011
Embassy of the United States, Belgium

I am delighted and honored to get a chance both to meet all of you and to share some thoughts on the issue of anti-Semitism today in Europe.

First, a couple of apologies. When I was asked to speak, I did not realize that I would be slated to do an “Opening” or “Welcome.” And the topic today is too important to dally too long with welcomes.

So welcome. If you are new to Belgium, the frites, chocolate, and beer are terrific and have only the oval waffles called Liege waffles, put no toppings on them, and get them straight from the waffle iron.

OK. So much for welcomes.

The second apology is an apology in advance for my not saying what you would expect me to say. You see, the temptation always exists at conferences discussing perceived biases, prejudices, discrimination and even hatred, to cite a couple of anecdotal instances of violence or hatred, sound an alarm, rally a response, take the applause and sit down.

But to me, the issues are too complex and too much in flux to simply take the easy path. This topic is too important and the time of each of you is too valuable to simply use this meeting as a group opportunity to decry hatred. Of course, we and all well-meaning among the brotherhood of man must decry hatred. But that is just the starting point, not the end of the discussion.

So I likely will not just say fully what you expected and or maybe hoped to hear. I respect all of you too much to do that.

But let’s start with some context. Who am I and from what background do I approach these issues?

My story is not that atypical for the United States – it is in fact right at the core of the American dream. My father, Gitman Mogilnicki, grew up in a Polish town of Biala Rawska. As the Germans began to pressure the Poles, he left the town to try to join the Resistance. Having been rejected by the Resistance for looking too Jewish and having been gone but a week, he returned to find that the Jewish section of the town no longer existed. He spent the war with a few other escapees in the woods, never being caught, sleeping in dug out graves to avoid the bullets when the Germans fired along the ground, and stealing food in the middle of the night by risking missions to town.

He often wondered whether any from the town of Biala Rawska had been taken to camps rather than just having been slaughtered on the spot. But having spent the years after the war searching in vain for even one survivor, he finally concluded that, had the town been taken to camps rather than being killed then and there, surely one person would have survived. There was simply no one left.

Having searched in vain for both survivors and employment in Warsaw and Berlin until 1950, he decided to come to the United States and start again. But the United States had quotas limiting the number of immigrants from Poland. So my father arranged illegally to purchase a false passport in which he transposed his first and last names, and Gitman Mogilnicki of Biala Rawska Poland became Mosher Gutman first of Danzig and then Max Gutman of the Bronx, New York, and the garment district in the lower East Side of Manhattan.

Carrying forward with the next-generation-make-good story, I attended public schools. My father died when I was 16, never having discussed the war with me and never having told me even his real name. Upon his death, I went to work after school cleaning tables in a restaurant and through the student loan program, I attended Columbia University and then Harvard Law School. Having finished among the top of my class, I then clerked on our highest court, the United States Supreme Court, an honor given to the top roughly 40 law school graduates a year, I spent two years as a Special Assistant to the Director of the FBI for counterintelligence and counter-terrorism, and 27 years as a lawyer at a leading law firm and as an advisor to government officials and Democratic political candidates for office. I was on the Board of the Washington Hebrew Home for seniors and a member of two different shuls in Washington DC — a reform shul and an Orthodox shul.

During the Presidential campaign of Barack Obama, I participated in a lot of activities including policy, speechwork, press, fundraising and more. One of my efforts was working with the Jewish vote. Though there was much support in the Jewish community during the campaign, I combated significant suspicion and concern among the Jewish community as to whether a black man named Barack Hussein Obama could really be a good friend for Israel and the Jewish community.

And since I have come to Belgium, I have made my story well known and it has been well received by all. I have engaged at great lengths with the Jewish communities, giving speeches in Flanders, Brussels and Wallonia and even before the World Jewish Congress on Barack Obama’s relationship with the Jewish community and the Middle East. The speech, which argues that by becoming credible in the Arab world, President Obama has become Israel’s best and most valuable friend, is on our website and is available to any who are interested. And I appear regularly at Jewish community events such as memorials, tributes and celebrations.

I have engaged at great length as well with Muslim communities. I have done significant outreach with the largely Moroccan and Turkish communities throughout Belgium — in Molenbeeck, in Anderlecht, in Hasselt and many other areas. Today alone, I met with leaders of a Flemish nationalist party to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian problem and the effect on the U.S. position with regard to UNESCO and other U.N. organizations, and with the largest mosque in Belgium to talk about the same topic and East-West relations. I host at my Residence an annual Iftar, last September sharing dinner in my ballroom with 180 leaders of the Muslim communities. I have available in fact copies of a column that was written two years ago by the former Mayor of Jeddah,Saudi Arabia, who was then the Saudi Ambassador to Belgium, talking about the advances of the Obama administration in East-West relationships following his participation at one of our Iftars.

And I follow closely and think often about issues of anti-Semitism in Europe. In the past few months, Jacques Brotchi, a Federal Senator and leading neurosurgeon, quit his affiliation with a Brussels university over issues of anti-Semitism and we are in the process of following up on those developments. We have been following up since last week when a Jewish female student was beaten up at a Belgian school by other students spewing racial epithets.

To some extent, I have unique exposure to these issues. And such exposure has left me convinced how complicated and changing this issue is. Generalizations about anti-Semitism in Europe are dangerous indeed – always at risk of oversimplifying and of lumping together diverse phenomena.

So let’s start the analysis with the clearest and easiest departure point. There is and has long been some amount of anti-Semitism, of hatred and violence against Jews, from a small sector of the population who hate others who may be different or perceived to be different, largely for the sake of hating. Those anti-Semites are people who hate not only Jews, but Muslims, gays, gypsies, and likely any who can be described as minorities or different. That hatred is of course pernicious and it must be combated. We can never take our eye off it or just dismiss it as fringe elements or the work of crazy people, because we have seen in the past how it can foment and grow. And it is that hatred that lawyers like you can work vigilantly to expose, combat and punish, maybe in conjunction with existing human rights groups.

I have not personally seen much of that hatred in Europe, though it rears its ugly head from time to time. I do not have any basis to think it is growing in any sense. But of course, we can never take our eye off of it, and you particularly as lawyers can help with that process.

So in some sense, that is the easy part of the analysis.

Let’s turn to the harder and more complex part.

What I do see as growing, as gaining much more attention in the newspapers and among politicians and communities, is a different phenomena. It is the phenomena that led Jacques Brotchi to quit his position on the university committee a couple of months ago and that led to the massive attention last week when the Jewish female student was beaten up. It is the problem within Europe of tension, hatred and sometimes even violence between some members of Muslim communities or Arab immigrant groups and Jews. It is a tension and perhaps hatred largely born of and reflecting the tension between Israel, the Palestinian Territories and neighboring Arab states in the Middle East over the continuing Israeli-Palestinian problem.

It too is a serious problem. It too must be discussed and solutions explored. No Jewish student – and no Muslim student or student of any heritage or religion – should ever feel intimidated on a University campus for their heritage or religion leading to academic leaders quitting in protest. No high school or grammar school Jewish student – and no Muslim high school or grammar school student or student of any heritage or religion – should be beaten up over their heritage or religion.

But this 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.

Thus for example, I have been received well by Belgians everywhere in this country. I always get polite applause and sometimes more.

But the longest and loudest ovation I have ever received in Belgium came from the high school with one of the largest percentages of students of Arab heritage. It was in Molenbeek. It consisted of an audience dominated by girls with head scarves and boys named Mohammed, standing and cheering boisterously for a Jewish American, who belongs to two schuls and whose father was a Holocaust survivor. Let me just share a minute or two with you of a video clip from that visit.

These kids were not anti-Semitic as I have ever thought of the term. And I get a similar reaction as I engage with imans, at Iftars, and with Muslims communities throughout Belgium.

And yet, I know and I hear at the same time that the cheering occurs for this Jew, that within that same school and audience at Molenbeek, among those at the same Iftars, and throughout the Muslim communities that I visit, and indeed throughout Europe, there is significant anger and resentment and, yes, perhaps sometimes hatred and indeed sometimes and all too growing intimidation and violence directed at Jews generally as a result of the continuing tensions between Israel and the Palestinian territories and other Arab neighbors in the Middle East.

This is a complex problem indeed. It requires its own analysis and solutions. And the analysis I submit is not served simply by lumping the problem with past instances of anti-Jewish beliefs and actions or those that exist today among minority haters under a uniform banner of “anti-Semitism.”

It is I believe this area where community leaders – Jewish, Muslim, and third parties—where diplomats and religious leaders, where lawyers and professionals from both communities, where mothers and fathers, where university leaders and school administrators, can make the most difference by working to limit converting political and military tension in the Middle East into social problems in Europe. But it is the area too – both fortunately and unfortunately — where the largest part of the solution remains in the hands of government leaders in Israel and the Palestinian territories and Arab countries in the Middle East. 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.

It is at the same time somewhat unfortunate that most of the cause and thus most of the solution for tension and hatred in Europe, for growing problems at Belgian universities, for epithets in the streets, rest with governments and people a continent away. For, in some respect, citizens, parents, religious and community leaders here in Europe can simply try to promote understanding and patience, while ensuring law enforcement serves its mission, without being able fully to address the most root causes and most efficient cures.

It is a challenge for us all. I hope it is one you will address in this conference.

Thanks so much and all the best.



State Department says Amb. Gutman was ‘speaking on his own’

by Philip Weiss, Mondoweiss
06.12.11

Wow this is crazy. Yesterday Matt Lee of AP asked the State Department spokesperson Mark Toner if US Ambassador to Belgium Howard Gutman was speaking for the US government when he said that Israel’s actions have generated anti-Semitism in Muslim communities. And Toner says he was “speaking on his own.”

Under Lee’s questions, Toner repeatedly distances the Obama administration from Gutman with remarks like, “I will leave it to the Ambassador to Belgium to clarify what he meant–” and continually changes the discussion to how much the U.S. loves Israel.

Lee then gets at the heart of the matter: Isn’t there a difference between classic anti-Semitism and anti-Semitism that is based on criticism of the state of Israel. Toner says, Gutman was saying “there are different forms of anti-Semitism. We condemn them in all their forms.”

As Lee says late in this dialogue, “you’re in a very difficult position.” Video goes from 1:00 to about 8:30.

QUESTION: Let’s start with Ambassador Gutman’s speech from last week…. Does the Administration agree with the sentiments that he expressed in his speech?
MR. TONER: …He made very clear in a subsequent statement that they were his thoughts or his remarks. He did condemn and was very vocal about condemning anti-Semitism in all its forms, and I believe he expressed regret that his words might have been taken out of context…

QUESTION:
Does the Administration agree with the content of the – of Ambassador Gutman’s speech?
MR. TONER:
And the Administration and the State Department says that we condemn anti-Semitism in all its forms.

QUESTION: That’s great, Mark. I’m glad that you do, and I’m sure everyone is glad that you do, but do you agree with the content of Ambassador Gutman’s speech?
MR. TONER: We –

QUESTION: I don’t know; it’s a pretty easy question. Yes or no?
MR. TONER: It is – it was his remarks. It was his opinion. He was not speaking on behalf —

QUESTION: So he wasn’t speaking – the Ambassador to Belgium, he was not speaking —
MR. TONER: I think he said as much. He said it was his remarks and he was speaking on his own.

QUESTION: No, he didn’t. He did not say that. He – but he was not speaking on behalf of the U.S. Government?
MR. TONER: I don’t believe so.

QUESTION: So the – okay, the Ambassador to Belgium shows up at a conference in Europe, in Belgium, and he is not speaking on behalf of the U.S. Government. Is that correct?
MR. TONER: The Ambassador was expressing his views on an issue.

QUESTION: They are not the view – so he —
MR. TONER: He subsequently issued a statement clarifying that he was – I don’t know – expressing regret if his remarks were taken out of context. He then said that he does condemn anti-Semitism in all its forms, and in fact, pointed to his own family history as a testament to that.

QUESTION: Well, I understand that, but you’re saying that he was speaking as a private citizen, not as the U.S. Ambassador?
MR. TONER: Well, of course, when – anytime an ambassador speaks, he is representing the United States.

QUESTION: So the views that he expressed in his speech do not represent the views of the Administration?
MR. TONER: Matt, let me be very clear.

QUESTION: Mark, I understand that you condemn anti-Semitism in all its forms. I understand that, okay? I’m asking you if you agree with the content of his speech, which he gave as the U.S. Ambassador to Belgium.
MR. TONER: And I would just say that he was sharing his views on an issue. Our commitment to Israel’s security is ironclad. The United States – or Israel has no greater friend or ally than the United States, and we condemn anti-Semitism in all its forms.

QUESTION: Okay. That’s fine, but I don’t – I’m not hearing in there – unless you’re going to tell me right out he was speaking as a private citizen and not as the Ambassador. Is that – that’s what you’re saying?…
MR. TONER: Again, we’ve been very clear that we condemn anti-Semitism in all its forms regardless of how you call it or how you characterize it.

QUESTION: Do you – okay. So you do not agree, then, with the contents of the Ambassador’s speech?
MR. TONER: I think I’ll just stop there.

QUESTION: Well —
MR. TONER: I think I just said we condemn –

QUESTION: — this guy is the —
MR. TONER: — anti-Semitism in all of its forms. He —

QUESTION: Okay. So you don’t draw a distinction between criticism of Israel —
MR. TONER: No.

QUESTION: — and all criticism of Israel —
MR. TONER: No. We don’t draw any distinctions. We don’t —

QUESTION: All criticism of Israel is anti-Semitism? Is that what you’re saying?
MR. TONER: Look, I will leave it to the Ambassador to Belgium to clarify what he meant —

QUESTION: Does the —
MR. TONER: — by his remarks —

QUESTION: Does the —
MR. TONER: — to this gathering.

QUESTION: Does the –
MR. TONER: I can only speak on behalf of this Administration, and that is that we condemn anti-Semitism in all its forms.

QUESTION: Does the Administration think that Israel is above reproach? In other words, that Israel should not be criticized for anything?
MR. TONER: Speaking largely about the issue that was on the table, which is Middle East peace and the importance of it and, frankly, the stability that it brings to the region, we’ve been very clear that the best way to a lasting peace is through the negotiating table. That remains our focus. We want to get both sides back into direct negotiations….

QUESTION: This Administration has been critical of the Government of Israel before, correct?
MR. TONER: Of course.

QUESTION: Yes. Do you – is that criticism anti-Semitic?
MR. TONER: Of course not.

QUESTION: So all criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitism?
MR. TONER: Again, I don’t want to parse this out. I just simply want to say we condemn —

QUESTION: I know you don’t want to because you’re in a very difficult position.
MR. TONER: — anti-Semitism in all of its forms. Okay?

QUESTION: You’re saying, though, that you accept a distinction between criticism of Israel and anti – criticism of the government of – the policies of the Government of Israel and anti-Semitism. You draw a distinction between the two things, correct?
MR. TONER: I’d just say that this Administration has consistently stood up against anti-Semitism and efforts to delegitimize Israel, and will continue to do so.

QUESTION: Does the Administration believe that you can be critical of Israel without being anti-Semitic?
MR. TONER: I think that when it comes to trying to keep the parties focused on the peace process and in citing behavior that is not constructive to that process, we are certainly able to do that, and have done so in the past.

QUESTION: But does the Administration believe that you can be – that one can be critical of the policies of government – the Government of Israel without being anti-Semitic? Yes or no?
MR. TONER: Well, again, I think I just answered the question, that we have been critical —

QUESTION: Okay. So you’re saying that there – you do draw a distinction between criticism of the Government of Israel, of policies of the Government of Israel, and – in other words, not all criticism of Israel – when you come out and you say we think that more settlements are a bad idea, that doesn’t mean the Administration —
MR. TONER: Of course, of course.

QUESTION: — is anti-Semitic, right?
MR. TONER: Of course.

QUESTION: Okay. So in his speech, Ambassador Gutman draws a distinction between classic anti-Semitism and some kind of new form of hatred toward Jews which is based – what he said, based on the policies of the Government of Israel. Do you – it sounds as though you accept that there is a distinction between the two.
MR. TONER: What Ambassador Gutman was – I believe what he was trying to convey is that there are different forms of anti-Semitism. We condemn them in all their forms.

QUESTION: All right. I’ve got another on Israel, but it’s not on this subject.
[Not Matt Lee’s] QUESTION: If I could just follow up briefly on that, some Republicans have called for the Administration to fire Ambassador Gutman. Is there – does the Administration have a response to that, have a position on –
MR. TONER: We have full confidence in him.

 

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