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Much has been said about the EU Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht's outrageous remarks on the  alleged Jewish influence over US politics. De Gucht's attack on the "grip" that the "Jewish lobby" supposedly has on the US Congress evoked imagery rooted in a history of prejudice. It assumes that Jews promote an unpatriotic agenda through stealth and deception, using money and power.

The old canard has morphed over the years, as anti-Semitism has lost the social respectability it enjoyed until not so long ago. But there is a residual prejudice in Western societies about Jews that has been recently camouflaged by what people increasingly call "legitimate criticism of Israel". There are many ways to criticise the conduct of foreign affairs and domestic policies by a government. But evoking the grip of a "Jewish lobby" should not be one of them. It has, however, become a sign of our times — repeatedly propped up in the last decade by mainstream media and politicians. There have been at least two prominent cover stories in leading UK magazines about the supposed power of the "lobby", which were accompanied by images clearly bordering on anti-Semitism. A recent BBC Panorama documentary promoted the same notion. 

But what was particularly surprising was not de Gucht decrying Jewish influence — it was his sweeping and derogatory characterisation of Jews as irrational creatures. Regardless of political persuasions and religious backgrounds, they are all wrong about the Middle East and all are stubbornly convinced that they are in the right: "It is not easy to have, even with moderate Jews, a rational discussion about what is actually happening in the Middle East," said de Gucht.

And here, we should listen more carefully, because de Gucht, as an EU Commissioner, should know a thing or two about being invariably irrational and persistently wrong about the Middle East. Consider the EU's reaction to the flotilla incident off Gaza back in May. The day after, its Foreign Minister, Baroness Ashton, said: "The EU condemns the use of violence that has produced a high number of victims among the members of the flotilla and demands an immediate, full and impartial inquiry into the events and the circumstances surrounding them."

The European Parliament, almost three weeks later, passed a lengthy resolution condemning "the attack against the flotilla in international waters, which is a breach of international law". It "calls for a prompt, international and impartial inquiry into this attack, insists that the principles of accountability and liability be upheld and urges the HR/VP [Lady Ashton] and EU Member States to take action to ensure that all appropriate steps are taken in order to make this demand effective".

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October 8th, 2010
11:10 PM
Any criticism of Israel is automatically equated with anti-Semitism; this game has been played far too many times and for far too long by the Zionists. Mr Ottolenghi, you are beginning to sound more and more like an out of touch comedian who does not quite know how to tell a joke.

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