By Richard Behar
January 25, 2013
One would think that Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi would have learned his lesson two weeks ago: Try not to bite the hand that you need to help feed your country. After all, Forbes called him out on Jan 11th for urging a boycott of America and labeling Jews “apes and pigs” on an Egyptian TV video in 2010.
A ruckus ensued: A front-page New York Times story on the 14th cited the ape-pigs slur, and included another that the newspaper found — a speech Morsi gave, also in 2010, calling on Egyptians to “nurse our children and our grandchildren on hatred” for Jews and Zionists. The White House quickly condemned Morsi, prompting a half-hearted (utterly implausible) explanation by him that his words had been taken “out of context” by big media outlets.
But anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism are not easy things to suppress when you despise the United States, Israel, and Jews in general — as much as he and his Muslim Brotherhood party do. The evidence is available just from Morsi’s statements that have appeared on the Brotherhood’s own official Arabic-language website going back to at least 2004 – Forbes has discovered – repugnant and sinister diatribes rarely if ever picked up by major western media. (Some examples to follow).
On top of that, evidence of Morsi juggling with honesty like a clown on a tightrope is apparent in yet another video — this one involving an Egyptian talk-show host directly confronting the President two weeks ago about claims that he worked in the 1980s as a consultant for NASA on the space shuttle. The video was posted by the U.S.-based Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), but has so far been ignored by major media outlets in America — in much the same way that the the group’s “apes and pigs” film had been ignored.
In the new Egyptian video, Morsi [sometimes spelled Morsy or Mursi] denies ever saying such a thing about NASA, while Mahmoud Saad — one of Egypt’s most celebrated TV personalities — holds up his curriculum vitae and reads from it. And that portion of Morsi’s resumé – at least as of tonight– is still on the Brotherhood’s website. (Surprisingly, even for national security purposes, NASA doesn’t keep a file on space shuttle consultants. “It is possible that he was a space shuttle contractor, but we cannot confirm this since many of the companies that existed then no longer exist due to mergers,” says NASA spokesman Joshua Buck.)
Still, with a $12 billion bailout on the line that Morsi is seeking from the U.S., IMF and World Bank to try and rescue his hemorrhaging economy, surely he’d have a spokesperson nearby to keep him mum – on everything from monkeys to NASA rockets — at least until the money transfers are made. After all, in terms of weaponry from the U.S., four F-16 fighter jets only left the U.S. for Egypt on Tuesday, as part of an aid package that will also include 12 more such jets and 200 sophisticated M1Abrams tanks.
In fairness to the Obama Administration, that deal was inked in 2010 while Hosni Mubarak was still president, but that didn’t stop Republican lawmakers from erupting over it this week. At Senator John Kerry’s confirmation hearing yesterday — for the post of Secretary of State — Kentucky Senator Rand Paul got testy over whether Morsi’s “apes and pigs” comments (Rand referred to them in the context of Israelis and Zionists only, not Jews generally) should mean a weapons halt.
The back-and-forth was, as the saying goes, one for the ages:
Paul: “Do you think it’s wise to send them F-16s and Abrams tanks?”
Kerry: “I think those [anti-Semitic] comments are reprehensible, and those comments set back the possibilities of working toward issues of mutual interest. They are degrading comments, unacceptable by anybody’s standard, and I think they have to appropriately be apologized for–
Paul [cutting Kerry off]: “If we keep sending them weapons, it’s not gonna change their behavior.”
Kerry [excerpts]: “Let me finish. President Morsi has issued two statements to clarify those comments, and we had a group of senators who met with him just the other day who spent a good part of their conversation in a relatively heated discussion with him about it… We have critical interests with Egypt.Critical interests. Egypt has thus far supported and lives by the peace agreement with Israel, and has taken steps to start to deal with the problem of security in the Sinai. Those are vital to us, and to our national interests, and to the security of Israel…The fact that sometimes other countries elect someone that you don’t completely agree with doesn’t give us permission to walk away from their election—
Paul: “This has been our problem with our foreign policy for decades – Republican and Democrat. We funded bin Laden, we funded the [Afghan] Muhjahideen. We were in favor of radical jihad because they were the enemy of our enemy. We’ve done this so often. I see these weapons coming back to threaten Israel… Why not just not give weapons to Israel’s enemies [to try and prevent a potential arms race]. That might save us a lot of money and might make it safer for Israel.”
Kerry: “Better yet, until we are at that moment, where that might be achievable, maybe it’d be better to try and make peace.”
It was good of Kerry to reference the heated meeting a group of seven U.S. senators had with President Morsi nine days ago. But neither he nor Paul mentioned the most astonishing thing Morsi said at that meeting: That the recent outing of his slurs is because the American media is controlled by “certain forces.” Translated into RealSpeak, the Senators understood that he meant ‘Jews.’ (And that kind of Jew-hatred throughout the Arab world – notdisagreements over land, borders or refugees — might even be the biggest obstacle to any enduring peace in the Middle East.)
In fact, on Wednesday, a day before Kerry’s appearance, the news about Morsi’s latest Jew-ruption was revealed by Foreign Policy magazine. Morsi uttered his message, about Jews controlling U.S. media, after the senators asked him directly about his ‘apes-and-pigs’ problem. And the visiting delegation was so flabbergasted by his response that it almost ended the 90-minute meeting after it had barely started — one of the Senators (Chris Coons, D-Del.) told Foreign Policy staff writer John Rogin.
Reached by Forbes on Wednesday night, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) — one of the seven at the Cairo meeting — declined to disclose what Morsi said. But Blumenthal made it clear that Morsi made an even bigger mess for himself. “The vehemence and vigor of our disapproval of his past comments certainly were not dispelled or diminished by what he said in the meeting,” says Blumenthal. In fact, he adds, our disapproval “only deepened and increased as we listened to a number of his responses.”
Senator Coons went much further, and — while he declined to speak directly with Forbes — his spokesperson confirmed what he had told Foreign Policy. (I had also hoped to speak directly with President Morsi. But the media spokesperson for Egypt’s ambassador in Washington didn’t respond to the request.)
Curiously, after the delegation met with Morsi, Senator John McCain issued a statement saying that – regarding the anti-Jewish slurs — they all had “a constructive discussion on this subject.”
Writes Rogin in Foreign Policy: “But inside the meeting, the discussion over Morsi’s 2010 remarks was much more heated than either side publicly acknowledged afterwards, according to [Senator] Coons. Addressing the comments was the first item on the senators’ agenda, and the discussion did not go well.”
The big scoop by Rogin, who previously covered defense and foreign policy for Congressional Quarterly, can (and should) be read in full at this link. But here are some choice Morsi-morsels from it:
“Morsi told the senators that the values of Islam teach respect for Christianity and Judaism, and he asserted repeatedly that he had no negative views about Judaism or the Jewish people, but then followed with a diatribe about Israel and Zionist actions against Palestinians… Then Morsi crossed a line and made a comment that made the senators physically recoil in their chairs in shock, Coons said.”
Coons told journalist Rogin that the Egyptian President was attempting to explain himself, when he suddenly said, “Well, I think we all know that the media in the United States has made a big deal of this and we know the media of the United States is controlled by certain forces and they don’t view me favorably.” While Morsi did not specifically name ‘Jews’ as that controlling force, Coons told Rogan that all the senators believed the implication was obvious. “I thought it was impossible to draw any other conclusion,” said Coons.
The meeting then took “a very sharply negative turn for some time,” said Coons, and it “threatened to cause the entire meeting to come apart.” Indeed, Coons told Rogin: “The conversation got so heated that eventually Senator McCain said to the group, ‘OK, we’ve pressed him as hard as we can while being in the boundaries of diplomacy.”
(Perhaps that’s what McCain means by “a constructive discussion” about a topic — one that stays within such boundaries? Good to know.)
As Rogin wrote, many of the senators let Morsi know that if he believes the criticisms of his comments were due to the Jews in the media, then that statement was potentially even more offensive than his other slurs from 2010. Moreover, Coons added, “…Clearly there is a lot of work to be done before we can feel comfortable that he respects American values.”
The 62-year-old Morsi certainly must have learned a thing or two about American values when he was living in the U.S. He earned his PhD in engineering in 1982 from the University of Southern California, and stuck around to teach in that state for three years before returning to Egypt to be a political radical. While doing his best today to draw a line between Jews and Zionists, he seems to have missed a history lesson from a true and honorablefreedom fighter whose birthday Americans celebrated on Monday.
Shortly before he was assassinated in 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. interrupted a student at a dinner in Cambridge who was attacking the state of Israel. “Don’t talk like that,” King snapped. “When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You’re talking anti-Semitism.”
While there will always be people (including some Jews) who disagree with King about this, what the civil rights leader understood was that — throughout its long and largely-persecuted history — Judaism always held nationhood as a key pillar of Judaism. “To non-Jews, and even to many Jews, the peoplehood of the Jews is usually the most perplexing aspect of Judaism,” wrote syndicated columnist Dennis Prager and Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, in their seminal 2003 book, “Why The Jews?: The Reason for Anti-Semitism.”
“This confusion is understandable,” the authors continued. “For one thing, one normally associates a national group with a land or a state, yet for nearly 2000 years the Jews lived without their state and most Jews lived outside their land. A second source of confusion is that the Jews constitute the only group in the modern western world that is both an ethnic group and a religion. For these reasons, Jews are unique, a uniqueness that often renders the Jews suspect in the eyes of others. But as perplexing, unique, and even discomfiting as it may be, the Jew is a member of both the Jewish people and the Jewish religion, and this has been so since the beginning of Jewish history.”
And what of the alleged control of U.S. media by Jews – a charge that anti-Semites have made in plenty of countries throughout history (along with Jewish control of global finance and secret plots to take over the world)? Are “certain forces” possessed by American Jews the reason Morsi’s apes-and-pigs anthropology lesson (and his other hate speech) finally made headlines around the world?
Well, as Forbes pointed out in a follow-up piece, the Jerusalem Post – clearly run by Jews — was the first big media outlet to break the apes/pigs news. ButJPost is obviously not a U.S. media outlet. Next in the big-media batter’s box was the piece in Forbes, written by a fairly powerless Jew (me) who unfortunately controls nothing at the magazine except this blog — just like hundreds of other journalists with blogs at Forbes and elsewhere. This magazine company has long been controlled by the Forbes family, of Scottish heritage — with a large minority stake now held by a venture capital firm run by rock stars Roger McNamee and U2’s Bono, as well as former Apple CFO Fred D. Anderson, and investor John Riccitiello. Jews? It doesn’t look that way — but if they are, we can only hope they will fess up.
The Atlantic was the next big media outlet to pick-up Morsi’s bile. The writer, Jeffrey Goldberg — while I’ve never met or spoken with him — is a Jew! Oh, my! But in control of what? He just has a blog at that magazine, which is owned by David G. Bradley, the son of devout Christian Scientists. (In an interview four years ago, Bradley said that he quit the faith in his 20s, but that it continues to inform his ethics.)
Of course, when the New York Times tossed the story onto its front page(above the fold), it propelled the news through the universe like a space shuttle. The majority of the newspaper’s stock is held by a family (Sulzberger) of Jewish origins. But anyone who suggests that the Times leans pro-Israel is clearly not reading it. By any measure, the paper’s editorial and op-ed pages have been dominated for years by pieces that tilt toward the Palestinian narrative of the conflict. mMany believe it’s due to an inexplicable King Solomon-style compulsion by its editorial board to split the body down the middle — but then to handicap the score in favor of the militarily-weaker side because they scream and whine louder. Put another way, To bestow a moral equivalency between the two (to Israel’s disadvantage) regardless of whether Israel is right.
Case in point: Its editorial of January 15th on the “apes and pigs” controversy, when Times’ editors battered Morsi, only to immediately cease its fire by stating that “Israelis are not immune to responding in kind” to Arabs. But the truth is, in the extremely-rare cases where a prominent Israeli has made offensive statements that demonized Muslims, they were roundly and strongly condemned for it by government officials and Israeli media. It’s Supreme Court has also long held that hate speech can be tried under criminal sedition laws. In the Arab world, the silence over Jew-hate speech is the rule. If Israeli leaders, journalists and rabbis have ever animalized Arabs, then shouldn’t the Times’ editorial board document it? If Israeli textbooks deny the existence of Arab countries – as maps in Arab textbooks deny that Israel even exists – then let’s see it.
Several weeks ago, I spoke with Michael Oren, the Israeli (but New Jersey-bred) ambassador to the U.S., on a range of topics — not about the New York Times, but about western media coverage in general of Israel. “I think western media can sometimes have a hard time translating the Middle Eastern reality,” he told me then. “Also, in many cases, we’re [Israel] held by much higher standards.”
Coming back to the Times, as for its news division – separate from its editorial desk — the reporters and their bosses there are constantly accused by interest groups on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian divide of favoring the other. One pro-Israel organization, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) last month released a 100-page report called “Indicting Israel” that rips the newspaper to shreds over its coverage. The group studied, quantified and adjudicated on the paper’s articles over a six-month period in 2011, and the resulting pie charts and bar graphs are eye-popping. “The dominant finding of the study is a disproportionate, continuous, embedded indictment of Israel,” reads the executive summary. “The net effect is an overarching message, woven into the fabric of the coverage, of Israeli fault and responsibility for the conflict.”
In an interview with Forbes, Times’ foreign editor Joseph Kahn counters that the report, “largely speaking, is full of inaccuracies.” He adds: “I’m not gonna issue a comment saying it’s 100% wrong, or that there’s nothing valuable in it, because they’re smart people [at CAMERA]. But if you take any body of work in any publication and analyze it over a period of six months with a certain set of standards in mind, you’re gonna be able to find flaws. It came across to me as somewhat ideological, in its sweeping condemnations.”
Earlier this month, Times’ and CAMERA staffers met to discuss the report. “I don’t believe the metrics and methods they were using to try and quantify and judge our coverage were very valid,” Kahn concluded. “But I sympathize with the difficulty of coming up with objective ways of assessing coverage — because every story is a little different.”
No doubt, the topic is complex, and the coverage — examined line by line, as a story or event unfolds — is open to varying interpretations. Perhaps someday a journalism institute will dissect the New York Times in a laboratory setting to try and answer it once and for all. It would be a public service of the highest order.
One thing for certain, as CAMERA confirmed: The Times has done a poor job of covering anti-Jewish incitement and genocidal hate speech (like Morsi’s) that saturates and poisons the Middle East. “On the whole, I buy that, journalistically, we need to be more focused on making sure we write about incitement,” concedes Kahn. “We’ve done some. But it’s a challenge to find good journalistic ways to tell that story. The problem is that it’s so pervasive that it’s not that new. You can’t systematically cover some things that are common. There is a litmus test in journalism of what feels like news and what people are paying attention to. It’s a constraint of journalism.”
For example, agrees Kahn, if Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suddenly called an Arab leader a pig, it would be huge news in the Middle East – and, consequently, in the U.S. (and in the Times). “Something that feels new or unusual from Israelis is gonna get press,” he says.
As a long-time journalist, I understand that. (And, incidentally, it shoots a hole in Morsi’s racist theory that Jewish “forces” in the U.S. media world — whether by legacy or hot-off-the-press — is out to get him, huh?) But I also believe that it’s no longer an acceptable explanation – especially at the preeminent newspaper in the world — given how the demonization of the world’s 13 million Jews (Israeli or otherwise) is at peak levels in the Arab world, and in many Muslim countries generally. From speeches to newspapers to textbooks to children’s TV shows, hatred of Jews is pandemic in part because it’s being downplayed, glossed over, ignored, pardoned, or totally unnoticed.
One key reason for the latter: Many Arab officials have long-mastered the art and sport of doublespeak: proclaiming one thing in English that peace-loving westerners want to hear (i.e. that they respect all faiths), and quite another thing in Arabic to the so-called Arab ‘street’ that keeps them in power (i.e. that Jews are inherently evil.) Morsi clearly doesn’t know how to play this game yet, but given his college pedigree in the west, he should be smart enough to start learning. Too many western journalists based in the Middle East aren’t fluent enough in Arabic to catch these things, and it would seem that many of their Arabic-speaking local “fixers” and stringers (from Cairo to Gaza to Ramallah) are not working overtime to bring it to their attention.
In 2007, while running for the nomination to be the Democratic U.S. presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton held a press conference in the U.S. Senate building, where she introduced and praised the Palestinian Media Watch – an Israeli research institute that conduct daily monitoring of incitement speech in the Palestinian Authority’s agencies, media, schools, even the naming of summer camps after terrorists whose claim to fame is racking up the most Israeli civilian body counts. “We must stop the propaganda,” she said, calling it a “clear example of child abuse” that “profoundly poisons the minds of these children.” Many reporters “covered” the conference, but very few bothered to actually report about it. In 2009, as Secretary of State, she pledged to Congress that the U.S. would only work with the PA after it ends this kind of incitement. They haven’t even tried.
To the contrary. Just two weeks ago, Mahmoud Abbas — the Palestinian Authority’s unelected-President, a so-called ‘moderate’ in the eyes of many westerners, had the audacity to falsely claim in Arabic-language media that no Jews were expelled from Egypt under the rule of President Gamal Abdel Nasser from 1956 until his death in 1970. He stated that the Jews left “willingly” and “as a result of Zionist conspiracies.” (Never mind that four months after Nasser began his dictatorial reign, a proclamation was read aloud in mosques throughout Egypt that “All Jews are Zionists and enemies of the state.” Never mind that more than 24,000 were immediately expelled, forced to leave within a few days and without being permitted to sell their property. Thousands more were arrested without trial, while others had the good sense to get the hell out of there fast. Of the 82,000 Jews who left Egypt from 1956-58 — the overwhelming majority of its Jewish community at that time — only 40% went to Israel. More on this later.)
Unfortunately, not one major western media outlet has picked up Abbas’ claim about the Jews of Egypt. (Just as they didn’t pick up Morsi’s Jews-are-apes-and-pigs slur until Forbes called them out for it.) One wonders, when will Abbas stop telling so many self-defeating and inflammatory lies that even a 10-year-old can so easily fact-check? Until he does, and until he gets his history-fabricating self to the negotiating table, is it too much to ask how the Palestinian people can expect to be granted an independent state anytime soon? Is that too pro-Israel of me to wonder? (For a column in November, I compiled several pages of examples of the brainwashing in Palestinian society that is arguably breeding a new generation for war and not peace.)
In Egypt, one thing particularly tragic about having an Islamist hatemonger living in the presidential palace is that it can only make a toxic environment outside those palace gates even more worse — perhaps leading more and more Egyptians in the future to demand abrogation of the peace treaty that Egypt and Israel signed in 1978. A Pew survey in 2011 found that 97% of Egyptians view “Jews” unfavorably — forget about Israelis. At the rate Morsi’s going with his agitations, perhaps he’ll have the other 3% converted by next week. (The Pew survey also found that 52% of Egyptians feel the same way about Christians, in case they were starting to feel left out here. And to demonstrate just how out of touch most (but certainly not all) Egyptians are about the causes of their own problems, when asked by Pew why there is a lack of prosperity in Muslim nations, 52% of then blamed “U.S. and western policies.”)
Meanwhile, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Morsi is utilizing Mubarak-era tactics to muzzle his critics. True to form, he verbally expresses his commitment to free speech, while behind the scenes he has launched a series of criminal probes against his critics, including prominent Egyptian reporters, editors and TV hosts, charging several with defamation.
In terms of Cairo’s expat press, despite his conspiracy theories about Jews controlling U.S. media, Morsi can hardly consider Times bureau chief David D. Kirkpatrick a threat. For one thing, Egypt is his first overseas assignment, after a stellar career at the newspaper covering domestic subjects since 2000. He arrived in Cairo in January 2011, just as the Arab Spring was erupting in Tunisia — an extraordinary baptism-by-fire for the journalist. Given budget constraints, Kirkpatrick’s beat can stretch from Egypt and Tunisia, to Syria and Libya, leaving him little time to engage in extensive probes. He’s learning Arabic, but he said last summer that “I don’t read that much of the American media coverage of the Middle East; I read my competitors a little bit.” Perhaps he should. Kirkpatrick’s stories, as well as speeches and online interviews, show that — at least to some degree — he’s been buying into the conventional wisdom (and wishful thinking) about Morsi and the Brotherhood.
Kirkpatrick is hardly alone among Cairo-based foreign reporters in his observations and conclusions. But I single him out because his power, reach and influence is greater than his peers there, in my view. The Times has long been the best newspaper anywhere — a true wonder of the world that towers over its competitors like the Great Pyramid of Giza. And it remains, even in the 24/7 internet era, the leading table-setter for a vast number of major media outlets. It’s a weighty responsibility, and I’m not the only observer wondering if Kirkpatrick is up to the task right now (particularly without a bigger support staff) in such a vast and explosive region.
For example, in a speech to a small audience in Connecticut last July – a few weeks after the election of Morsi – Kirkpatrick stated that he “finds it very hard to print in the paper” [he didn’t say why] the fact that he is “very optimistic” about the Arab Spring uprisings and revolutions throughout the region. “In my heart, I still feel like it’s all likely to turn out pretty well, better than things were in the past anyway,” he stated. As for Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, he described it as “by and large, a middle-class movement. The top of the Brotherhood are not religious sheiks or scholars; they’re mostly doctors and lawyers and engineers and businessmen.”
Is this true? “Correct, but misleading,” says Ehud Yaari, Israel’s most famous TV news commentator since 1975, and one of the country’s top experts on Islamist groups. “The Muslim Brotherhood is indeed led by educated people who are not religious sheikhs. But religious figures play a prominent role in determining policies, not tactics. They preach an Islamic state pursuing Islamic law and conducting itself as a manifestation of Islamic tenets, including jihad!” [Exclamation point, his.]
During an interview on Charlie Rose that same month, Kirkpatrick said he had “no reason to disbelieve” what the Muslim Brotherhood was saying publicly prior to the elections — namely, that they believed in a constitutional govt, in a rotation of power, and free democratic elections. And that even though the Brotherhood had already “broken a few promises (i.e. how much of Egypt’s parliament they would take, that they would not run a candidate for the Presidency), Kirkpatrick called these things “some caveats, but that’s their stated direction, and there’s nothing really to impeach that at this point.”
Those are fighting words to Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center — the global Jewish human rights group — who argues that there were no shortage of reasons to doubt what the Brotherhood was publicly promising. “We have followed them [the Brotherhood] for decades,” he says. “They are the most dangerous anti-Semitic group in the world, and they founded Hamas. Broken a few promises? They stole Tahrir Square and the country with their serial lies. They denied our protest on their ‘spiritual guide’s’ anti-Semitic call to jihad, even though he published it in Al-Ahram[Egypt’s oldest and largest daily]. Their spokesman denied the statements to the press even as the Brotherhood’s own website had it posted in Arabic.”
Prior to the election, there certainly were many endless quotes and speeches from Morsi and other Brotherhood leaders – a veritable treasure of incitement, against both America and Jews – that could have kept big American media outlets busy for days and weeks, perhaps months.
Since 2001, terrorism investigator Steven Merley has been collecting and analyzing information on the Muslim Brotherhood and its networks in Europe and the U.S. He’s done presentations and papers on the subject for think tanks such as the Hudson Institute, as well as the U.S. State Dept and European Parliament. He assisted in witness-background profiling in 2008 for the U.S. Justice Dept in a terrorism financing trial. And he contacted me for the first time yesterday to say that he’s “frustrated” that big media outlets are not conducting the investigations to find what he’s been finding for years. “Basically, they’re liars – the entire network from beginning to end,” he says of the Muslim Brotherhood. “And they’re not very good liars. They count on the naivete of reporters to push their agenda.”
Merley has for years prowled the official Arabic-language website of the Muslim Brotherhood, gathering statements from and about Morsi. He says some of the more egregious statements have been removed since the apes-pigs story hit the news, but many are still there. Some examples, from his investigations:
* In August 2004, Morsi added his name to a letter denouncing the “savage crimes implemented in Iraq and Palestine by the hands of the Zio-American pact not only against Arabs and Muslims, but against humanity in general.” The letter referred to “the comprehensively savage imperialistic campaign that the U.S. leads against Islam in general, and especially against Iraq.” It raised the fear that Iraq “is becoming a stronghold for the Zionist project.” And it called for a jihad against U.S. troops in Iraq.
* In November 2004, following an incident where three Egyptian soldiers were killed by an Israeli tank (mistakenly, according to Israel), Morsi said in a parliamentary session that the “Koran has established that the Jews are the ones in the highest degree of enmity towards Muslims” and that “there is no peace with the descendants of the apes and pigs” [Sound familiar?]
* In July 2007, Morsi told a Muslim Brotherhood conference that “resistance is the correct way to free the land from the defilement of the Jews.” The conference was held by the Al-Sharqiyah regional branch of the Doctors’ Syndicate (a major stronghold of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Egyptian trade unions). Morsi added during the event: “We are not in crisis, but the crisis is one of the Zionist and American enemy.”
* In Sept 2007, on the sixth anniversary of the 9-11 attacks, Morsi suggested that the real attackers were unknown; that the U.S. was the world’s “terrorism leader,” and that American military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan were “similar to Pearl Harbor.”
* On May 14, 2009, Morsi said that America was part of a “Zionist-U.S. conspiracy” to “fulfill their dream of having the borders of the Zionist entity extend from the Nile to the Euphrates.” [Note that this was three decades after Israel returned the entire Sinai in exchange for a — clearly cold — peace treaty.]
* On Jan 10, 2009 — towards the end of a military operation that Israel initiated in Gaza — Mursi penned a bitter article on the Brotherhood’s website, referring to Obama as “master of the White House” and calling on Muslims to rise “against the herd of Zionists, descendants of apes and pigs.”
That article by Morsi was first mentioned in September on a blog called theGlobal Muslim Brotherhood Daily Report, which has been tracking and writing about the group virtually daily since 2007. It received some wider attention — at least in terrorism-fighting circles — after it was picked up by the Investigative Project in Terrorism (IPT), run by Steven Emerson, a longtime expert on Islamist terrorism and former investigative journalist for CNN andU.S. News and World Report.
Emerson received great praise once from the late Abe Rosenthal, the legendary executive editor of the New York Times. “His investigative work on radical Islamic fundamentalism is absolutely critical to this nation’s national security,” said Rosenthal. “There is no one else who has exhibited the same expertise, courage and determination to tackle this vital issue.” And yet Emerson, who has been consulted by the White House, National Security Council, FBI, and other agencies, tells Forbes that too few reporters are visiting his databases and utilizing what IPT turns up. He also accuses many journalists of falsely portraying radical Islamists like Morsi as moderates.
Meanwhile, Jew-loathing is on the rise throughout the Muslim world, warns Harvard-trained social psychologist Neil Kressel, the author of a new book called “Sons of Pigs and Apes: Muslim anti-Semitism and the Conspiracy of Silence.” He blames not only dispassionate media outlets for their collective listlessness, but also Muslim-American organizations that engage in the moral-equivalency exercise as a way of deflating the problem. “While we should encourage the few Muslims who have spoken out forthrightly against the anti-Semitism, not all condemnations are equal,” he tells Forbes. “The standard response of most of the major Muslim-American organizations is to condemn anti-Semitism along with all the other prejudices — and then go quickly onto the next topic. And that doesn’t cut it. It’s not the same as a true honest exploration of the problem, and it’s not the beginning of a solution. It’s just another way of sweeping it under the rug.”
In his book, Kressel tries to answer the elusive question of why such Jew-hatred exists in places like Egypt – from out-for-blood interpretations of Koranic passages, to the Nazi export of Jew-dehumanization to the Arab world. But the “main engine” behind contemporary Jew-hatred in the Middle East, he concludes, is a “deep-seated inability of most Arabs to psychologically tolerate the Jews’ emergence from many centuries of second-class status [known as dhimmitude] in Muslim-ruled lands.”
“This threat to collective self-esteem, I think, is a core reason why finding a negotiated solution to the [Israeli-Palestinian] conflict has been so hard,” he writes. “In a conflict over land, land can be divided. And this isn’t a zero-sum game. Peace with Israel would bring huge economic and political dividends to both sides—but relatively more to the Palestinians. The problem is that peace might extract a psychological, and perhaps theological, cost that would be too great to bear. Jews as equals is bad enough. But Jews who prevail in fair competition would be a bad reflection on the faith, the culture, and by extension the self.”
“Jews were dhimmis,” Kressel continues. “The matter had been settled long ago. But when Jews, the losers of history, emerged from their dhimmitude to assert national rights, it was more than Muslim pride could bear… Israel’s existence was a violation of the dhimmi system. Reality was not supposed to be that way.”
Any in-depth study of Jewish history in Egypt makes that plain enough. Documents exist that prove Jews lived there at least as far back as 650 BCE, and — by the time of the Muslim conquest in the 7th century — roughly 40,000 Jews already dwelled in many Egyptian towns and cities. But since Koranic verses and evolving Islamic traditions required the Jews to be treated like semi-slaves, they endured a millennium-long roller-coaster ride, where their freedoms were dependent on the whims and caprice of Egypt’s varying rulers.
Dhimmitude for Egyptian Jews – indeed, for Jews (and sometimes Christians) in virtually every Muslim land – required them to pay a costly poll tax (known as a Jizya), in return for the right not to have to convert to Islam. It was not unlike the protection rackets that Mafia families in America forced on businesses in particular industries – simply for the right to safely operate without fear of getting beaten or killed.
In good times, while most of Egypt’s dhimmis were poor or middle-class, they managed to thrive — helping to build up the country’s cotton and retailing base, as well making innovations in manufacturing and irrigation systems. Many Jews became trusted advisers and doctors to Egyptian kings and governors. (The Nasser family dentist was Jewish, in fact.) But in bad times, under brutal rulers, Jews would be killed en masse by mobs, their synagogues and shops torched or destroyed. Even in lukewarm eras, they were often jostled or beaten simply for passing on the right hand of a Muslim on the streets of Cairo. They also were forced to wear distinctive clothing, so that Muslims could be sure it was a Jew they were mistreating, and not a fellow Muslim. Moreover, government decrees were interpreted in ways that denied Jews full citizenship (and passports).
Egypt’s Jewish population peaked at about 100,000 in the 1930s – and their lasting contributions to Egyptian society by that decade were extraordinary, in light of their puny headcount (just .6% of the population). King Faud put a Jew in charge of his royal estates. A consortium of Egyptian Jewish bankers were given the task of financing and operating a major new railway through Cairo. Successful Jews founded the National Bank of Egypt, and financed the creation of the Museum of Islamic Art. A prominent Jewish architect was responsible for the Egyptian pavilion at the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1893. He also undertook the restoration of numerous mosques in and around Cairo.
The examples go on and on. One Jew turned a bankrupt company into Egypt’s largest sugar producer. Another became the biggest shareholder of the Mena House Hotel – the 40-acre resort next to the pyramids that has pampered world leaders (from Winston Churchill to Jimmy Carter) for more than a century. A Jewish doctor founded a hospital that specifically treated the eye diseases that are still common among the poorest Egyptians.
A Jew was even part of the delegation negotiating with Britain for Egypt’s financial independence in 1937. But when Jews in Palestine and Europe also wanted their own state, it was curtains for Egyptian Jews – whether they supported the Zionist initiative or not (as explained earlier in this column). Egged on by the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s governments made no distinction. Anyone with Jewish blood was prey for attack — politically, legally, theologically, racially, verbally, physically. Most Egyptian Jews were forced or compelled to leave – in several waves of emigration from the 1930s through the 1960s. Typically, they left with little more than a few suitcases.
And today? A few dozen Jews remain, well under 100, with ample reason to be fearful of their tomorrows. It was reported just two weeks ago that Cairo’s last-surviving synagogue (there were 60 throughout Egypt in the 1930s) is no longer permitted to refer to itself as a Jewish holy site, but only as a piece of notable historic architecture.
On Egyptian TV recently, the chairman of the history department at American University in Cairo — Khaled Fahmy — declared that the Muslim Brotherhood “bears much of the responsibility for the fleeing of the Jews from Egypt,” Similarly, in an article in a leading newspaper, Fahmy wrote that the nation’s Jews were “gravely wronged” and that “we must admit that injustice was committed against all Egyptian Jews. The majority of those Jews were not Zionists and did not end up living in Israel.”
To be sure, Fahmy is no friend to Israel. He decries and vilifies Zionism as a “bloodthirsty” inventor of “new forms of oppression and violence that enabled it to survive for 60 years.” But he also uses the phrase “bloody record” to describe how the Brotherhood treated Egypt’s Jewish community. “During the 1930s and 1940s, the Brotherhood did not view Egyptian Jews as full-fledged citizens and always doubted their loyalty to Egypt,” wrote Fahmy. “Dozens of articles published in Brotherhood magazines were outrightly anti-Semitic and utterly failed to distinguish between Jews and Zionists. Examples of anti-Semitic pronouncements and publications by Brotherhood members are too numerous to cite.”
For a comprehensive account of the intertwined history of Jewish and Muslim Egyptians, read historian Martin Gilbert’s “In Ishmael’s House: A History of Jews in Muslim Lands.” Gilbert dedicated the 2010 book to “the 13 million Jews and the 1,300 million Muslims in the world, in the hope that they may renew in the Twenty-First Century the mutual tolerance, respect and partnership that marked many periods in their history.”
That partnership may have to wait a little longer, however. In late December, a Muslim Brotherhood leader called on Jews with Egyptian heritage in Israel to return to their “homeland” – after first giving up their Israeli homes to Palestinians. The proposal caused yet another Jew-bashing uproar across Egypt, where a poll by the largest state-owned newspaper found that 79% of Egyptians would refuse to let the Jews back in. (Following that local backlash, the Brotherhood leader oddly defended his offer by stating that he didn’t believe Israel would exist in ten years.)
It would have been useful if the pollsters had asked their readers if they’d even met a Jewish person in their lives (60% of the country is, after all, under age 30) – and if they have a clue about the accomplishments that Jews made to Egypt’s economic, cultural and medical spheres until they were forced to fold up their tents. That’s also unlikely, as few official documents exist in the government’s archives about Egyptian Jewish life in the 20th century. It’s as if that entire period was erased.
The knowledge void about Jews is now being filled by TV programs such as “Horseman Without a Horse” – a 40-part series created in 2002 that was rebroadcast in 2012, a year after the fall of Mubarak. The show’s producers have admitted that the work is based on the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” – the infamous, century-old czarist forgery that portrayed Jewish leaders plotting to take over the world. (Morsi’s “certain interests” controlling the U.S. media industry could make an appealing remake.) In the Egyptian version, a bunch of rabbis are seated with their co-conspirators around a long table, in a dark windowless room (of course), kvetching that their global enslavement of non-Jews isn’t happening quickly enough.
“The racist Zionist movement devised a plan a long time ago, even before Christ,”viewers are instructed.“A peaceful Zionist invasion of all the countries of the world, with a malicious serpent as its symbol…According to this map, the serpent moves, coils and binds the countries of the world, enslaving them by hellish means. These means include an economic invasion… so they can spread among the world’s youth wantonness, alcohol, abomination and corruption…The first step was in Europe in 429 BCE, in Greece, in the days of Pericles…”
You can watch a few minutes of the TV show here; the acting is so hideously bad that — for anyone with a functioning brain — it’s almost rib-tickling. But at the end of the day, it’s just too obscene and frightening for words. And so utterly tragic — for Egyptians. With their country’s economy close to collapse, they should be spending less time watching anti-Semitic vomit and perhaps more time reading books like “Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle.” (The best-seller has been translated into 20 languages.) And if videos about Jews have more appeal, perhaps they ought to bewatching things like “Israel Inside: How a Small Nation Makes a Big Difference.” (This 2011 documentary is now being shown to rave reviews in various universities in China, as well as American business classes at Princeton, Wharton, and the Kellogg School of Management.
Egyptians could then see what Israelis – despite being surrounded by hostile neighbors on all sides – have managed to accomplish in just 60 years with a piece of land that is only 2% the size of Egypt.
Egyptians would learn that by 2010, Israel – with a population of fewer than 8 million — had become the top country in the world in terms of the number of start-up companies listed on NASDAQ. (It has since been surpassed by China – population 1.4 billion — but remains firmly on top in per-capita terms.)
They would learn that Israel has become a global leader in high-technology, health, and biotech – among many other fields.
They would learn that, in terms of venture capital (per capita), Israel by 2010 was 2.5 times the U.S. total, and 30 times Europe’s. As for job creation, in 2012 Israel beat out even China and Brazil.
They would learn that Israel spends about 4.5% of its GDP on civilian research and development, not counting military R&D. That’s almost twice the OECD average of about 2.3%.
As we all know, Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream — and he saw clearly where America needed to be, as well as where Israel had a right to be.
Call me naïve, but I have a dream, too: That Egyptians will someday find a way to stop poisoning themselves by hating Jews so much. And that they’ll start reaching out to Israelis – through major trade initiatives, technology-sharing, and the creation of enough new companies to build Egypt into the next economic miracle in the Middle East. One week ago, Egypt’s finance minister announced that he is seeking local and foreign investors to participate in public-private partnerships for a whole series of major infrastructure projects. They include developing an industrial port on the Red Sea coast and a water desalination plant in Sinai (which Israel returned to Egypt as part of the peace treaty they signed in 1978.)
Israelis have decades of experience in making deserts bloom. Unfortunately, that kind of an economic partnership will never take root while the Muslim Brotherhood is calling most of the shots. As Rabbi Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center puts it: “Jews will invest in Morsi’s Egypt when pigs (and apes) fly.”