White House condemns Morsi comments

Jan. 15, 2013 at 7:56 PM
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CAIRO, Jan. 15 (UPI) -- The White House Tuesday condemned Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi for his caustic remarks about Jews nearly three years ago as a Muslim Brotherhood leader.

In a 2010 speech that surfaced on video, Morsi urged Egyptians to "nurse our children and our grandchildren on hatred" for Jews and Zionists. In a television interview about the same time, he described Zionists as "bloodsuckers who attack the Palestinians ... ."

White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters during his daily briefing the Obama administration views Morsi's remarks as "deeply offensive."

"We completely reject the statements, as we do any language that espouses religious hatred," Carney said. "This discourse -- and this is a broader point -- this kind of discourse has been acceptable in the region for far too long and is counter to the goal of peace. President Morsi should make clear that he respects people of all faiths, and that this type of rhetoric is not acceptable or productive in a democratic Egypt."

Carney noted Morsi has reaffirmed Egypt's commitment to its peace treaty with Israel and has shown his willingness to work to preserve peace in the region.

"But we will always speak out against language that espouses religious hatred or encourages the use of violence," Carney said. "And we have raised our concerns over these remarks with the government of Egypt.

"Again, we strongly condemn these comments. And we believe that President Morsi should make clear that he respects people of all faiths and that this type of rhetoric is unacceptable in a democratic Egypt."

Morsi's anti-Semitic rant raised questions about his efforts to present himself as an advocate of moderation and stability, The New York Times said Monday.

"When the leader of a country has a history of statements demonizing Jews, and he does not do anything to correct it, it makes sense that many people in Israel would conclude that he cannot be trusted as a partner for peace," Kenneth Jacobson, deputy national director of the Anti-Defamation League, told the Times.

Representatives of Morsi declined requests for comment.

Some analysts told the Times the difference between Morsi's caustic statements as a Brotherhood leader and his pragmatic actions as Egypt's president demonstrate how many factors besides ideology affect political decisions.

"What you believe in your heart is not the same as what you do in power," Shadi Hamid, research director of the Brookings Doha Center, said.

Whatever Morsi's opinions about Jews may be, he has kept Egypt's foreign policy toward Israel largely untouched, Hamid noted.

Hamid said Morsi's previous statements could still raise questions about how he would act if Egypt weren't restricted by its financial dependence, remains relatively weak militarily and has a system of Western alliances.

The gap between his vitriol of the past and the pragmatism of the present may serve mainly as a fodder for Morsi's opponents, Hamid told the Times.

"You are already starting to hear his opponents saying, 'Morsi is too close to the U.S. and doing its bidding in the Middle East,'" he said. "It would be smart to attack him there because he may be vulnerable."

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