EU official apologises after blaming Jews for blocking peace talks

This piece, by Ian Traynor, is from the Guardian

A top European official was accused of antisemitism tonight after declaring that there was little point in engaging in rational argument with Jews and suggesting that the latest Middle East peace talks were doomed because of the power of the Jewish lobby in Washington.

Karel De Gucht, the European commissioner for trade, and a former Belgian foreign minister, sparked outrage after voicing his scepticism about the prospects for the negotiations which opened in the US this week. He told a Belgian radio station that most Jews always believed they were right, and questioned the point of talking to them about the Middle East.

De Gucht, who negotiates for Europe on trade with the rest of the world, and is one of the most powerful officials in Brussels, was forced today to issue a statement declaring that the views he expressed were personal.

“Don’t underestimate the opinion … of the average Jew outside Israel,” he told the radio station. “There is indeed a belief – it’s difficult to describe it otherwise – among most Jews that they are right. And a belief is something that’s difficult to counter with rational arguments. And it’s not so much whether these are religious Jews or not. Lay Jews also share the same belief that they are right. So it is not easy to have, even with moderate Jews, a rational discussion about what is actually happening in the Middle East.”

Explaining why he thought the peace talks were probably doomed, he added: “Do not underestimate the Jewish lobby on Capitol Hill. That is the best organised lobby, you shouldn’t underestimate the grip it has on American politics – no matter whether it’s Republicans or Democrats.”

Jewish leaders were incandescent. “This is part of a dangerous trend of incitement against Jews and Israel in Europe that needs to be stamped out immediately,” said Moshe Kantor, the head of the European Jewish Congress. “What sort of environment allows such remarks to be made openly by a senior politician? Once again we hear outrageous antisemitism from a senior European official. The libel of Jewish power is apparently acceptable at the highest levels of the EU.”

Officials in Brussels stressed the remarks did not represent EU views or policies. De Gucht was forced to issue a statement clarifying his remarks.

“I gave an interview … I gave my personal point of view,” he said. “I regret that the comments that I made have been interpreted in a sense that I did not intend.

“I did not mean in any possible way to cause offence or stigmatise the Jewish community. I want to make clear that antisemitism has no place in today’s world.”

Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, today attacked the “doomed” Middle East peace talks and urged Palestinians to continue armed resistance to Israel. Ahmadinejad used the annual al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day rally in Tehran to scorn the Obama administration’s efforts in launching the first Arab-Israeli negotiations in nearly two years.

“The people of Palestine and the people of the region will not allow them to sell even an inch of Palestinian soil to the enemy,” he said.

Iran supports Hamas, the Islamist Palestinian movement that controls the Gaza Strip and opposes talks involving Mahmoud Abbas, the western-backed PLO leader who is based in the West Bank.

This piece, by Ian Traynor, is from the Guardian

17 Responses to “EU official apologises after blaming Jews for blocking peace talks”

  1. Over At the EU. « ModernityBlog Says:

    […] Anti-Israeli, anti-Jewish racism, antisemitism, Engage, EU, Europe, Karel De Gucht, Racism 0 Engage has more on Karel De […]

  2. Absolute Observer Says:

    France expels the Roma.

    Italy criminalises the same group of people.

    A member of the Central Bank in Germany makes antisemitic and Islamophobic comments.

    Putin says that those demonstrating against the government can be expected to be violently assaulted.

    The racist and antisemitic far right re-emerges in Central Europe.

    British Unions and British academics call for the exclusion of the Jewish state -and only the Jewish state – from the world family of nations.

    And, now this guy evidences a direct link between the current demonisation of Israel and the demonisation of European (And US) Jews.

    Coincidence? I think not.

    There is something truly rotten in the heart of Europe at this precise moment in time.

  3. Jonathan Hoffman Says:

    http://www.zionismontheweb.org/CommentIsFree_ParliamentASCttee_July08.pdf

    Yeah, right – the Guardian knows all about antisemitism… Not

    http://www.cifwatch.com

  4. Rudi Says:

    He didn’t apoligize. Only regret. See updated statement of EJC in the NYT

    “We didn’t read any apology in the statement, and are still waiting to hear one,” it said. “These remarks clearly fall within the European Union’s own definition of anti-Semitism, so there can be no explanation for these comments and no possible justification for European officials to dismiss them as ‘personal.”’

  5. NicoleS Says:

    The BBC’s laughably titled Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen also spoke of the powerful Jewish lobby as an obstacle to peace on the Today programme yesterday. I mentioned this in a complaint to the BBC about its lamentable, misleading reporting, but perhaps stronger action could be taken on that specific point. Any suggestions?

    • Brian Goldfarb Says:

      1. Did you put in writing? Apparently, so I’ve been told by an admittedly titled person (thus not to be lightly ignored), if the complaint is in writing, they are obliged to reply in similar manner. If verbal (ie on the phone), it will probably be ignored.

      2. have you written to your MP? Unless they are a committed anti-Zionist, they might well take you seriously (pretend you voted for them in May – especially if you live in a marginal, and even more especially if they are Con or Lib Dem).

      3. Write to a national newspaper that isn’t the Independent or The Guardian.

      • NicoleS Says:

        Thanks, Brian. I wrote on the complaints form on the BBC web site. They will answer along the lines that they are committed to impartiality bla bla bla without addressing any specific points, about which they are totally clueless anyway. I think Jeremy Bowen is useless and unprofessional, possibly scared of the consequences of upsetting Hamas, and should be sacked. Beyond writing to the BBC in the forlorn hope of wearing them down, I can’t see how this can be achieved.

  6. David Hirsh Says:

    This story is written in a bit of a Guardianesque way.

    firstly (I haven’t seen the paper, only the website) the story about Morrisey mouthing off about the Chinese is front and centre while the story about a top EU official being antisemitic has disappeared altogether already from the front page.

    secondly it says that he “was accused” of antisemitism, it doesn’t say he was antisemitic.

    thirdly it says that Jewish leaders were “incandessent”. The implication here is that their response was (as always) to some degree or other over the top. The word “Incandessent” definitely signifies an over-reaction, not a rational reaction. So whatever this guy did, the Jews are some how already milking it – in order to de-legitimize the kernel of truth which lies behind the gaffe.

    fourth, the article does not probe or interrogate the absolute uselessness of the “apology”.

  7. Absolute Observer Says:

    What these comments show is what many have been saying for quite a while now – the ease with which what some call “criticism of Israel” seamlessly slides into classic expressions of antisemitism.

    There is something rotten in the heart of the “anti-Zionist” movement.

  8. Bill Says:

    “There is indeed a belief – it’s difficult to describe it otherwise – among most Jews that they are right” (and much MUCH MORE!)

    and then…

    “I regret that the comments that I made have been interpreted in a sense that I did not intend. … I did not mean in any possible way to cause offence or stigmatize the Jewish community..”

    This is like when people misquote you verbatim, right?

    They get to have all sort of nuance and are so often “misinterpreted” for saying exactly. We are hung on our every word, especially those what are penciled in between the lines by others.

    We must use careful sober argument with lots of facts and lots of citations and truckloads of documentation. And they?

    They just get to say stuff.

    • Bill Says:

      I better pencil this in myself before De Gucht’s apologists do:

      They get to have all sort of nuance and are so often “misinterpreted” for saying exactly what they said.

  9. Philo Says:

    Is EU Commissioner Karel De Gucht only saying out loud what everybody at the EU is thinking in private but keeping silent for fear of being called an antisemite ?
    ***
    Belgian newspaper: De Gucht broke taboos re the Jewish Lobby and Jewish irrationality

    Belgian newspaper Le Soir ran an article about this subjet: “Karel De Gucht brave les tabous” (Karel De Gucht breaks the taboos – note the plural and the “the”). In the paper version the introduction to the article reads as follows (translated) :

    Essential background :
    – Former Foreign Affairs Minister speaks of the weight of the American Jewish lobby and of the conviction Jews have of being always right about the Middle East.
    – Jewish organisations make grave accusations.
    – Is it appropriate to say in public what everybody thinks in private ?

    The journalist, Maroun Labaki who covers EU affairs for Le Soir, goes on to write that Karel De Gucht’s words are unusual coming from a high-ranking European politician because it is not “politically correct” to say such things and because of the fear of being accused of antisemitism. They therefore use less explicit formulations …

    He further hints that such could be the views of the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs too.
    http://philosemitism.blogspot.com/2010/09/belgian-newspaper-de-gucht-broke-taboos.html

    • NicoleS Says:

      Isn’t it what almost everybody thinks, including Jeremy Bowen of the BBC, as I commented earlier. They have the basic facts wrong, so a conspiracy theory is needed to fill the gaps. It never ceases to amaze me how pompous and disapproving people can be about Israel while knowing absolutely nothing about it. It is worrying though that the ignorance reaches so high up.

  10. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    I guess that Karel de Gucht is in the same position as Frank Johansson, the Head of Amnesty International Finland: should be out of a job soon, but don’t hold your breath waiting. Now if either of them had said “Black” or “Asian” or “Moslem” or (to name but two) “Sudan” or “Zimbabwe” instead of “Jew” or “Israel”, their feet wouldn’t have touched the ground as they were dismissed from their respective posts.

  11. Absolute Observer Says:

    As I am currently reading the Fnkler question, I thought this letter in the Guardian today was maybe a spoof; then I realised it was perhaps the most stupid thing I have ever, ever, read.

    “ Karel De Gucht, the European commissioner for trade, is indeed purveying blatant prejudice in his statement that Jews are incapable of “rational discussion about what is actually happening in the Middle East”. Moshe Kantor, head of the European Jewish Congress, describes this statement not as anti-Jewish, but as incitement “against Jews and Israel”. By thus bracketing “Jews and Israel” together, he is ignoring the views of Jews who are brave enough to speak out against Israeli actions, and is thus effectively guilty of precisely the same prejudice as that of De Gucht.”

  12. Mark2 Says:

    We should also nail the nonsense about it being “only” his “personal view”. When you are a senior official with the power to really influence policy it is perfectly proper for people to take into account what for lesser folk might be “merely” personal views.

    To take an obvious example, as trade commissioner de Grucht presumably gets lobbied about a trade boycott of Israel. Well, we are now on notice if the EU surrenders to such lobbying.

  13. Joshua Says:

    “then I realised it was perhaps the most stupid thing I have ever, ever, read.”

    That the letter should have been written by such a clever man is the truly frightening thing:

    Dr Hugh Goodacre

    UCL Teaching Fellow

    http://www.ucl.ac.uk/economics/people/Visitors/goodacre

    Source: Israel, Jews and the peace process

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/sep/07/israel-jews-and-the-peace-process


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