The comments were not current. They surfaced recently, when an Egyptian TV program aired part of a speech delivered by Mohammed Morsi in 2010, before the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood became president of Egypt.
But there’s no earthly reason to believe Mr. Morsi has substantially changed the views which led him, in that video, to refer to Zionists – a common synonym in the Arab world for both the rulers and residents of Israel – as “bloodsuckers who attack Palestinians,” as well as “the descendants of apes and pigs.” He also took the opportunity to call U.S. President Barack Obama a liar.
Such rhetoric has long been common in the pronouncements of Egyptian leaders and that nation’s state-dominated press. It might be tempting to shrug it off as the humbug of people raised in a culture that doesn’t seem to grasp the advantages of tolerance and diversity, let alone practice them.
But such pronouncements have real-world effects. They go hand in hand with despicable stories that crop up from time to time in the Egyptian press, asserting that Jews grind up the bones of non-Jewish babies to make their holiday bread, or whatever. The cumulative effect over generations is to cause a neighboring people to be regarded as subhuman, which made it far easier for Egypt to declare wars of annihilation against little Israel three times in the past 65 years.
Christians do not fare much better under Egypt’s current theocracy. Muslims who voluntarily convert to Christianity are considered criminals. Since the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak in 2011, Egypt’s Coptic Christians have been the target of growing discrimination. Rioters have stormed Christian churches for offenses as small as applying for a permit to repair a roof. Christian churches have been burned. In October 2011, the European Parliament condemned Egypt for persecuting the country’s Christian population. An estimated 10,000 Coptic Christians have fled the country.
On Jan. 15, the Obama administration denounced Mr. Morsi’s remarks as “deeply offensive.” The next day, U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., visiting Cairo, said he also expressed strong disapproval to Mr. Morsi, face-to-face.
Whereupon, Sen. McCain said he and others in the visiting congressional delegation will push to hand the new Egyptian government an additional $480 million in “assistance.”
Anyone who demands an end to foreign aid risks being dismissed as naive. The money we give the Egyptian government is chicken feed if it prevents another Mideast war.
The problem is, while withdrawing American support from the dictators who have long reigned in that region may sound wonderful in theory, it makes us partially responsible for the repressive excesses of the new theocrats thus installed.
Condemning the Egyptian government for its despicable treatment of Egypt’s own Christians and Jews – only about 100 Egyptian Jews now remain, from a thriving population of 75,000 as recently as 1945 – is appropriate.
But then turning around and letting them know there will be no real-world consequences? The cynical message that sends is, “Pay no attention to what we say; it’s just to mollify the rubes.”
Meantime, even America’s wealth is not inexhaustible. As Everett Dirksen was wont to say (per historian John Steele Gordon), “A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon you’re talking real money.”