Skip To Content
Get Our Newsletter
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.

Support the Forward

Funded by readers like you DonateSubscribe

White House Draws Fire for Speeches

Controversial speeches by administration officials have given President Obama’s opponents space to hit back just a week after he touted his strong support cooperation with Israel while courting Jewish donors in New York.

Following comments critical of Israel’s stance towards the Palestinians by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and U.S. ambassador to Belgium Howard Gutman, William Kristol, chairman of the Republican-linked Emergency Committee for Israel, declared in a statement, “The Obama message is loud and clear: the world would be a safer, simpler, and more peaceful place if not for the troublesome Jewish state.”

In the speech that’s drawn the most attention, Howard Gutman, the U.S. ambassador to Belgium, told a conference on European anti-Semitism that Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians had contributed to anti-Semitism in Europe.

“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,” Gutman said of tensions between Muslims and Jews in Europe.

Gutman, who is Jewish, opened the address talking about his father’s years hiding from Nazis in Poland.

Though Gutman’s speech was delivered on November 30, it did not draw attention until December 3, when a story on the talk was printed appeared on the Israeli news site Ynet. Subsequently, Kristol, called for Gutman’s firing, as did Republican hopefuls Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich.

The White House distanced itself from Gutman’s remarks in a statement on Saturday, saying: “We condemn anti-Semitism in all its forms, and that there is never any justification for prejudice against the Jewish people or Israel.”

Meanwhile, Kristol’s statement also condemned a Friday address by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta in which Panetta called on Israel to resume talks with the Palestinians.

“Just get to the damn table,” Panetta said.

The remarks were condemned by the Anti-Defamation League, whose national director Abraham Foxman complained in a statement that Panetta had used “a prestigious public platform to focus disproportionate responsibility on Israel for the campaign of hostility against her.”

The Gingrich and Romney campaigns have yet to respond to Panetta’s remarks.

Contact Josh Nathan-Kazis at nathankazis@forward.com or on Twitter @joshnathankazis

Engage

  • SHARE YOUR FEEDBACK

  • UPCOMING EVENT

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free under an Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivatives Creative Commons license as long as you follow our republishing guidelines, which require that you credit Foward and retain our pixel. See our full guidelines for more information.

To republish, copy the HTML, which includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline, and credit to Foward. Have questions? Please email us at help@forward.com.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.