Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan stepped up his anti-Semitic rhetoric this week, just days before Sunday’s presidential election that he is expected to win handily.
Turkey’s leadership, especially Erdogan, employs the “manipulative, populist tactic of insulting the Jews” before each election, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzachi Hanegbi told Israel Radio on Monday.
In a country where the voters are Muslim, those with the more anti-Semitic “insights” get ahead, he said.
Israel is remaining calm in the face of these anti-Semitic comments, because any response would only be used by Erdogan as further ammunition in his election campaign, he said.
For instance, at a massive election rally in Istanbul on Sunday, Erdogan turned around a demand by the American Jewish Congress to return a 2004 prize it gave him to use it as a springboard for his most recent tirade.
“The American Jewish Association threatens me in their letter,” he said. “I will reply to their letter separately, but I want to call on them from here: They are killing women to stop them for giving birth to Palestinian babies; they kill babies so that they won’t grow up; they kill men so they can’t defend their country.”
Israel “will drown in the blood they shed, there is no such thing as eternal tyranny,” he said. “One day they will pay for their tyranny. We are waiting impatiently to see the day of justice, I believe wholeheartedly that justice will be served.”
“Just like Hitler, who sought to establish a race free of all faults, Israel is chasing after the same target,” Erdogan told the sea of cheering supporters at an Istanbul arena.
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who met with Erdogan while she was foreign minister in the late 2000s, was asked on Army Radio whether she thought he was “born an anti-Semite” or just turns into one close to election time.
Diplomatically side-stepping the question directly, she said that it was always clear to her that Erdogan was animated by a “deep, Islamic ideology,” and that his political party was part of the “wider Muslim Brotherhood family” that includes Hamas.
Marvin Hier, the founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, called Erdogan “the Joseph Goebbels of our time,” and said “the time has come for world leaders to say that he has now crossed a line, and has crossed a line into the area of anti-Semitism and the world won’t tolerate it.”
The main opposition candidate running against Erdogan, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, also accused Erdogan of populist rhetoric.
“I think the foreign policy issues are used in domestic politics to rally people, but it creates problems and pushes governments into corners,” Ihsanoglu said.
Kurdish candidate Selahattin Demirtas, running a distant third in the polls, urged Erdogan on Sunday to cut economic and military ties with Israel instead of “screaming and shouting.”
“Forget the shouting... If you want to provide help to the Palestinian people, stop fooling the people. With a serious boycott, let’s all together stop the Israeli state’s policies of massacres,” he said at a rally in Istanbul.
Reuters contributed to this report.