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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Germans Press Morsi on Slurs Against Jews as Berlin Marks a Somber Anniversary

During a visit to Germany that coincided with somber commemorations of Hitler’s rise to power eight decades ago on Wednesday, Egypt’s president was pressed several times to explain anti-Semitic comments he made in 2010, when he called Israelis “bloodsuckers” and “the descendants of apes and pigs.”

As my colleagues Melissa Eddy and Nicholas Kulish report, Mr. Morsi insisted that his comments had been taken out of context when asked about them by a German reporter at a joint news conference with Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin. “I am not against Judaism as a religion,” he replied. “I am not against Jews practicing heir religion. I was talking about anybody practicing any religion who spills blood or attacks innocent people â€" civilians. I criticize such behavior.”

Before her meeting with the Egyptian president, Ms. Merkel spoke at the opening of a new exhibition on the Nazi era at the Topography of Terror Museum and urged Germans to remember that Hitler was appointed chancellor on Jan. 30, 1933 with popular support.

A video report from the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle on commemorations of Hitler’s rise to power on Jan. 30, 1933.

Speaking at the museum, which is located on the site of the former Gestapo and SS headquarters, Ms. Merkel said, “There ! is no other way to say this: the rise of the National Socialists was made possible because the elite and other groups within German society helped and, most importantly, because most Germans at least tolerated their rise.”

Later in the day, when Mr. Morsi sat down for a discussion of the upheaval in the Arab world organized by the Körber Foundation, he was again reminded of how seriously Germans take his inflammatory remarks about Zionists and Jews. As video of the event shows, the first question put to the Egyptian president by Georg Mascolo, editor in chief of Der Spiegel, concerned “this infamous video” of Mr. Morsi calling Jews “bloodsuckers.” In response to Mr. Mascolo’s question, “did you really say that or not” Mr. Morsi first complained that he had already answered the question “five times today” and reiterated his claim that the comments needed to be put into context.

He then went on to esentially defend his rhetorical attacks on Jews and Zionists as an appropriate response to the killing of civilians in Gaza by Israel’s military during the offensive that preceded his remarks in 2010. “The bloodshed of innocent people is universally condemned, now and in the future. The colonizing of the land of others is to be condemned as unacceptable, and the right to self-defense is also guaranteed” as a human right, Mr. Morsi said.

Mr. Mascolo then asked about a report in his magazine this week, in which a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood said that Mr. Morsi, in his previous role as a senior leader of that organization, was ultimately responsible for the publication of even more inflammatory remarks in articles on the society’s Web site, Ikhwan Online. In one such ar! ticle! from 2010 that was discovered last week by an anti-Islamist American Web site, a Brotherhood official called the Holocaust “a myth” fabricated by American intelligence agents and “the biggest scam in modern history.”

That Spiegel report was based on an interview with Abdel-Jalil el-Sharnoubi, a former editor of the Brotherhood’s Web site, who said that Mr. Morsi had used the exact same words about Zionists in 2004 and had never objected to hate speech against Jews on the site.

Sharnoubi wasn’t surprised by the Morsi hate video. “Agitation against the Israelis is in keeping with the way Morsi thinks. For the Morsi I know, any cooperation with Israel is a serious sin, a crime.” Morsi’s choice of words is also nothing new, says Sharnoubi. As proof, he opens his black laptop and shows us evidence of the former Muslim Botherhood member’s true sentiments.

Indeed, the video gaffes do not appear to be a one-time occurrence. In 2004 Morsi, then a member of the Egyptian parliament, allegedly raged against the “descendants of apes and pigs,” saying that there could be “no peace” with them. The remarks were made at a time when Israeli soldiers had accidentally shot and killed three Egyptian police officers. The source of the quote can hardly be suspected of incorrectly quoting fellow Brotherhood members: Ikhwan Online, the Islamist organization’s website.

Few people are as familiar with the contents of that website as Sharnoubi, who was the its editor-in-chief until 2011. The current president became the general inspector of the organization in 2007, says Sharnoubi. In this capacity, Morsi would have been partly responsible for the anti-Jewish propaganda on the website, which featured the “banner of jihad” at the time and saw “Jews and Zionists as archenemies.”

Without po! inting to! any specific factual errors, Mr. Morsi claimed that the Spiegel article was inaccurate and reiterated that he was “not against Judaism or Jews,” but reserved the right to criticize Zionism in the strongest terms.

Mr. Morsi was also met in Berlin by protesters who objected to his government’s continued use of tear gas and bullets against demonstrators.