The National Post published an article in today’s paper with three year-old quotes from Mohammad Morsi, the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood who was democratically elected to the Presidency of Egypt—as if how he got into power has any bearing on the man himself. During the Egyptian Presidential race, many here and there called Morsi a “moderate,” and many still do. Perhaps seeing how grim the situation could become some ignored all the painfully obvious evidence pointing the other way. Suggesting that the Muslim Brotherhood was really a gang of Islamic fundamentalists there to impose Shariah law was considered not just misinformed, but uncouth. Why add unnecessary negativity to the stirring promise of the Arab Spring?
Here are Morsi’s own words from three years ago: “We must never forget, brothers, to nurse our children and our grandchildren on hatred for them: for Zionists, for Jews.” Notice his subversion of the phrase “never forget,” probably unintentional, but maybe not. He throws in a comrade cadence too. He goes on. The article states Egyptian children must “feed on hatred,” adding, “Who is our enemy? The Zionists. Who occupies our land? The Zionists. Who hates us? The Zionists. Who destroys our land? The Zionists.” Western defenders of Morsi, if such a thing is currently conceivable, will now point to some time he uttered an uplifting humanistic message. Such paltry, pathetic apologies happen all the time. In effect, it allows a politician to whitewash any abominable speech, or even straight up war crimes, by cancelling it out with a cheery platitude. Simple! But it’s impossible to simultaneously believe in peace with your neighbours when you identify them as enemies to be warred upon ceaselessly. Unless you think Morsi was just lying to placate the rabid part of his base (which is admittedly conceivable but very unlikely, and very much reprehensible still), there is no question about his real feelings towards Jews. That such an obvious statement needs to be made points to discouraging gullibility. Hopefully these loathsome comments change that.
But in case there was any ambiguity left, Morsi continued by harking back to traditional anti-Semitic themes, Zionists as “bloodsuckers” who attack Palestinians, and Jews as not the descendants of Abraham and Sarah but of “apes and pigs.” Well, sorry to break the mood but he is half correct. I am reminded of perhaps my favourite Tolstoy humour from Anna Karenin: “Oblonsky was fond of a pleasant joke, and sometimes liked to perplex a simple-minded man by observing that if you’re going to be proud of your ancestry, why stop at Prince Rurik and repudiate your oldest ancestor—the ape?” To say nothing else about him, Morsi is a simple-minded man who apparently doesn’t go for evolution, believing instead that he came literally from Hagar, not an ape. So Jews as descendant of apes, yes, like everybody, but, glatt kosher, Jews are most certainly not the descendants of pigs. Those anti-Israel people who wax philosophical, rightly pointing out how criticizing Israel isn’t necessarily synonymous with anti-Semitism, often forget how frequently, and in what prominent places, it is.
The Obama administration’s reaction was “blistering.” Not only do they “completely reject ” Morsi’s statements, but, in their opinion, “it’s counter to the goals of peace.” How clairvoyant. And yet, as self-evident as the American response seems there isn’t much else that can be done or said for now. The vapid response is unavoidable. America can’t intervene militarily, and calling Morsi out isn’t productive. It may not be currently politically expedient for Morsi to act on his real feelings, but at the very least these unambiguously deplorable statements should eliminate even the most naïve hopes that he is at heart anything but a despicable anti-Semitic warmonger, whatever token peace talk he might have once uttered notwithstanding.
(Sure enough, shortly after completing this article I read the latest follow up: Morsi’s comments were taken out of context. While inevitably the US and Egyptian spokespeople scrambled to diffuse the situation, no comforting other context was offered. In case the claim that his speech was taken from an address in response to “Israeli aggression against Gaza” doesn’t fully assuage you, Morsi assured [the reporters] “of his respect for all monolithic religions, freedom of belief and practicing religions.”