|From TIME's 2012 'man of the year' issue|
This largely depends on what the news media want us to know. News reporting from non-English-speaking and somewhat risky countries like Egypt tends to be dominated by the large global news agencies like AP and Reuters, so the views that reach us news consumers tend to be fairly carefully managed and (yes) spun.
Morsi became Egypt's head of state in June 2011, the first civilian and the first Islamist to hold that position in the country's history. Prior to that, he was a high-ranking figure in the Muslim Brotherhood, the parent that spawned the terrorist Hamas organization. But he was (according to a June 2012 Al Jazeera report) "not widely known among the Egyptian public". And certainly less well-known outside Egypt.
Now more than eighteen months after he took office, people are suddenly starting to take note of what the man stands for. This is mostly thanks to the invaluable work of MEMRI, the Middle East Media Research Institute, which has just released some archived material featuring some previously-untranslated Morsi speeches. MEMRI was founded in 1998 in Washington, DC
to bridge the language gap between the Middle East and the West by monitoring, translating, and studying Arab, Iranian and Turkish media, schoolbooks, and religious sermons. MEMRI is headquartered in Washington, D.C. and has branches in Baghdad, Tokyo and Jerusalem, and a staff of over 70 working around the globe. MEMRI's research is translated into English, German, French, Italian, and Spanish with a subscriber list of over 75,000.The following is not an attack or even a critique of Mohamed Morsi. Understanding him and his statements depends on getting some context. So we are offering some context, and allowing his words to be heard and read.
Morsi’s attitude to Israel has... seen downturns during his brief months in office. Egypt recalled its ambassador in November after Israel launched Operation Pillar of Defense against terrorist organizations in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. A month earlier, Morsi was captured on video mouthing the word “Amen” after a prayer service in Cairo, where the preacher urged Allah to “destroy the Jews and their supporters.” Since then, Morsi has been largely silent on Israel, despite helping broker a ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas, ending the eight-day Pillar of Defense conflict in which the air force conducted hundreds of strikes on military targets in Gaza, and terrorists fired roughly 1,500 rockets on Israeli communities.Now to the newly uncovered Mohamed Morsi speeches in chronological order, starting with some excerpts from a January 10, 2010 address:
- Dear brothers, we must not forget to nurse our children and grandchildren on hatred towards those Zionists and Jews, and all those who support them. They must be nursed on hatred. The hatred must continue.
- One American president after another and most recently, that Obama, talks about American guarantees for the safety of the Zionists in Palestine. [Obama] was very clear when he uttered his empty words on the land of Egypt. He uttered many lies, of which he couldn’t have fulfilled a single word, even if he were sincere – which he is not.
- The Zionists have no right to the land of Palestine. There is no place for them on the land of Palestine. What they took before 1947-8 constitutes plundering, and what they are doing now is a continuation of this plundering. By no means do we recognize their Green Line. The land of Palestine belongs to the Palestinians, not to the Zionists.
- We must confront this Zionist entity. All ties of all kinds must be severed with this plundering criminal entity, which is supported by America and its weapons, as well as by its own nuclear weapons, the existence of which is well known. It will bring about their own destruction.
- The peoples must boycott this entity [Israel] and avoid normalization of relations with it. All products from countries supporting this entity – from the U.S. and others – must be boycotted.
- We want a country for the Palestinians on the entire land of Palestine, on the basis of [Palestinian] citizenship. All the talk about a two-state solution and about peace is nothing but an illusion, which the Arabs have been chasing for a long time now. They will not get from the Zionists anything but this illusion.
- They have been fanning the flames of civil strife wherever they were throughout history. They are hostile by nature.
- The Zionists understood nothing but the language of force.
- These futile [Israeli-Palestinian] negotiations are a waste of time and opportunities. The Zionists buy time and gain more opportunities, as the Palestinians, the Arabs, and the Muslims lose time and opportunities, and they get nothing out of it. We can see how this dream has dissipated. This dream has always been an illusion. Yet some Palestinians, who erroneously believe that their enemies might give them something...
- This [Palestinian] Authority was created by the Zionist and American enemies for the sole purpose of opposing the will of the Palestinian people and its interests.
- No reasonable person can expect any progress on this track. 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.
- We should employ all forms of resistance against them. There should be military resistance within the land of Palestine against those criminal Zionists, who attack Palestine and the Palestinians. There should also be political resistance and economic resistance through a boycott, as well as by supporting the resistance fighters.
- This should be the practice of the Muslims and the Arabs outside Palestine. They should support the resistance fighters and besiege the Zionist wherever they are.
- None of the Arab or Muslim peoples and regimes should have dealings with them [the Zionists]. Pressure should be exerted upon them. They must not be given any opportunity, and must not stand on any Arab or Islamic land. They must be driven out of our countries... Therefore, these negotiations must stop once and for all.
- Everybody must turn to the support of the resistance, which is the option chosen by the Palestinians and by us all – the Arabs and the Muslims, Palestinians and others. We must all realize that resistance is the only way to liberate the land of Palestine.
The Obama administration gave a blistering review Tuesday of remarks that President Mohammed Morsi of Egypt made almost three years ago about Jews and called for him to repudiate what it called unacceptable rhetoric.
Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi said on Wednesday that comments on Israel attributed to him before he was elected, slammed as deeply offensive by the United States, were taken out of context. "The president stressed they were taken from comments on the Israeli aggression against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, and stressed the need to put the remarks in the right context," said a statement from the presidency issued after Morsi met US Senator John McCain... According to a TV clip released by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), Morsi refers in a 2010 interview to "occupiers of Palestine" as "blood suckers and war mongers, and descendants of pigs and apes."...In Wednesday's statement, Morsi "stressed his commitment to the principles he has always insisted on, including full respect for religions, freedom of faith and religious practices, especially the heavenly religions." Morsi also "stressed the need to differentiate between Judaism and its adherents from (those who practise) violent actions against Palestinians."If it were up to the world's largest and most influential news channels, we non-Arabic speakers would have known none of these things about the man TIME calls "the most important man in the Middle East". Thanks to MEMRI's good work, now we have the raw material to take into account. So does the White House, and so do analysts and politicians from all over (German Radio's website analyzes this sharply even if a little too conspiratorially).
Context is really everything. A pity we don't get more of it.