Moral Equivalence in Brussels

Ron Lipsman

The name Howard Gutman has been in the news recently. He is the Jewish lawyer whose work for Obama in the 2008 presidential campaign was rewarded with an appointment as Ambassador to Belgium. He made a speech on November 30 at a conference in Brussels entitled "Fighting Anti-Semitism in Europe: What is Next?" If you haven't read it, here is a link.

Ambassador Gutman has been roundly criticized in the American Jewish community for the content of his speech. In it, he claims that the widespread animosity - which has increasingly spilled over into violence - of the European Muslim community toward Jews is not an instance of historic anti-Semitism. Rather it is purely a consequence of the unsettled dispute between Israel and the Arab/Muslim world. That is, according to the esteemed Ambassador, the hate-filled, bigoted and vicious slurs - accompanied too often by physical attacks - directed by Europe's Muslim community toward their Jewish brethren is due solely to the discomfort the former experience because the latter's cousins in Israel refuse to play nice with their Arab neighbors.

It boggles the mind. Is Ambassador Gutman stupid? Perhaps naïve? Brainwashed by his less than Hebrewphile European hosts? Suffering from some sort of Stockholm syndrome?

I shan't dwell on the many unsurprising accusations that have been hurled at Ambassador Gutman. He has been accused of being a self-hating Jew, a Jewish anti-Semite, a water-carrier for the President's blatantly anti-Israel policies and a naïve dupe. I suspect that he is merely a very confused person who cannot believe that, only two generations removed from the virulent anti-Semitism that killed his father's family, such unpleasantness could rear its ugly head in Europe once again.

Instead I wish to focus on one sentence in his dastardly speech and point out an awful aspect of his twisted reasoning that has escaped attention. Commenting in his myopic confusion about how events in Israel arouse the anti-Jewishness of European Muslims, Gutman asserts:

... every new settlement announced in Israel, every rocket shot over a border or suicide bomber on a bus, and every retaliatory military strike exacerbates the problem and provides a setback here in Europe for those fighting hatred and bigotry here in Europe.

So in addition to myopia, apparent self-hatred and Stockholm syndrome, Guttman is suffering from the affliction of moral equivalence. He cites four specific incitements: suicide bombings, rocket attacks on Israeli soil from Arab territory, Israeli military retaliation, but first of all - new settlements. Thus the premeditated assault on and murder of innocent Israeli civilians is as much a cause for concern as any Israeli attempt to defend its citizens or - heaven forbid - set up a kitchen on holy Arab land. Aggression is morally equivalent to self-defense. Murder is morally equivalent to building housing projects. Jihad is morally equivalent to the pursuit of Zionism.

Disgusting! And morally reprehensible.

The name Howard Gutman has been in the news recently. He is the Jewish lawyer whose work for Obama in the 2008 presidential campaign was rewarded with an appointment as Ambassador to Belgium. He made a speech on November 30 at a conference in Brussels entitled "Fighting Anti-Semitism in Europe: What is Next?" If you haven't read it, here is a link.

Ambassador Gutman has been roundly criticized in the American Jewish community for the content of his speech. In it, he claims that the widespread animosity - which has increasingly spilled over into violence - of the European Muslim community toward Jews is not an instance of historic anti-Semitism. Rather it is purely a consequence of the unsettled dispute between Israel and the Arab/Muslim world. That is, according to the esteemed Ambassador, the hate-filled, bigoted and vicious slurs - accompanied too often by physical attacks - directed by Europe's Muslim community toward their Jewish brethren is due solely to the discomfort the former experience because the latter's cousins in Israel refuse to play nice with their Arab neighbors.

It boggles the mind. Is Ambassador Gutman stupid? Perhaps naïve? Brainwashed by his less than Hebrewphile European hosts? Suffering from some sort of Stockholm syndrome?

I shan't dwell on the many unsurprising accusations that have been hurled at Ambassador Gutman. He has been accused of being a self-hating Jew, a Jewish anti-Semite, a water-carrier for the President's blatantly anti-Israel policies and a naïve dupe. I suspect that he is merely a very confused person who cannot believe that, only two generations removed from the virulent anti-Semitism that killed his father's family, such unpleasantness could rear its ugly head in Europe once again.

Instead I wish to focus on one sentence in his dastardly speech and point out an awful aspect of his twisted reasoning that has escaped attention. Commenting in his myopic confusion about how events in Israel arouse the anti-Jewishness of European Muslims, Gutman asserts:

... every new settlement announced in Israel, every rocket shot over a border or suicide bomber on a bus, and every retaliatory military strike exacerbates the problem and provides a setback here in Europe for those fighting hatred and bigotry here in Europe.

So in addition to myopia, apparent self-hatred and Stockholm syndrome, Guttman is suffering from the affliction of moral equivalence. He cites four specific incitements: suicide bombings, rocket attacks on Israeli soil from Arab territory, Israeli military retaliation, but first of all - new settlements. Thus the premeditated assault on and murder of innocent Israeli civilians is as much a cause for concern as any Israeli attempt to defend its citizens or - heaven forbid - set up a kitchen on holy Arab land. Aggression is morally equivalent to self-defense. Murder is morally equivalent to building housing projects. Jihad is morally equivalent to the pursuit of Zionism.

Disgusting! And morally reprehensible.