Egypt leader demands US aid, censorship, plus end to Israel ‘occupation’

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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Egypt’s new Islamist President Mohammed Morsi on Wednesday used his first speech at the United Nations to demand curbs on Western free speech rights and “an end to all forms of occupation of Arab lands.”

Morsi also used his U.S. speech to push his revolutionary mix of Islamic and progressive demands that all Middle Eastern nations, presumably including Israel and Iran, be stripped of their nuclear weapons; that other countries bring down Syria’s government; that UN countries establish a “new global economic governance”; and that Western countries continue to transfer aid and technology to Egypt’s government and poverty-stricken population.

Much of his emphasis was on the establishment of a Palestinian state. “My duty [is] to support our Palestinian brothers and sisters … [by] putting an end to all forms of occupation of Arab lands,” he said in the speech.

“I call for immediate, serious movement, as of now, to put an end to colonization, occupation and settlements and the alteration in the identity of occupied Jerusalem,” he said, not specifying whether he considered all of Israel, or only the West Bank, to be occupied territory.

According to Islamist ideas championed by Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, all territory conquered by Islamic armies since the 630s is considered Islamic in perpetuity. In his speech, Morsi called for a Palestinian state, but did not mention Israel, or suggest that Jews could have a government in the region.

So far, with Egypt still dependent on outside aid, Morsi has not moved to formally cancel Egypt’s 1979 peace treaty with Israel, despite periodic popular and political pressure.

He also criticized the principle of a preemptive strike, which Israel is said to be considering against Iran’s nuclear facilities.

The speech, which was aimed at Arabs and Egypt’s domestic audience of 82 million citizens, as well as Europeans and American progressives, marks the emergence of the revolutionary Muslim Brotherhood onto the international stage, after 84 years of proselytizing and recruiting.

Morsi’s demands, which were delivered in both Islamic and politically progressive idiom, came only two months after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared that Egypt’s military should end pressure on Egypt’s Islamist government.

“The United States supports the full transition to civilian rule with all that entails,” Clinton said in a public meeting with Morsi in July.

Since July, Morsi has cemented his power by replacing the military’s top generals with his own appointees.

In a Sept. 23 article in The New York Times, Morsi complimented Obama for “decisively and quickly” supporting Egypt’s Islamist and smaller secular parties.

However, Obama has distanced himself from Morsi. On Sept. 11, for example, Morsi’s government did little to stop a pro-jihad group of protesters from entering the U.S. Embassy and burning its American flag.

In July, White House officials said they planned a joint meeting of Morsi and Obama. In recent weeks, officials canceled it as the U.S. election drew closer.

Morsi began his speech with Islamic invocations.

“In the name of Allah, the compassionate, the merciful … [and of] the prophet whom we love and follow. … We stand opposed to those who oppose him and his way,” he said.

He called for “a new global economic governance,” an international arms control treaty to strip Middle Eastern nations of nuclear weapons and for curbs on free speech by Americans and Europeans.

That demand for free speech curbs began with Islamic claims.

“What Muslims and [Muslim] migrants are going through in a number of countries, in a certain number of regions of the world, in terms of discrimination and violation of their human rights and vicious campaigns against what they hold sacred, is unacceptable,” he declared.

Morsi’s demands were focused on the little-seen YouTube video that has been repeatedly cited by Obama as the cause of recent jihad attacks in Cairo and Libya. On Sept. 23, for example, Obama used his UN speech to criticize the video and to declare that “the future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.”

Morsi used Islamist terms to echo Obama’s comments. “The behavior by some individuals, and the insults hurled on the prophet of Islam, Muhammad, is rejected. We reject this. We cannot accept it,” Morsi said.

He said the video was part of an “organized campaign against Islamic sanctities.”

But he then switched to progressive terms.

Criticism of Islam “runs against the most basic principles of the organization where we meet today … [and is] ‘Islamophobia,'” he said. “We must join hands in counting these regressive ideas,” said Morsi.

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