When Mohamed Morsi became Egypt’s president in June, he rose, unknown and untested, from the Muslim Brotherhood to the leader of the most important Arab country. He has made missteps and some truly alarming decisions, but there was still reason to hope that he might grow into the job and become the kind of leader that could benefit Egypt and the region.
His scurrilous comments from nearly three years ago about Zionists and Jews, which just came to light, have raised serious doubts about whether he can ever be the force for moderation and stability that is needed. As reported by David Kirkpatrick in The Times, Mr. Morsi is shown in a video from 2010 delivering a speech in which he urges Egyptians to “nurse our children and our grandchildren on hatred” for Jews and Zionists. In a television interview months later, he described Zionists as “these bloodsuckers who attack Palestinians, these warmongers, the descendants of apes and pigs.”
That kind of pure bigotry is unacceptable anywhere, anytime. But it is even more offensive in public discourse, coming from someone who became the president of a major country. Mr. Morsi’s comments deserve to be condemned unequivocally, as the Obama administration did on Tuesday. Jay Carney, the president’s spokesman, said, “We completely reject these statements.”
The problem goes deeper than just Mr. Morsi, however. The remarks were made at a time when anti-Israel sentiment was running high in Egypt and the region after the three-week Gaza conflict in 2009 between Israel and Hamas. The sad truth is that defaming Jews is an all too standard feature of Egyptian, and Arab, discourse; Israelis are not immune to responding in kind either.
Teaching children to hate and dehumanizing one’s adversaries is just the kind of twisted mentality that fuels the conflicts that torment the region.
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A version of this editorial appeared in print on January 16, 2013, on page A22 of the New York edition with the headline: President Morsi’s Repulsive Comments.
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