Why Egyptian hate speech, and ‘NYT’ reporting on it, matter
Imagine if the 'New York Times' adequately held Palestinian leaders to account, as it did with the Egyptians.
Egypt's Morsi in CNN interview, January 7, 2013 Photo: Screenshot
Would it be a problem if a society, following the encouragement its leaders,
nursed millions of children on hatred for a religious group? Would it matter if
a people was taught that bigotry is a form of worshiping God? Few would deny
that such incitement does matter, as it would have a dangerous impact on both
those encouraged to hate and on the targets of that hatred.
So it is
important that The New York Times reported Tuesday on Mohammed Morsi’s chilling
2010 entreaty to Egyptians: “We must never forget, brothers, to nurse our
children and grandchildren on hatred for them: for Zionists, for Jews.” The
children of Egypt, Morsi said, shortly before anti-regime protests swept him to
the presidency, must “feed on hatred.... The hatred must go on for God and as a
form of worshiping him.” In a separate speech, brought to light in recent
days by MEMRI, Morsi evoked the anti-Semitic slur casting Jews as “the descendants
of apes and pigs.”
It is important that Times correspondent David Kirkpatrick
wrote about this because such rhetoric serves as potent fuel that can overwhelm
– for generations to come – attempts to extinguish the Arab-Israeli conflict,
along with the suffering and bloodshed it causes.
And it is important
because the Times has all too often ignored, at the expense of reader
understanding of the conflict’s complexities, the ongoing phenomenon of
anti-Jewish and anti-Israel indoctrination in Palestinian society and in the
wider Arab world.
Indeed, readers have too often been presented with a
picture of Arab leaders simply responding to the public’s hostile attitudes,
leaving them unaware that it is those same leaders who have actively engendered
anti- Semitism and anti-Israelism.
Egypt’s rulers, the Times has
explained in story after story, have long had to contend with “popular
resentment of Israel over its treatment of the Palestinians,” or “the Egyptian
public’s overwhelming anger at Israel over the issue of the Palestinians,” and
“anti-Israeli sentiments on the street.” And the country’s current president,
the newspaper has likewise repeated, faces the same challenge: “As Egypt’s first
democratically elected president, Mr. Morsi must respond to a public deeply
angry at Israel and eager to rally behind the Palestinians.”
newspaper has claimed, puts Morsi “in a...bind.”
UNTIL NOW, the
Times has left little doubt about the cause of the anger. “The overwhelming
feeling here,” Kirkpatrick once explained to readers, “is that Israel has failed
to live up to its end of the Camp David Accords leading to the peace treaty
because it has not recognized a Palestinian state and instead allows settlements
to continue on territory envisioned as part of that state.”
between Palestinians and Israelis certainly plays a significant role in shaping
hostile Egyptian attitudes.
But as Kirkpatrick’s latest article makes
clear, anti- Jewish indoctrination also influences attitudes and cultivates
prejudices, as relentless propaganda is bound to do.
Yes, Morsi must
“respond” to public anger, as the Times has reported. But that is in large part
because the public has itself responded to Morsi’s glorification of hatred, and
similar demonization by other Arab leaders.
If those leaders find
themselves in a corner, it is a corner in which they have painted themselves by
bombarding the people with stereotypes that long precede the Arab-Israeli
If it is important to understand that Egyptian hostility is not
solely about Israel but is also about Egypt, and not merely about the Jewish
state’s actions but also about its Jewishness, it is all the more important to
realize that this dynamic plays a key role in the conflict between the
Palestinians and the Israelis.
Palestinians deny Israel’s legitimacy not
because it is illegitimate, but because they are taught that the Jews have no
connection to Zion and told that the idea of two states for two peoples should
never be accepted.
They strap bombs on themselves not merely as a
reaction to perceived Israeli transgressions, but also in reaction to explicit
calls to violence by Palestinian leaders, to clear messages that those who kill
civilians are heroes, and to repeated rhetoric no less vile than what we have
heard from Morsi.
Palestinian leaders have repeatedly rejected peace
plans, not because those plans would not have led to an independent Palestinian
state – they would have – but in part because those leaders have raised the
masses on the idea that the so-called right of return, widely seen as a way to
demographically destroy Israel, is holy, and that Tel Aviv, Haifa and other
Israeli cities are actually Palestinian cities in need of liberation.
TIMES must educate readers about the malevolent role played by delegitimization,
demonization and incitement to violence, not only by Hamas but also by Mahmoud
Abbas’s Palestinian Authority.
It matters not only because readers
deserve to know the whole story about why the Palestinian-Israeli conflict
continues, but also because coverage that looks frankly at these realities can
make a positive difference.
Consider what happened with Morsi’s
First, MEMRI translated the speech and brought it to light. Then Richard Behar at Forbes called out American press for largely (though not entirely) ignoring the revelation, citing CAMERA’s monograph critiquing New York Times coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg referenced the
Forbes story when asking why Morsi’s anti-Semitic formulation had not been
covered more widely. And then the Times piece, which asserts that the story was
in progress for several days, appeared.
And from the front page of the
Times, it spread like wildfire: To the White House, where a spokesman termed the
comments “offensive” and “unacceptable”; to the State Department, where a
spokeswoman explained that the rhetoric ran “counter to the goals of peace”; to
an editorial in the Los Angeles Times, which reminded readers that “Slurs and
stereotypes about Jews aren’t confined to a political fringe in Egypt and other
Arab societies,” but are also found “in newspaper columns, in political
cartoons, in children’s textbooks and in the discourse of many educated elites”;
to an editorial in the New York Times, which asserted that “Teaching children to
hate and dehumanizing one’s adversaries is just the kind of twisted mentality
that fuels the conflicts that torment the region.”
And with such
heavyweights condemning the rhetoric, the message was heard loudly and clearly
in Egypt, where a presidential spokesman was forced to address the scandal. If
Morsi had any thoughts of repeating his anti-Jewish attacks, those thoughts are
Because despite his call in the 2010 video for a boycott
of the United States (an interesting quote that was left out of Kirkpatrick’s
report), he and his country continue to rely on American aid.
the New York Times adequately held Palestinian leaders to account, as it did
with the Egyptians.
Might the Palestinian Authority – never mind Hamas –
rethink its practice of celebrating terrorists in West Bank summer camps? Might
they cease broadcasts on state-run television celebrating the turning of
“heartbeats into bombs,” announcing that “with our rifle we will impose our new
life,” and describing Jews praying at the Western Wall as “sin and filth”?
Unless the New York Times begins to treat not only Egyptian hate speech but also
Palestinian incitement with the seriousness it deserves, we will never
The writer is a senior research analyst at CAMERA, the Committee
for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America.