There are two overarching criticisms of U.S.Ambassador Howard Gutman’s disgraceful speech last week, a speech the content of which the White House has yet to walk back. They are:
(2) That Gutman minimized European anti-Semitism. When it came to “traditional” European Jew-hatred he opined that not only had he not personally experienced much of it, but that as far as he could tell it was in decline. When it came to tensions between Muslims and Jews, he went out of his way to avoid unpleasantly placing rhetorical blame on one side or the other. He described the problem as one of “violence between some members of Muslim communities or Arab immigrant groups and Jews,” as if the direction of violence was inscrutable. He drew equivalences between actual attacks on Jewish schoolgirls and hypothetical attacks on Muslim schoolgirls, as if Jewish/Muslim tensions equally exposed each to the specter of religiously-motivated attack. And so on.
Gutman’s defenders have tended to ignore the first and frankly more trenchant “blame the victim” criticism. They’ve instead pretended the ambassador’s critics have only complained about his minimization of anti-Semitism, a convenient albeit unblinkingly dopey ploy. It implicitly concedes, among other things, that Gutman scapegoated the Jewish State, an American ally, for violent bigotry directed at European Jews. That’s kind of a big deal.
But just for the sake of argument, let’s pretend the only reason people are criticizing Gutman is because he failed to highlight and condemn the unique nature and scope of European anti-Semitism. Responding to this accusation, his defenders have taken to obnoxiously instructing “all these Republicans and other right-wingers” to read the “transcript of his speech.” That’s where Gutman’s ruminations over the extent of European anti-Semitism are ostensibly to be found.
Except the transcript is wrong. We don’t know exactly how wrong, but we do know that it’s wrong in a suspiciously precise way. On the one single paragraph where there’s a videotape, Gutman very explicitly skipped over the only sentence describing uniquely anti-Jewish violence and intimidation. Seriously. This is happening. In a public controversy over whether Gutman was sufficiently attentive to the contours of anti-Semitism, with advocates smugly holding up the published transcript, the relevant examples of anti-Semitism weren’t in the speech.
See for yourself.
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.
What I do see as growing in Europe, as gaining much more attention in the newspaper, among politicians, among communities, among citizens with a sense of alarm, is a far different phenomenon. 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 a 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.
The sentence about Jews getting forced out of universities and Jews getting beaten at school was taken out. The stuff about generic violence was left in. Again, this is just one sentence within one paragraph, although the sentence is critical and the paragraph is the only one we can compare to the actual speech. If the difference between the speech and the transcript is at all representative, it helps explain why Israeli reporters left the room insisting that Gutman made a distinction “between traditional anti-Semitism, which should be condemned, and Muslim hatred for Jews, which stems from the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.”