Why did it take The New York Times, CNN, and other top media outlets more than a week to report on Egyptian President Morsi’s 2010 rants against Jews and Zionists?
As Richard Behar notes in Forbes, The Jerusalem Post first reported Jan. 4 on a recently translated video in which Morsi calls Jews “the descendants of apes and pigs” and warns that Jews “have been fanning the flames of civil strife wherever they were throughout history. They are hostile by nature.” Yet it wasn’t until Jan. 14 that the story leapt from Jewish and conservative websites to the pages of the Times. According to Behar, the Times “does seem to avoid covering Islamist incitement against Jews (and Christians) like the plagues.”
It’s not just the Times. Many media outlets have yet to catch up with the changing narrative in Egypt. Still hoping that the promises of the Arab Spring will be realized, they too often downplay facts and developments that muddy the march from dictatorship to “democracy.” And in a rather condescending way, they tend to dismiss Muslim incitement against Jews and Israel as a sort of political ritual, as opposed to deep-seated hatred.
But sometimes the road to progress is muddy, as can be seen in Israel’s reactions to Morsi’s odious comments. Asked by Behar what he made of the remarks, Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, said the following: “These comments were alarming, intolerant, and cause for serious concern. Still, we want to distinguish between what they say and what they do. We expect people to act in a responsible and accountable way. That Morsi and his government today played a constructive role in reaching a ceasefire [with Hamas in November], that’s more important — because it actually saved lives.”
In other words, Israel is choosing realpolitik over outrage, judging Morsi on his present actions over his past words. It’s a risky move, but that’s diplomacy. As for the media, there’s no excuse for white-washing reality, or ignoring inconvenient facts.