Appearing yesterday on the CBC news program “Power and Politics” anchored by Evan Solomon, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird condemned Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi’s 2010 comments likening Jews to “apes and pigs”. See video and transcript below:
Evan Solomon: A disturbing video emerged on Monday of the Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi, from 2010, and do we have the clip to this video? He referred to Zionists as ‘blood suckers who attack Palestinians’, these ‘warmongers’, ‘descendants of apes and pigs.’ Now, this is from 2010. What is the government’s reaction when you hear President Morsi say things like this?
Hon. John Baird: I think whenever you see anything resembling that type of anti-Semitic rant it causes us all deep concern. Those remarks were absolutely abhorrent, and obviously the Government of Canada condemns any such remarks.
Evan Solomon: All right. Does that affect Canadian-Egyptian relations?
Hon. John Baird: Well, listen, we condemn them in the strongest terms.
Evan Solomon: Do you talk to the Egyptian ambassador about that?
Hon. John Baird: We’ve just seen this in the last 24 hours.
Baird’s comments echoed a White House condemnation of Mursi’s remarks which were first made available by MEMRI (Middle East Media Research Institute) which translated the interview. Israeli and Jewish media outlets like the Jerusalem Post, Times of Israel and the Canadian Jewish News covered the story, but it wasn’t until Forbes magazine journalist Richard Behar had called out the mainstream media for ignoring this important story, that international news outlets like the New York Times, took notice and reported on the story. After all, Mursi’s statements and rejection of the negotiating process to resolve the Mideast conflict were certainly newsworthy considering that he’s the Muslim Brotherhood leader of the Arab world’s most powerful and influential country, which, outside of Jordan, is the only country in the region to have made peace with Israel, and which is supposed to play a pivotal role in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Commenting on the peculiar phenomenon of media silence that greets expressions of anti-Semitism in the Arab world, a matter which we have often lamented, Richard Behar commented:
“Readers who care about these matters must now hope that the interplay between Washington officials and the White House press corps will reverberate into far better coverage than they’ve seen in the past. Time will tell. For now, those who want to track the trajectory of how we got to this place since the new year began — how the topic materialized, vanished and then re-materialized — may learn something about how the traditional press operates.
The story began on January 4th, when a highly-regarded U.S organization called the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) released a video of Morsi’s rants widely to the global media, and posted it on YouTube. The Jerusalem Post deserves the ‘hat-tip’ [not the New York Times, as AP reported today] for being the first sizable English-language media outlet to break the ground on it. JPost made it the lead story on its homepage that same day, followed shortly thereafter by The Times of Israel (no relation to the NYT). The Cairo and Jerusalem bureaus of the biggest U.S. media outlets were unlikely to have missed it. And yet the news only found its way back to America by getting picked up in Jewish and/or conservative forums.
But what should have been an obvious pickup for major media was missed or ignored – for reasons that remain unclear and perhaps complex, and that warrant some good case studies by journalism school professors in the weeks or years ahead.
CNN’s Wolf Blitzer missed it, despite being in Cairo on Jan 6th for what was billed as an exclusive one-hour interview with Morsi — which he followed with a one-hour special report on Saturday, the 12th. The New York Times said nary a word. Nor AP or Reuters. Not ABC News or NBC News either. Not Time magazine or even the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, or USA Today. Ad infinitum. Pack journalism — Mideast-style — just didn’t seem to have interest in lower animals being used by Morsi to explain Jewish people.”
In Canada, CBC News described Mursi’s comments as “disturbing” and “inflammatory” with Power and Politics host Evan Solomon remarking that Mursi’s statements represent a “classic old slur”. The January 15 broadcast of the program saw guests Janice Gross Stein, Director of the Munk School of Global Affairs and Paul Heinbecker, fellow with The Centre for International Governance Innovation and former Canadian ambassador to the UN, analyze Mursi’s 2010 comments. Both described them as “shocking” with Stein saying they were an inexcusable “anti-Semitic trope”, while Heinbecker opined that as a result of these comments, Mursi doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt from the international community.
With respect to Canadian commentary, the Globe and Mail produced an editorial on January 16 acknowledging Israeli trepidation about Morsi while calling on the Egyptian president to renounce his anti-Semitic comments:
“It will now be impossible for Israelis to believe he is sincere when he says is a partner in the peace process, and the Obama Administration will have a difficult time selling him as a trustworthy ally.
In the name of the stability and moderation Mr. Morsi has claimed to represent in Egypt, he needs to renounce his ugly statements and reinforce his commitment to peace. As the first elected Islamist leader of Egypt, he needs to demonstrate that the West and Israel can trust him. It will be next to impossible to do, though. His statements are relatively fresh, not the ramblings of a young man in the street”.
An Ottawa Citizen editorial on January 17, which represents the official viewpoint of the newspaper, called Morsi two-faced. The Citizen wrote:
“No surprise, the video’s contents have sparked consternation. The Obama administration admonished Morsi for his “deeply offensive” remarks and called on him to repudiate them. The Egyptian government, no surprise, says the president’s comments were taken out of context.
It’s hard to see what “context” would make such vitriol acceptable anywhere, except, of course, in the Arab world. That’s the problem. Morsi is not the first Arab leader to say one thing for domestic consumption, while talking good intentions on the international stage. Yasser Arafat, the late Palestinian leader, was also a master of deception.
The Morsi video may predate the Arab Spring and his own rise to power, but the fact that it was broadcast last week on Egyptian television suggests at least tacit endorsement by his government. Which, in turn, suggests the old hatreds — hatreds that lead to war — are deliberately being stirred up again.”
As to reportage, the Globe and Mail notes that the Egyptian Islamist president is now trying to defuse tensions with Washington in light of his abhorrent remarks telling visiting U.S. senators that his “comments were a denunciation of Israeli policies” and that his statements were taken “out of context”. The Globe is also hosting MEMRI’s video on its website. The National Post, Canada’s other national newspaper, gave prominent coverage to the issue in back-to-back editions and on its Full Comment blog. Other media outlets like the Montreal Gazette (see here and here), Regina Leader Post, and Vancouver Province, have given some online coverage and the Vancouver Sun and Winnipeg Free Press have featured short wire briefs.
This story continues to have legs as MEMRI just unearthed another video showing Morsi, also in 2010, calling on Egyptians to “nurse (their) children on hatred towards Jews”.
Regrettably, the broader mainstream media in both English and French Canada, have not taken notice and reported on Mursi’s incendiary anti-Semitic comments, perhaps due to what Arnold Ages, Distinguished Emeritus Professor at the University of Waterloo has described in a recent Jewish Tribune column as the “soft bigotry of low expectations”. According to Ages, major news outlets view Arab world countries as “being incapable of measuring up to the high expectations of international morality” where an absence of media judgment and condemnation “can only be explained by the perception, in the western media, that one cannot really expect Arab nations to embrace the idea of the sanctity of life.”
HonestReporting Canada encourages you to call on your local news outlet to report on Mursi’s abhorrent anti-Semitic statements. Help ensure that the soft bigotry of low expectations doesn’t persist in Canada’s media. For full media contact information please click here.