A reader writes:

The reason De Gucht's statement is not "completely banal" can be found precisely in how it differs from the title of your post.  You refer to the "Pro-Israel;" De Gucht refers to the "Jewish" lobby.

Another writes:

You say that the Belgian who said that the Jewish lobby on Capitol Hill is extremely powerful draped his comments in "a self evident anti-semitic hooey". I am Belgian (though living in Switzerland for 10 years) and I've known Karel de Gucht as a politician for many many years. I disagree with his political vision, I strongly dislike his style, and I am convinced that he at least once abused his political power for personal gain. Still, I have to defend him in this case: I heard the interview with de Gucht in its original (Dutch) version. There was nothing anti-semitic in what he said.

He said two things:

1) "the Jewish lobby in the US should not be underestimated"
2) "it is not easy to have a rational conversation about (the Israeli-Palestinian conflict) even with a moderate Jew"

I can't see what's wrong with the first statement. Concerning the second, since I am working in an international organization (scientific, nothing to do with politics) and have several Jewish friends and colleagues, I must say that, indeed, it is difficult to have a rational conversation on this topic with many - not all - of them. They are very open-minded about many other things, but not this. Given the Jewish history, it is understandable that they cannot be rational about it. But it does not mean that the statement 2) is wrong, and even less that the statement would be anti-semitic.

Unfortunately I have no Palestinian friends, but I could imagine very well that also with them a rational conversation about the conflict would be difficult. You can argue that De Gucht should have mentioned both sides. You can call him arrogant and insensitive (which he is). But saying that De Gucht is anti-semitic is going too far. That term should not be used so lightly.

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