President Mohamed Morsy has said his remarks about Jews and Zionists, made in 2010, were “taken out of context,” in response to criticism from the White House and American state department.
Presidential spokesperson Yasser Ali said: “The president affirmed that his remarks were regarding the Israeli aggression on Palestinians in Gaza and emphasised that statements must be put into context.”
The White House and United States Department of State both released statements condemning Morsy’s three-year-old remarks regarding Jews and Zionists late Tuesday night.
But American officials fell short of demanding an apology from Morsy and said that since becoming president he had been fully committed to the peace process and proven willing to cooperate with Israel.
Ali said: “The president reiterated his view that the basic principles of full respect to religions and freedom of belief must be fully adhered to, especially now that the Egyptian people have adopted a new constitution that grants adherents of heavenly [Abrahamic] religions full citizenship rights and the right to adhere to their religious laws in personal matters.”
He added that Morsy said there was a need to separate between the Jewish faith and its adherents and the aggression innocent Palestinians face against their lives and property.
“The president also emphasised the need to build strong strategic relations between Egypt and the United States,” Ali added.
White House press secretary Jay Carney called on Morsy to “make clear this kind of rhetoric is not acceptable or productive in a democratic Egypt.” He added that the US had “raised concerns over these remarks with the government of Egypt.”
Morsy had urged Egyptians to “nurse their children with hatred” for Jews and Zionists in 2010 as a prominent Muslim Brotherhood figure. He also condemned the United States, France and Europe for supporting Zionism.
Carney said: “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 Morsy should make clear that he respects people of all faiths.”
State department spokesperson Victoria Nuland also came out against the president’s statements: “We completely reject these statements as we do any language that espouses religious hatred,” she said.
She added that the six-member US Senate delegation currently visiting Egypt would inform Morsy of their view on the issue.
Both the White House and state department said that Morsy had been committed to the peace process ever since his presidency, and neither called on him to apologise but merely to “make his comments clear.”
Nuland said: “We will judge him by what he does. What he has been doing is supporting that peace treaty, continuing to work with us, and with Israel on common goals, including in Gaza. But we’ll also judge him by what he says. And we think that these comments should be repudiated and they should be repudiated firmly.”