Growing global anti-Semitism is linked to Israel’s policy towards the Palestinians, the American ambassador to Belgium told stunned Jewish conference attendants in Brussels earlier this week…. [Howard] Gutman told participants he was apologizing in advance if his words are not to their liking. He then proceeded to make controversial statements about his views on Muslim anti-Semitism, Yedioth Ahronoth reported Friday. 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, Gutman said. He also argued that an Israeli-Palestinian peace treaty will significantly diminish Muslim anti-Semitism.
In no particular order:
(1) As a sheer historical matter, of course, he’s demonstrably wrong.
Muslim anti-Semitism stretches back centuries. Just last week we passed the 70th anniversary of the meeting between the Mufti of Jerusalem and Hitler, where the two of them conspired to wipe out European and Middle East Jewry. The Mufti, citing Muslim dogma and history, committed to helping the Nazis fulfill their genocidal ambitions. A few decades later, then-Secretary of State John Foster Dulles was explaining to Congress why the U.S. was withholding war planes from Israel while selling them to Saudi Arabia, and he explained that Muslim states “have felt for a long time – it goes back centuries – a very particular animosity toward the Jews because they credited the assassination of Mohammed to a Jew.”
It could be Dulles just didn’t realize that Muslim anti-Semitism had only existed for a couple of decades, and that the Mufti just didn’t know he was supposed to wait for the creation of Israel to become anti-Semitic. Although given how Muslim anti-Semitism is eschatological, and involves precise roles for Jews during the end-times and reserves an explicit place for them in hell, it’s more likely he hated Jews for religious reasons and that Gutman is making things up.
(2) The Obama administration is going to have to get creative about walking this one back. It’s gracious that Gutman told attendees in advance they wouldn’t like what he was about to say, but rhetorically and argumentatively it makes things more complicated. Usually when the White House tries to walk back its anti-Israel gaffes, officials roll their eyes and insist the controversy is just being manufactured to smear Obama. It’s going to be hard to claim Gutman’s words weren’t meant to be controversial, inasmuch as he began his speech by noting he was about to say something controversial.
(3) It’s also going to be hard for the administration to say Gutman’s views do not reflect Obama’s broader approach to Israel and the Israeli-Arab conflict. Quite the opposite, they fit perfectly into the linkage dogma embraced by Obama and the foreign policy left, where pathologies in the Arab world are the result rather than the cause of the Israeli-Arab conflict. Pseudo-sophisticated experts insisted for years that Sunnis wouldn’t mobilize against Iran because of Israel, a myth that was debunked by Wikileaks. They emphasized the idea that the Israeli-Arab conflict prevented Arab democratization, something the Arab Spring disproved. And now apparently centuries-old and world-wide Islamic anti-Semitism is the result of a sliver of a state fighting for its existence on the Eastern Mediterranean.
(4) These outbursts are becoming something of a capital T “Thing” for Obama donors, of which Gutman – having raised more than $500,000 for the president and the Democratic Party – is one. George Soros also expressed the view on multiple occasions. One more time and it becomes a trend! Soros’s 2003 statements, by the by, went viral on hate sites like Stormfront, conspiracy hubs like AboveTopSecret, and progressive forums like Democratic Underground. Gutman’s statements will undoubtedly do the same, this time with the imprimatur of an Obama-appointed U.S. official.
(5) Just for completion’s sake, it’s worth noting that even if Gutman wasn’t simply inventing history, the idea of Israeli concessions as a salve for Muslim anti-Semitism is backwards. Islamists put theological priority on humiliating and extracting concessions from Jews, such that vaunted “confidence-building measures” are more likely to fuel rather than dampen Muslim anti-Semitism. Scholar Richard Landes keeps an entire archive on the phenomenon, and you can see here and here and here for some recent examples. There might be other reasons to coerce Israel into making security and territorial concessions to Arab entities. But decreasing Muslim hatred for Jews can’t honestly be described as one of them.