WASHINGTON (Jan. 24)
The State Department today refused to condemn the Egyptian news media for anti-Semitic remarks that drew the fire of Israeli Premier Menachem Begin for creating “hatred and incitement to haired against the Jewish people.”
Publicly, the State Department expressed “hope” that “the public exchange of views is behind us” and that both sides would “follow the spirit” of Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat Privately, however, U.S. officials tended to belittle Egyptian media remarks, saying they saw no organized anti-Semitic campaign.
Important segments of the U.S. news media seemingly trying to soft-peddle the matter, described the Egyptians as Semites, too. Anti-Semitic statements in the major Cairo media included the expression in the authoritative Al Ahram that “The Jews will bargain with the Angel of Death.” Other media compared Begin to “Shylock the usurer who wanted a pound of flesh from his debtor” and said Begin should “thank God that he was not beaten up by members of the Egyptian delegation at Ismailia” where the Israeli leader met with Sadat on Christmas day.
CONFIRMATION OF U.S. ROLE SOUGHT
Bringing up the matter at the State Department briefing today, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency asked spokesman Hodding Carter for confirmation of a press report that U.S. officials had said they raised the matter of anti-Semitism with Egyptian officials when Secretary of State Cyrus Vance was in Cairo Friday and that the Egyptians had expressed unhappiness with an article by an important Egyptian commentator comparing Begin to Shylock.
Carter replied that he could nor be aware of all State Department officials who talked to reporters but his view was that the matter “falls into the general rubric that was repeated last night.” He was referring to a White House statement issued after Vance had met with President Carter to discuss the Middle East situation.
The statement said, “The President and the Secretary of State expressed the hope that the public exchanges of recent days are now behind us and that every effort will be made to recapture the spirit that followed the recent meetings” between Begin and Sadat and “to turn full attention to the substance of negotiations.”
Noting that the Egyptian media had continued their attacks after the Ismailia meeting a month ago, the JTA asked the State Department to provide its definition of anti-Semitism and a statement that would identify the American officials and Egyptian officials who had talked about the matter.
Later, a high State Department official told the JTA that anti-Semitism is ” morally repugnant” to the Department but he did not think a statement would be issued, indicating that the delicacy of the negotiating situation precluded a U.S. public assessment of blame on either side.
Vance today briefed the House International Relations Committee on the Egyptian-Israeli situation and called again for quiet diplomacy between the two sides. “It is our hope that these talks can be resumed in the not too distant future,” Vance told reporters outside of the closed hearing. He described Israeli Defense Minister Ezer Weizman’s decision to postpone his trip to Washington as a “positive step” that indicated that the Israeli government may soon resume the military talks with Egypt in Cairo.