Outcry over EU man's 'antisemitic' remarks

Karel De Gucht

Karel De Gucht

The president of the European Jewish Congress has demanded an apology from a senior EU politician after he suggested that the Middle East peace talks would fail because of “the Jewish lobby”.

Moshe Kantor called trade commissioner Karel De Gucht’s remarks antisemitic and said they should concern “everyone who seeks a more tolerant Europe”.

Mr De Gucht had told a Belgian radio station that he saw “few reasons to think that there is this time more reason for success.”

He said: “Do not underestimate the Jewish lobby on Capitol Hill…on American policy, whether on Republicans or Democrats.

“It is the best organised lobby there.”

He also said that there was “a belief among most Jews, religious and secular alike, that they are right.

"And belief is something difficult to fight with rational arguments.

"It is therefore not easy, even when you have a conversation with a moderate Jew, to speak about what is happening in the Middle East."

Mr Kantor said such comments were part of “a dangerous trend of incitement against Jews and Israel in Europe that needs to be stamped out immediately.

"Once again we hear outrageous antisemitism from a senior European official."

He added: "The libel of Jewish power is apparently acceptable at the highest levels.

"The old antisemitic libels of the all-powerful Jewish cabals, the recalcitrant Jew and the irrational Jews only caring for their own, are remade to fit 21st century hostility to the Jewish State.

A European Commission spokesman said Friday the comments were personal.

"They do not represent the well known position of the European Commission and of the EU Council regarding the Middle East peace process and the resumption of direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians."

Mr De Gucht said in response to the criticism: “I regret that the comments that I made have been interpreted in a sense that I did not intend.

“I did not mean in any possible way to cause offence or stigmatise the Jewish community."

He added: “Antisemitism has no place in today’s world.”

Last updated: 1:30pm, September 3 2010