Forward Thinking

Morsi's Words and Deeds

By Jane Eisner

  • Print
  • Share Share
getty images
Michael Oren

The insulting remarks about Jews made by Mohamed Morsi in 2010 have been replayed enough that they don’t need to be repeated here. Morsi was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood then, and probably never thought he’d become president of Egypt in just a few years. That may explain his remarks. It doesn’t excuse them.

Beyond lamentation and condemnation, how else should good people respond?

When asking myself that question, I thought back to the Forward’s January 9 meeting with Michael Oren, the Israeli ambassador to the United States. Most of our discussion was off-the-record (his request, not ours), but I thought it was interesting that at only one point during the hour-long talk did he specifically say we could quote him. Oren is a very adept diplomat, an articulate, American-born historian with a command of language and nuance. He knows how to talk to the press. He wouldn’t go on-the-record unless he meant to.

And so he clearly wanted to get across a message about Morsi.

The context was the issue of American aid to Egypt, and the fact that the Obama and Netanyahu administrations are arguing that it should continue, even in the face of Congressional opposition and, of course, tremendous upheaval and uncertainty in Egypt. (Note to those continually looking for conflict between D.C. and Jerusalem: on this topic, they agree.) Oren said he was aware of Morsi’s prior critical remarks about Israel and the West, but the ambassador also pointed to the Egyptian president’s constructive role in ending the latest Gaza conflict and in maintaining the treaty with Israel.

“Distinguish between what he says and what he does,” Oren told us. “And that’s on the record!”

Now, this conversation took place before the 2010 video was unearthed with Morsi calling Jews all sorts of disgusting names. In that light, Oren’s admonition might have changed and his support for Morsi softened or withdrawn.

But this exchange raised an interesting dilemma: How should we react when partisan ranting gives way to diplomatic action? How do we balance words and deeds? And how can we be consistent? Is it fair to shrug off Morsi’s rant and not, say, the offensive words of an Avigdor Lieberman?

Clearly, the U.S. and Israel have much to gain by continued contact with Morsi — Sen. John McCain, who hardly plays the wimp in this arena, is scheduled to meet the Egyptian president today in Cairo. The more difficult challenge is to weigh words and deeds, to follow Oren’s suggestion while working to change the perception that it’s okay for a leader to slander Jews no matter what else he does.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: mohammed morsi, michael oren, israel, egypt

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • Why did David Menachem Gordon join the IDF? In his own words: "The Israel Defense Forces is an army that fights for her nation’s survival and the absence of its warriors equals destruction from numerous regional foes. America is not quite under the threat of total annihilation… Simply put, I felt I was needed more in Israel than in the United States."
  • Leonard Fein's most enduring legacy may be his rejection of dualism: the idea that Jews must choose between assertiveness and compassion, between tribalism and universalism. Steven M. Cohen remembers a great Jewish progressive:
  • BREAKING: Missing lone soldier David Menachem Gordon has been found dead in central Israel. The Ohio native was 21 years old.
  • “They think they can slap on an Amish hat and a long black robe, and they’ve created a Hasid." What do you think of Hollywood's portrayal of Hasidic Jews?
  • “I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. I didn’t think I would have to do it when I was 90.” Hedy Epstein fled Nazi Germany in 1933 on a Kinderstransport.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.