by Michael Kravshik
Why can't the Western media and the Obama administration call Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi out for what he is -- a racist? On the contrary, both groups have a frightening habit of portraying Morsi as a respectable politician, someone whose values resemble something similar to our own. The horrific comments made a few years back by Morsi that have recently made it to the headlines are a prime example of this disquieting trend.
Take this comment by New York Times writer David Kirkpatrick, for example:
[T]he exposure this month of [Morsi's] virulent comments ... have revealed sharp anti-Semitic and anti-Western sentiments, raising questions about Mr. Morsi's efforts to present himself as a force for moderation and stability. Instead, the disclosures have strengthened the position of those who say Israel's Arab neighbors are unwilling to commit to peace with the Jewish state.
Do Morsi's comments merely "raise questions about his moderation" or "strengthen the position" of those saying he is unwilling to make peace? "We must never forget, brothers, to nurse our children and our grandchildren on hatred for them: for Zionists, for Jews" should do more than just raise questions about Morsi's moderation.
Morsi, who clearly sees no difference between Jews and Zionists, goes on to call them "bloodsuckers" and "descendants of apes and pigs." He then declares that "[t]he land of Palestine will not be freed except through resistance." Does this seem like the future bearer of peace to the region?
Kirkpatrick seems genuinely confused about the nature of such statements, despite their candidly blunt articulation. He goes on to analyze the political implications of the comments in the way one would go about describing Romney's position on health care, or Obama's tax plan. Kirkpatrick labels Morsi's statements as a liability abroad but as standard discourse at home -- circumstances which put Morsi him in quite a bind. Well, yes, it must be very difficult to pretend you're not a racist when you really are one. Even more challenging when your political base demands that you remain that way and stay vocal about it.
This is a striking example of the media's attempt to impose Western political norms on a region that clearly does not conform to such standards. None of Romney's, Obama's, or even Biden's past comments amounted to extreme bigotry. Why, then, does Kirkpatrick treat Morsi's comments as just another run-of-the-mill political gaffe -- something that merely upsets one political constituency or another?
Saving judgment on whether Mr. Kirkpatrick is actually blind to the reality or just choosing to ignore it, repeated attempts by the media to portray Morsi's politics as moderate, or something not at all different from our own (something not confined to Mr. Kirkpatrick) are deplorable and, in the long run, extremely damaging.
This type of disingenuous reporting eventually plants the seed in Western readers that such comments are reasonable and therefore acceptable merely because, in Kirkpatrick's words, it is "standard stump discourse." That Morsi can't "clarify" or retract his comments because it would be politically damaging -- since so many of his supports are virulent anti-Semites -- has somehow become a justifiable response to learning of their existence.
The response of the Obama administration has been only marginally better. Yes, various officials have released a slew of weakly worded condemnations. But you'd think that such appalling comments would warrant the personal attention of, and a statement by, the president himself. Unfortunately, so far he has been silent on the matter, relegating that duty to his underlings. One of these, White House spokesman Jay Carney, seems to be just as delusional as Kirkpatrick on the subject, telling reporters:
We believe that President Morsi should make clear that he respects people of all faiths and that this type of rhetoric is unacceptable in a democratic Egypt." No, it's Mr. Carney who should make clear that Morsi doesn't respect people of all faiths, something that's blatantly obvious at this point. In a similarly bigoted rant Morsi claims, "[Jews] have been fanning the flames of civil strife wherever they were throughout their history. They are hostile by nature.
How much evidence of this severe prejudice is needed for it to be called what it is?
Of course, Mr. Carney and the Obama administration are aware of the reality, but instead of just being honest, they seem to have decided that the best course of action is to make excuses for Morsi and sweep the whole unpleasant business under the carpet. If another world leader made similar remarks -- say, Benjamin Netanyahu about the Palestinians -- would that have been treated with the same level of nonchalance?
Mohammed el-Baradei, an Egyptian politician and former head of the IAEA, had this to say regarding Morsi's comments: "We are all aware that those statements were not taken out of context and that this discourse is very common among a large number of clerics and members of Islamist groups." And indeed it hasn't taken long for more comments to surface. Just recently, on Holocaust Remembrance Day, a senior figure close to President Morsi, Fathi Shihab-Eddim, called the Holocaust a myth made up by U.S. intelligence.
Despite all of this, the Obama administration still concluded that a good course of action is to supply Morsi with another $1.5 billion in aid -- aid bereft of any conditions on its use, even as Morsi calls Americans his "enemies" in the same hate-filled rant. The whitewashing continues, even amid the deadly anti-Morsi protests currently sweeping through Egypt. These protests provide resounding recognition that a great many Egyptians themselves do not view Morsi as the keeper of their revolution. Why, then, does the West help Morsi maintain the charade?
It's time our media and the Obama administration stop the superficial quest to portray Morsi as something he is not. These comments cannot be judged on the same merits as a debate on implementing health care or raising taxes. We need to call President Morsi what he is: an unrelenting anti-Semite, and a purveyor of exactly the kind of thinking that we in the West abhor.
Michael Kravshik is a chartered accountant who is obtaining his masters in conflict analysis focusing on the Middle East. Visit his blog at www.kraxinlogic.com.
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