Morsi’s hateful speech
Los Angeles Times: Zionists are “bloodsuckers” and “the descendants of apes and pigs.” Egyptians should “nurse our children and our grandchildren on hatred for them: for Zionists, for Jews.” Those are the words not of an anonymous fanatic on a Cairo street corner but of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, uttered in 2010 but immortalized on videotape.
On Tuesday, White House press secretary Jay Carney rightly condemned the comments as “deeply offensive” and warned that Morsi, the U.S.-educated engineer who was a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood before his election last year, must respect members of all faiths. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland went further, saying that “we think that these comments should be repudiated and they should be repudiated firmly.”
A depressing reality
Morsi should certainly apologize for his hateful words, although an apology would not provide persuasive evidence that he has changed his opinions. What’s more, the depressing reality is that apologizing wouldn’t bring him back into the mainstream but might in fact alienate the mainstream. Slurs and stereotypes about Jews aren’t confined to a political fringe in Egypt and other Arab societies. They are also found in newspaper columns, in political cartoons, in children’s textbooks and in the discourse of many educated elites.
It’s true that in diplomacy actions can speak louder than words, and since assuming the presidency, Morsi has maintained the “cold peace” between Egypt and Israel inaugurated by a 1979 treaty brokered by the United States. He also served as an interlocutor in the talks that produced a cease-fire in November after eights days of conflict between Israel and Hamas
Still, even if Morsi is more circumspect as president than he was as a spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood, his words captured on videotape are a reminder that old and ugly animosities are alive in the new Egypt.
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