WASHINGTON (JTA) — U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand upbraided Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi for anti-Semitic comments he made three years ago that recently came to light.
"The reports that have recently come to light of President Morsi’s offensive remarks towards Israel and the Jewish people are troublesome and deeply disturbing," Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said in a release describing a meeting between a bipartisan Senate delegation and Morsi on Wednesday in Cairo. "I was very specific and direct with President Morsi deploring these comments, in addition to addressing Egypt’s relationship with Israel and Egyptian women’s rights. I will continue to follow these issues closely."
The release did not record Morsi’s response.
Video from 2010 emerging recently shows Morsi, then a leader of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood during the reign of President Hosni Mubarak, calling Jews "bloodsuckers" and the descendants of "apes and pigs."
Mubarak was overthrown in 2011 and Morsi was elected last June. Since then he has preserved the peace treaty with Israel, helping to broker last month’s cease-fire ending Israel’s war with Hamas.
Morsi’s spokesman told the Associated Press Wednesday following the senators’ visit that his words were taken out of context and that he was criticizing Israeli policies, not Jews.
"President Morsi assured the delegation that the broadcast comments were taken out of an address against the Israeli aggression against Gaza," Morsi spokesman Yasser Ali said. "He also assured them of his respect for monolithic religions, freedom of belief and practicing religions."
Gillibrand said her delegation also addressed the issue of quiet on Israel’s southern border.
"Of primary interest to us is Egypt’s relationship with our country, as well as Israel, and its role in ensuring regional stability and addressing terrorism," Gillibrand said in her statement on the meeting.
The lawmakers’ delegation also included Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Christopher Coons (D-Del.) and John Hoeven (R-N.D.).
"We have asked President Morsi and Defense Minister [Abdel Fatah] Elsisy to increase efforts to stop arms smuggling in the Sinai — this is in Egypt’s interest, as well as the broader region," the Gillibrand statement said.