Anti-Semitic remarks that President Mohamed Morsi of Egypt made in 2010 have come back to haunt him, raising doubts about his efforts to present himself as a moderate.
Since beginning his campaign for president, Mr. Morsi has promised to uphold Egypt’s treaty with Israel and to seek peace in the region. In recent months, he has begun to forge a personal bond with President Obama around their successful efforts to broker a truce between Israel and Palestinian militants of the Gaza Strip.
But the exposure this month of his virulent comments from early 2010, both documented on video, have revealed sharp anti-Semitic and anti-Western sentiments, raising questions about Mr. Morsi’s efforts to present himself as a force for moderation and stability. Instead, the disclosures have strengthened the position of those who say Israel’s Arab neighbors are unwilling to commit to peace with the Jewish state.
Representatives of Mr. Morsi have declined repeated requests over more than three days for comment on his remarks. One reason may be that the re-emergence of his previous statements has now trapped him in a political bind. While his past comments may be a liability abroad, he faces a political culture at home in which such defamation of Jews is almost standard stump discourse. Any attempt to retract, or even clarify, his slurs would expose him to political attacks by opponents who already accuse him of softness toward the United States and Israel.
Signs asserting Mr. Morsi works for Mr. Obama are already common at street protests. Perhaps “the Muslim Brotherhood is so desperate for U.S. support that it is willing to bend over backwards to humor the Israelis,” Emad Gad, a leader of the Social Democratic Party, suggested in a recent column.