Belgian Jews want EU trade chief fired for 'inciting hatred'

8th September 2010, Comments 1 comment

The European Union's trade chief faced a fresh attack for alleged anti-Semitism on Wednesday when Belgium's Jewish community demanded he be fired.

But a spokesman for European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso said EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht would keep his job.

De Gucht sparked outrage among Jewish groups after referring to the power of a "Jewish lobby" in US policy and suggesting it is difficult to have a "rational" conversation with most Jews about the Middle East conflict

"I consider he is inciting hatred," the head of Belgium's Jewish groups, Maurice Sosnowski, told the daily Le Soir.

He went on to say that Barroso "if he has a sense of responsibility about the moral values he stands for, should fire De Gucht immediately."

Last week the European Jewish Congress demanded an apology and full retraction from De Gucht, whose comments came on the heels of a German central banker's controversial statement that "all Jews share a certain gene."

"Once again we hear outrageous anti-Semitism from a senior European official," EJC President Moshe Kantor said in a statement.

The European Commission distanced itself from the remarks, saying they were "personal views" that in no way reflected the position of the EU regarding the Middle East peace process.

De Gucht later issued a statement expressing regret about the way his remarks were interpreted, saying he did not mean to offend Jews -- an explanation that appears to have satisfied Barroso.

"Based on this personal statement and the reassurance given by Karel de Gucht to the president (Barroso) ... the president considers the incident as closed and there are no further comments to make on this situation," said European Commission spokesman Olivier Bailly.

© 2010 AFP

1 Comment To This Article

  • Peter Gross posted:

    on 11th September 2010, 01:16:36 - Reply

    Karel De Gucht said that the pro-Israeli and/or Jewish lobby has a strong influence in Washington and that this influence leads to the US being more pro-Israel than they would otherwise be. Although he didn’t mention this in the interview (because it was not part of the question), he most likely agrees that Arab leaders are not helping either.

    Is Karel De Gucht anti-Jewish, antisemite, racist, etc? No, not at all. He is not even anti-Israeli. He has been extremely vocal against all forms of discrimination and has been fighting Belgium’s far-right parties for ages (he once infamously called far-right leaders “cockroaches”). But one of his weaknesses is that he is not always diplomatic and sometimes is a bit blunt.

    Instead of calling him names, simply dismissing his statements because you don’t like them and calling for his resignation, one should debate whether (or not) he may have a point after all.

    Finally, ironically, some of the comments here and elsewhere are proving Mr De Gucht’s point - that criticism on Israel (or those acting on its behalf) is immediately censured by accusations of antisemitism - both by individuals and by organisations representing Israeli and/or Jewish interests.