When U.S. Ambassador to Belgium Howard Gutman commented last week that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict exacerbates European-Muslim anti-Semitism, GOP politicians and right-wing pro-Israel pundits and organizations seized on an inaccurate paraphrase from the totality of the remarks and called for him to be recalled.
The right-wing assaults on Gutman and the Obama administration misrepresented the thrust of his remarks. Mother Jones’s Adam Serwer, while lamenting Gutman’s lack of clarity, offers this accurate assessment of the comments and how they don’t mean what the right says they do:
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.
That portrayal is a far cry from those who claim Gutman “directly blamed Israel for anti-Semitism.” Now, other commentators are questioning whether or not the actual issue addressed by Gutman is controversial at all.
Sources as widely varied as academia, Jewish organizations, and even the Israeli government itself openly address the subject of “spill over,” as it’s sometimes called, of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into anti-Semitic incidences against the Diaspora (roughly meaning Jews who don’t live in Israel). At the venerable Jewish Daily Forward, writer J.J. Goldberg blogs that the Israeli government’s civilian and uniformed security branches discussed the impact of Israeli actions on the security of Diaspora Jews in the 1990s:
The problem of spillover attacks on Diaspora Jews was discussed as early as 1994 by the Israel Defense Forces and Ministry of Defense. I heard about it from Sallai Meridor, who was a Defense Ministry official in 1994 and took part in discussions…
He goes on to address, at length, a study by the Jewish People Planning Institute (JPPI), a Jewish nationalist organization created “in large part in order to have an institutional body that could help analyze the impact of Israeli security policy and action on Diaspora Jews,” according to Goldberg. So, an Israeli think tank was founded on the basis that, as the group’s first paper posits, the “Israeli-Arab dispute… carries important implications for all Jews wherever they reside.” The same 2004 paper (PDF) also says:
The rise of antisemitism in Europe in the last three years, largely correlated with the rise of Islamic activism and developments in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The IDF and the JPPI, though, aren’t the only Jewish organizations who’ve discussed the connections between the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and flare-ups of anti-Semitism. Salon’s Justin Elliott points out that the British group Community Service Trust (CST), whose slogan is “Protecting the Jewish Community,” establishes correlations between a “trigger event” — like the late 2008 and early 2009 Israeli war on Gaza or the 2010 Israeli raid on a flotilla bound for the Strip — and flare-ups of anti-Semitic incidences in the U.K. A report (PDF) from CST establishes a causal link between the Mideast events and the British incidences:
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.
As Elliott observes: “This point by Community Service Trust echoes Gutman’s sentiments almost exactly.” But don’t hold your breath for Commentary Magazine to condemn the IDF, JPPI, or the CST. They’re not, after all, part of the Obama administration.
Sarah Wildman notes that the European Union’s Fundamental Rights Agency published a report in 2008 on the rise in anti-Semitic attacks in Europe “since Israel’s [military] operation in the Gaza Strip and the onset of the global economic crisis.”
Americans for Peace Now’s Lara Friedman piles on, highlighting two annual reports on anti-Semitism from Tel Aviv University’s Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism and Racism and an interview with its founder. The 2010 report (PDF) states:
2009 was an extraordinary year in terms of numbers of antisemitic incidents, primarily due to Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s war in Gaza, which especially in the first months of the year provoked unprecedented anti-Jewish activity worldwide.