Meeting Ayaan Hirsi Ali at the fourth annual Presidential Conference in Jerusalem this past June may have been my personal highlight of the year. I posted videos of my interview with her here and here. She is a true friend of Israel and the Jewish people.
In her comments Ayaan expressed high hopes for developments in Egypt. Paul Mirengoff discussed Ayaan’s comments in “The short term and the long term in post-Mubarak Egypt.”
If the short term poses temporary challenges, I’m afraid that it’s a long, long way to temporary. With Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood president seizing the levers of power and with his familiar anti-Semitic animus, one can’t help but wonder if there is any off ramp in Egypt’s future, especially with the continuing if misguided support of the United States. In the higher wisdom of Team Obama, the Muslim Brotherhood is A-OK.
In any event, the New York Times has published Ayaan’s excellent op-ed column on Morsi’s anti-Semitism last week under the heading “Raised on hatred.” As we noted in “Morsi explains,” Morsi claims (for American consumption) that his remarks have been taken out of context. Andrew Bostom supplies additional context, and Clifford May has a related column.
Yesterday at his Foreign Policy blog The Cable, Josh Rogin supplied supplied a bit more, ah, context to Morsi’s claim that his anti-Semitic remarks were taken out of context. Rogin’s report is worth an extended look:
Last week in Cairo, seven U.S. senators had a highly contentious meeting with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy during which the Muslim Brotherhood leader implied that he was the victim of an American media run by the Jews.
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) led a delegation last week to Egypt, Jordan, Israel, and Afghanistan that included Sens. Chris Coons (D-DE), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Kirsten Gilibrand (D-NY). Their stop in Cairo included a 90-minute meeting with Morsy that devolved into an uncomfortable set of exchanges as the senators pressed the Egyptian president to explain his 2010 comments describing Jews as “bloodsuckers who attack Palestinians” as well as “the descendants of apes and pigs.”
After the meeting, McCain issued a statement saying that the senators “voiced our strong disapproval of the statement” and that the senators and Morsy “had a constructive discussion on this subject.” Morsy’s spokesman issued a statement after the meeting saying that Morsy believed in religious freedom and “the need to distinguish between the Jewish religion, and those who belong to it, and violent actions against defenseless Palestinians.”
But inside the meeting, the discussion over Morsy’s 2010 remarks was much more heated than either side publicly acknowledged afterwards, according to Coons. Addressing the comments was the first item on the senators’ agenda, and the discussion did not go well, he told The Cable in an interview.
“We tried to give President Morsy an opportunity, now that he is the president, to put his comments in a different context because he was claiming that he was taken out of context. On their face they seemed to be very offensive and inappropriate,” Coons said. “It was a difficult conversation.”
Morsy 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, especially in Gaza.
Then Morsy crossed a line and made a comment that made the senators physically recoil in their chairs in shock, Coons said.
“He was attempting to explain himself … then he 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,’” Coons said.
The Cable asked Coons if Morsy specifically named the Jews as the forces that control the American media. Coons said all the senators believed the implication was obvious.
“He did not say [the Jews], but I watched as the other senators physically recoiled, as did I,” he said. “I thought it was impossible to draw any other conclusion.”
“The meeting then took a very sharply negative turn for some time. It really threatened to cause the entire meeting to come apart so that we could not continue,” Coons said.
Multiple senators impressed upon Morsy that if he was saying the criticisms of his comments were due to the Jews in the media, that statement was potentially even more offensive than his original comments from 2010.
“[Morsi] did not say the Jewish community was making a big deal of this, but he said something [to the effect] that the only conclusion you could read was that he was implying it,” Coons said. “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,’” Coons said. “We then went on to discuss a whole range of other topics.”
Coons must be a decent man and something of a truth-teller, but seems to be enveloped in a cloud of unknowing. Both his decency and his cluelessness come through here:
“I appreciate that he respects and understands the vital importance of the U.S-Egyptian relationship, but clearly there is a lot of work to be done before we can feel comfortable that he respects American values,” Coons said. “Securing a positive relationship going forward is important and in America’s national interest, but we also cannot stand by and tolerate bigotry and hatred by foreign leaders.”