Republican leader: Obama must do more on Arab antisemitism

Eric Cantor

Eric Cantor

The most senior Jewish politician in US history has called on President Barack Obama to do more to challenge antisemitic attitudes amongst leaders in the Middle East.

Eric Cantor, the House Majority Leader and the only Jewish Republican in congress, said that the Obama administration needed to "send a clear signal to the emerging governments of the Middle East and the international community that it is not OK to vilify Israel and it is not OK to demonise Jews".

Mr Cantor, speaking at a Reform Judaism conference in Washington DC, urged the White house to tell the new generation of Arab leaders that "any justification of any form of antisemitism must not be tolerated or condoned".

His speech was the latest example of how Republicans and Democrats are seizing on Israel as an issue ahead of next year’s presidential election.

The ad ran in Thursday's New York Times

The ad ran in Thursday's New York Times

Mr Cantor reserved specific criticism for the US ambassador to Belgium, who last week received widespread criticism for suggesting that Muslim antisemitism was due to events in Israel. Howard Gutman’s remarks were condemned by the US State Department but the administration resisted calls to sack him.

In Thursday's New York Times a right-wing group called The Emergency Committee for Israel, has placed a full-page advert attacking the White House for its record on Israel. It asked: "Why does the Obama administration treat Israel like a punching bag?" President Obama is due to speak at the Reform conference later today.

This week Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich for stating in a debate that the Palestinians were an "invented" nation.

Last updated: 11:31am, December 16 2011