Originally published at Rubin Reports.
When it came to light that Egypt’s new president had made blatantly antisemitic (in the Western context today they could also be called racist) remarks, it finally became necessary–albeit only when the New York Times covered a story (putting it in the most apologetic light, by the way) that’s been evident during many years–for the U.S. government to reluctantly and grudgingly remark on these statements, through the medium of spokesman Jay Carney. A State Department statement said that Morsi’s saying he is against intolerance was an important first step and expected him to show that he believed in religious tolerance.
My problem in dealing with such statements is that they are seen as isolated acts. As I’ve been writing now for about 30 years, the Muslim Brotherhood has always talked this way as do Hamas, Hizballah, the Ba’th Party, the Iranian regime, and many—though not all—Arab intellectuals, journalists, politicians and journalists in living memory. In fact, already a new Morsi statement has surfaced, “We must nurse children on hatred towards Jews.” Note he did not add, until I become president and then we can start teaching them to live in peace with others of different faiths.
It isn’t just pathetic but also weird that educated Euro-North Americans who are eager to destroy the career of anyone who has ever uttered a single sentence that was or can be portrayed as hate speech will accept those who issue whole reams of the stuff. What is truly ridiculous about this kind of controversy is the outrage or apologia over one statement. In fact, Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood leadership including leading figures in the ruling party have made hundreds of radical statements. They are either ignored or explained away as insignificant.
Here are just two from the very top of the organization.
First, Khairat El Shater, the Brotherhood’s Deputy General Guide said in April 2012: “Our main and overall mission as Muslim Brothers is to empower God’s Religion on Earth…and to [establish] the subjugation of people to God on Earth.”
Second, Muhammad Badi, the Brotherhood’s head, explained in his September 2010 speech which virtually announced the launching of the revolution to overthrow the Mubarak regime: “…the factors that will lead to the collapse of the United States are much more powerful than those that led to the collapse of the Soviet empire….The United States is now experiencing the beginning of its end, and is heading towards its demise….”
Yet people who point to the Brotherhood’s radical history, extremist statements, and intolerant behavior now in a systematic way are ridiculed. We aren’t even hearing the pragmatic-sounding argument: “Of course, these people are extremist, totalitarian, and anti-American but we have to deal with them. ” No, what we are getting instead is: “They aren’t really extremist, totalitarian, or anti-American and we prefer to deal with them because they are moderate and a bulwark against the Salafists.”
All three of the top foreign policy appointments just made by President Barack Obama–John Kerry as secretary of state; Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense, and John Brennan as CIA director–strongly endorse that latter stance. Indeed, Brennan practically created it.
The White House’s response to Morsi’s remarks was in the framework of that approach, condemning the language of one particular statement while praising Morsi for some things he’s done. He is praised for not abrogating the Egypt-Israel peace treaty–yet–and for helping get a ceasefire in the latest Israel-Hamas war. It is good that Morsi helped U.S. goals in that case but since he was, in effect, doing even more to help his ally Hamas, one should be entitled to a certain element of cynicism. The Egyptian regime is apparently blocking some–not all–of the weapons going into Gaza because a direct confrontation with Israel is not in its interests. Of course, direct confrontation with Israel (after 1973) wasn’t in Egyptian, Syrian, or Iraqi interests either. That’s why they used terrorist group clients to do the job.
But the main problem with the White House response is not that it was too weak but that it deals with calling Jews the offspring of pigs and monkeys against whom eternal war must be waged as entirely isolated from any analysis or policy consideration. None of these factors are considered as part of the Egyptian president’s and Muslim Brotherhood’s ideology and worldview.