A spokesman for Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi says comments the Islamist leader made on Jews nearly three years ago and repudiated by the White House as “deeply offensive” were taken out of context.
Yasser Ali said Mr. Morsi told a visiting U.S. Senate delegation led by Republican John McCain Wednesday that the broadcast comments were taken from an address “on the Israeli aggression against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.”
He said Egypt's president told the group a distinction must be drawn between Judaism and its adherents and criticism of those who practice violence against the Palestinians. Mr. Morsi also stressed his respect for the freedom of religion and religious practice.
A day earlier, the Obama administration said the Egyptian leader should repudiate remarks he made in 2010 calling on Egyptians to “nurse our children and our grandchildren on hatred” for Jews and Zionists.
The comments – made when Mr. Morsi led the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood – were revived when they were aired on an Egyptian TV show this month.
In one of the videos, Mr. Morsi said Egyptian children must feed on that hatred as a form of worshipping God.
In a separate 2010 interview, he described Zionists as “bloodsuckers who attack the Palestinians; these warmongers, the descendants of apes and pigs.”
State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said that kind of rhetoric has been used in the Middle East for far too long, and President Morsi should firmly repudiate his past comments.
Since he took office in June of 2012, Nuland said President Morsi has reaffirmed his commitment to Egypt's peace treaty with Israel “in word and deed.”
“He has been willing to work with us and with Israel on shared objectives, including the cease-fire in Gaza. He has been committed to our bilateral relationship,” Nuland added. “That is the basis on which we are continuing to work together going forward.”