Israel Political Brief December 6, 2011: Remarks on Israel by three U.S. officials Clinton, Panetta & Gutman spark furor among Jewish community

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Remarks on Israel by three U.S. officials spark furor

Source: JTA, 12-6-11

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta spoke at the 2011 Saban Forum in Washington on Dec. 2, 2011. (Brookings Institution)
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Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta spoke at the 2011 Saban Forum in Washington on Dec. 2, 2011. (Brookings Institution)

The Obama administration is reaping a whirlwind of criticism in the wake of pointed remarks about Israel by several U.S. officials over three days.

The U.S. ambassador to Belgium, Howard Gutman, caused an uproar when he suggested on Dec. 1 that hostility among European Arabs and Muslims toward Jews was rooted in anger over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and should be distinguished from traditional forms of anti-Semitism. Jewish groups condemned his remarks, which drew calls for his dismissal from Republican presidential front-runners Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney.

The following day, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta stirred controversy when he told an audience at the Saban Forum, an annual Washington conclave for American and Israeli policymakers, that Israel needs to “get to the damn table” to negotiate with the Palestinians and “mend fences” with its neighbors. The Anti-Defamation League expressed “surprise and dismay” at a speech that it said “disproportionately put the onus on Israel to overcome its isolation.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made waves a day later at the Saban Forum when she reportedly expressed some concerns about the state of Israeli democracy.

The confluence of controversies has added up to a headache for the Obama administration’s Jewish supporters and given fodder to its critics.

“This is the worst weekend we’ve had in a while,” said a Jewish Democratic activist, who spoke on condition of anonymity, referring to the outcry over the remarks.

Each set of remarks share a common theme, said the ADL’s national director, Abraham Foxman.

They’re “putting all of the onus on Israel, and that’s with Panetta, with Hillary and with the ambassador,” he said. “It’s something that we’ve had a problem with this administration.”…READ MORE

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Israel Political Brief December 4, 2011: White House Distances Itself from Belgium envoy Howard Gutman’s anti-Semitism remarks

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White House raps Belgium envoy’s anti-Semitism remarks

Source: JTA, 12-4-11

The White House distanced itself from its ambassador to Belgium after the envoy said the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the cause of Muslim anti-Semitism.

“We condemn anti-Semitism in all its forms, and that there is never any justification for prejudice against the Jewish people or Israel,” the White House said in a statement sent to Jewish leaders on Saturday night.

Howard Gutman, who is Jewish, said last week at a conference in Brussels on anti-Semitism organized by the European Jewish Union that “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.” He added that “an Israeli-Palestinian peace treaty will significantly diminish Muslim anti-Semitism.”

Gutman, an attorney, raised major funds for Obama’s 2008 elections campaign, after which he was appointed ambassador by the president.

On Sunday, Gutman said he regretted that his statements to the conference were “misinterpreted,” according to the European Jewish Press, citing the U.S. Embassy in Belgium.

“My personal history and the history of my family testify to the importance I attach to this subject and my unwavering commitment to fight anti-Semitism,” Gutman, the son of a Polish Jewish Holocaust survivor, reportedly said.

Israel Brief October 30, 2011: Kent State University president slams anti-Israel professor

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Kent State University president slams anti-Israel professor

Source: JTA, 10-30-11

The president of Kent State University decried the behavior of a professor who shouted “death to Israel” during a lecture given by a former Israeli diplomat.

Ishmael Khaldi, the former deputy consul general at the Israeli Consulate in San Francisco, was confronted by Kent State University history professor Julio Pino during a question-and-answer session following Khaldi’s speech at a campus event last week. Khaldi was speaking about his life as a Bedouin in Israel who rose through the ranks of the Foreign Ministry, as well as Middle East issues.

Pino, a convert to Islam and a tenured professor, asked Khaldi how the Israeli government could justify providing aid to countries like Turkey — to which Israel recently sent earthquake aid — with “blood money” from the deaths of Palestinian children. After briefly arguing with Khaldi, Pino left the auditorium shouting “Death to Israel.” An audience member responded by shouting “Shame on you” after him.

KSU President Lester Lefton said in a letter published on the university’s website that Pino’s behavior was “reprehensible, and an embarrassment to our university.”

Lefton wrote that he believed it as Pino’s right to pose a provocative question to Khaldi, but that while it was also Pino’s right to shout invective against Israel, “it is my obligation, as the president of this university, to say that I find his words deplorable, and his behavior deeply troubling.”

“We value critical thinking at this university, and encourage students to engage with ideas that they find difficult or make them uncomfortable. We hope that our faculty will always model how best to combine passion for one’s position with respect for those with whom we disagree. Calling for the destruction of the state from which our guest comes (as do some of our students, faculty and community members) is a grotesque failure to model these values,” Lefton’s statement said.

“We welcome President Lefton’s clear condemnation of Professor Julio Pino’s deplorable conduct,” said Nina Sundell, the Anti-Defamation League’s Ohio regional director. “Statements such as ‘Death to Israel’ extend beyond legitimate political discourse. When the statement is shouted by a university professor at a university student organization event on campus, it is even more harmful.”

Pino has courted controversy for years, writing an opinion column in 2002 in which he praised a suicide bomber. In 2007 he faced allegations that he was behind the website Global War, which bills itself as “a jihadist news service.” At the time, Pino refused to comment on the allegations, describing it as a freedom of speech issue. However, his department chair said that Pino had told him that he contributed articles to the site.

Israel Brief September 21, 2011: Hundreds gather for pro-Israel rally at U.N.

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Hundreds gather for pro-Israel rally at U.N.

Source: JTA, 9-21-11

Several hundred supporters of Israel gathered near the United Nations to protest the Durban III meeting and oppose the Palestinian statehood bid.

Wednesday’s rally was organized by the pro-Israel Christian group Eagles’ Wings.

Many leading Jewish groups have decided not to mount demonstrations in response to the Palestinian statehood bid or to what they see as the U.N.’s increasingly irrelevant Durban III meeting.

Some Jewish groups dropped out of Wednesday’s rally due to the involvement of the Jerusalem Institute for Justice, an organization led by messianic Jews.

Roz Rothstein, the CEO of StandWithUs, one of the few Jewish groups to co-sponsor the rally, said that Durban III was worth protesting.

“Even if its one day long, even if it is one paragraph long. We’ll fight them,” Rothstein told the JTA.

Some of the rally’s speakers criticized President Obama’s policies.

“Obama built up the reputation of Mahmoud Abbas, and as a result the Palestinian Authority now believes it no longer needs to negotiate with Israel,” said the deputy speaker of Israel’s Knesset, Danny Danon.

The remaining speakers were mostly Christian, although Rabbi Yaakov Kermaier of the Fifth Avenue Synagogue also spoke.

Many of the rally attendees were evangelical Christians and messianic Jews.

Amy Liantonio, 25, a messianic Jew who came from Philadelphia for the rally, said she was disappointed that there was not more Jewish support for the event.

“I wish they were here,” she said.

Full Text September 13, 2011: Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs Statement on Cameron Johnson’s Anti-Semitic Remark at York University Lecture

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Statement on the Recent Controversy at York University

Source: Newswire, 9-13-11

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs was recently made aware of a lecture given by Professor Cameron Johnston yesterday at York University, which reportedly included an anti-Semitic remark.

In response, Sheldon Goodman, the GTA Co-Chair of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs issued the following statement:

“Upon hearing of this incident, we immediately contacted York University as well as Professor Johnston directly. While York is currently looking into the matter, it appears that a very unfortunate misunderstanding has taken place. We believe Professor Johnston’s use of an abhorrent statement was intended to demonstrate that some opinions are simply not legitimate. This point was, without ill intentions, taken out of context and circulated in the Jewish community.

“Professor Johnston, himself a member of the Jewish community, may regret his wording but should not see his reputation tarnished. This event is an appropriate reminder that great caution must be exercised before concluding a statement or action is anti-Semitic.”

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs is now the spokesperson for all issues concerning the organized Canadian Jewish community, including those formerly handled by the Canadian Jewish Congress, the Canada-Israel Committee, and the Quebec-Israel Committee.

Statement from Professor Cameron Johnston
September 13, 2011

In lecture, I discussed that the course focuses on the texts and not “opinions”.  In fact, I stated that for this course opinions are not relevant and I questioned the common idea that everyone is entitled to their opinion.

I pointed out that everyone is not entitled to their opinion by giving the example of someone having an anti-semitic opinion which is clearly not acceptable. This was an example of the fact that opinions can be dangerous and that none of us really do believe that all opinions are acceptable.

For the record, I am also Jewish which undoubtedly influenced my choice of this example of a reprehensible opinion.

Regards,
Cameron Johnston

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