CAIRO — Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood staged an anti-Israel rally in Cairo on Friday, the first such protest by the main backers of President Mohammed Morsi since they rose to prominence in the wake of the country’s 2011 uprising.
Emerging from weekly services at Al-Azhar mosque — the centuries-old seat of Sunni Muslim learning — demonstrators chanted ‘‘the people want the destruction of Israel’’ in protest of recent Israeli airstrikes in Syria and the detention of a Palestinian Muslim cleric. At one point, leading Brotherhood member Mohammed el-Beltagy shouted: ‘‘We will repeat it over and over, Israel is our enemy.’’ Others echoed the call, and one organizer whipped up the crowd in a chant urging the army to launch a war against Israel to ‘‘liberate Palestine . . . from the sons of monkeys and pigs.’’
Since the revolt that deposed Hosni Mubarak, the Brotherhood has largely avoided showing enmity to the West or Israel. Morsi himself has repeatedly stressed commitment to Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel, and won US praise by brokering a cease-fire between Palestinian Hamas militants and the Jewish state. But both the Islamist president and his group have had a hard time melding their longtime anti-Jewish stance with new responsibilities since coming to power.