Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Thursday in remarks immediately slammed by Israel as “malicious and extremist” rhetoric not befitting the leader of a NATO country, that Israel’s “barbaric” attack on al-Aksa was an attack on Turkey.
According to a report Thursday in Today’s Zaman, Erdogan, during a speech in Algeria to Turkish and Algerian businessmen, said “Israel’s barbaric attack on al-Aksa Mosque is tantamount to an attack on Turkey and Algeria because al-Aksa Mosque belongs to all of us.”
Erdogan is well known for his strident and extreme anti-Israel rhetoric.
One government official said Israel has been facing “a malicious campaign of slander concerning a so-called threat to al-Aksa. This campaign has been led by Islamist extremists who claim there is a Jewish threat to al-Aksa. This is baseless and ridiculous, it is slander that has no relationship to the truth whatsoever.”
The official said Jerusalem was disturbed when Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and the PA “echoed these baseless charges” and Abbas said Jews were “contaminating” the Temple Mount.
“We are equally troubled when we hear this sort of thing from a leader of a NATO country,” the official added. “Ultimately this sort of extremist and malicious rhetoric is what one expects to hear from Tehran and Damascus, not from a NATO capital.”
In a similar vein to Erdogan, a top Turkish official rejected the wishes of a provincial governor whose anger at Israel led him to call for turning a local synagogue into a museum.
The governor of the northwestern province of Edirne, close to the border with Greece and Bulgaria, Dursun Sahin, told reporters on Friday that because of the recent Israeli “raid” on al-Aksa Mosque in Jerusalem, he ordered the historical Buyuk Synagogue, built in 1907, to be turned into a museum, the Turkish Hurriyet Daily News reported.
“When those bandits blow winds of war inside al-Aksa and slay Muslims, we build their synagogues,” Sahin said.
“I say this with huge hatred inside me. We clean their graveyards, send their projects to boards. The synagogue here will be registered only as a museum, and there will be no exhibition inside it.”
However, Foundations director-general Adnan Ertem told Turkey’s Anadolu Agency on Saturday, “All decisions regarding the functions of the buildings owned by the directorate- general of Foundations is taken by the directorate,” Hurriyet reported.
“Our intention is to keep that building as a house of worship to serve all visitors,” he said.
Ertem added that the building has been undergoing restoration since 2010 at a cost of 3.7 million Turkish Liras (approximately $1.7m.). The restoration of the building is almost finished.
“All visitors should be able to easily pray there... at the biggest synagogue in Europe – that is our intention” he said, according to the report.
The Jewish community in the country has applied to the governor’s office to carry out religious services and weddings at the synagogue.
Aykan Erdemir, from the opposition Republican People’s Party called on the governor to resign, arguing that “hatred and anti-Semitism grabbed the state.”
“If Sahin will not resign to save the dignity of his post and Turkey’s honor, he should be removed from his post immediately,” he said.