Revelations that the President of Egypt, Mohamed Morsi, made repeated virulent anti-Semitic and anti-western comments as recently as September 2010 are disturbing, to say the least. Any hopes that an elected Islamist leader of an Arab country can be a voice of moderation and pragmatism toward Israel are now in doubt. Mr. Morsi needs to either come clean about his true feelings, or apologize. At the very least, he must explain himself.
The comments have come to light in video available on YouTube. Mr. Morsi is seen giving a speech from behind a desk and also appears as a guest on a television talk show. Speaking in his native language, he rails against Israel and against Jews. He calls Jews the “descendants of apes and pigs,” “blood-suckers” and “warmongers.” He says Jews must be driven out of all Arab countries, calls for armed insurrection in the Gaza Strip, and says all Arabs should economically boycott Israel and the United States and support “resistance fighters.”
The man who is now Egypt’s president also calls negotiations between the Palestinian Authority and Israel “futile” and “a waste of time,” and says the two-state solution is “an illusion.” The PA was created, he says, “by the Zionist and American enemies.” Israel is a “plundering criminal entity, which is supported by America and its weapons.” Jews, he says, making sure to hit every beat on the anti-Semitic hit parade, “having been fanning the flames of civil strife wherever they were throughout history.”
It’s no secret that this naked hatred constitutes a successful stump speech in much of the Arab world. Mr. Morsi is said to be fighting the perception, exploited by his political enemies, that he is too close to U.S. President Barack Obama and too soft on Israel. The sudden release of this video will probably reinforce his standing in some domestic quarters, but it will do far more harm in the broader world. It will now be impossible for Israelis to believe he is sincere when he says is a partner in the peace process, and the Obama Administration will have a difficult time selling him as a trustworthy ally.
In the name of the stability and moderation Mr. Morsi has claimed to represent in Egypt, he needs to renounce his ugly statements and reinforce his commitment to peace. As the first elected Islamist leader of Egypt, he needs to demonstrate that the West and Israel can trust him. It will be next to impossible to do, though. His statements are relatively fresh, not the ramblings of a young man in the street.