White House fury over Morsi description of Israelis as ‘blood-sucking descendants of apes and pigs’

(Originally published by TheTimes)

By Evan Hill in Cairo and Alexandra Frean in Washington DC

The White House last night denounced remarks made by Egypt’s Islamist President in which he described Israelis as “descendants of apes and pigs”.

Footage of President Morsi’s video interview with the Lebanon-based Al-Quds channel was recorded in September 2010, but it has only just emerged — on the eve of a visit by a high-ranking American delegation to Cairo.

Mr Morsi, then a senior Muslim Brotherhood official, told the interviewer: “Either [you accept] the Zionists and everything they want, or else it is war. This is what these occupiers of the land of Palestine know — these blood-suckers, who attack the Palestinians, these warmongers, the descendants of apes and pigs.”

Mr Morsi dismissed negotiations between Israel and Palestine as a “waste of time” and called the Palestinian Authority, Israel’s negotiating partner, a creation of “the Zionist and American enemies for the sole purpose of opposing the will of the Palestinian people and its interests”.

In separate footage, Mr Morsi was filmed at a sermon last October joining the crowd in saying “ameen” [amen] as an imam prayed for God to “deal with the Jews and their supporters . . . disperse them and render them asunder”.

The White House said that it was concerned by Mr Morsi’s remarks and raised them with the Egyptian Government. Jay Carney, President Obama’s spokesman, said: “We strongly condemn the remarks that then-Muslim Brotherhood leader Morsi made in 2010. The language that we have seen is deeply offensive. We completely reject these statements, as we do any language that espouses religious hatred. This kind of discourse has been acceptable in the region for far too long and is counter to the goal of peace.”

“President Morsi should make clear that he respects people of all faiths and that this type of rhetoric is not acceptable or productive in a democratic Egypt.”

Jewish groups in America predicted that Mr Morsi’s outburst would damage Egypt’s relations with the US and might even deprive Cairo of badly needed US aid.

David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee, said: “We have heard from a number of congressional offices, from people who were already deeply concerned about Mr Morsi and press freedom, Sharia law and the situation of the Coptic Christian minority. Now, to add to that, he has been captured on film two years ago. It has made quite an impression.”

This week Cairo is playing host to a US delegation. The team, which is expected to discuss security and counter-terrorism, includes Senator John McCain, a former presidential candidate and the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee, and Senator Lindsey Graham, another member of the committee. He warned Egypt in November that it could lose its $1.3 billion (£800 million) in annual US aid if it “keeps inciting violence between the Israelis and the Palestinians”.

But the Muslim Brotherhood insisted that the relationship between the US and Egypt was based on mutual interests and that Mr Morsi, as President, was bound to represent the country as a whole and not only his personal views.

“Those statements were said in a certain context. And this was the position of Mohamed Morsi, the senior Muslim Brotherhood official, which is different than that of the President,” said Gehad el-Haddad, an adviser in Mr Morsi’s Freedom and Justice Party.

Mr Haddad noted that Mr Morsi had never referred to “Jews” in his remarks, criticising only “Zionists”.

“Jews lived in peace with Muslims for hundreds of years and they have never been persecuted as they have been in Europe or in the US,” Mr Haddad said.