A delegation representing an influential Turkish sheikh arrived Monday in Israel to meet with Interior Minister Eli Yishai, Army Radio reported.
They offered to open dialogue between religious channels in order to resolve the dispute between the two countries.
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The Turkish envoys arrived in Jerusalem on behalf of Sheikh Adnan Oktar, who is considered close to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, but is currently banned from leaving the country due to an ongoing trial. Accompanied by the Jewish community rabbi in Turkey, Abraham Haim, they met with Yishai, seeking to resume political dialogue between the two countries through interreligious channels that bypass other divisions.
The emissaries even invited Yishai to visit Turkey. Army Radio reported that Yishai did not reply negatively to the request, but said that he supports discourse with Turkey and appreciates the strategic alliance and bilateral cooperation.
Yishai voiced support for the IDF soldiers that boarded the Mavi Marmara
ship last year, and said that in internal discussions he had objected to apologizing to the Turks. He said that he had also inquired whether he would be asked to apologize on behalf of the Israeli government during his potential visit to Ankara.
Yishai’s office added “The interior minister attaches importance to relations with Turkey while upholding Israeli principles. If Yishai did visit Turkey, he would do it in coordination with the prime minister and other relevant elements.”
The representatives, Dr.Cihat Gundogdu and Dr.Oktar Babuna, told The Jerusalem Post
in an interview that the Mavi Marmara
incident was indeed the most serious source behind the current friction between Israel and Turkey and that the best way to defuse the tension would be for Israel to apologize to Turkey and provide compensation for the victims’ families.
“A gesture of warm relations from Israel would generate a very good picture of Israel around the world and would not damage Israel in any way,” they said, having conveyed the same message to Yishai and Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin in meetings on Monday.
In the meantime, Erdogan continued to attack Israel, and said Monday that the Turkish Navy “is ready for the worst case scenario.”
In an interview with an Egyptian newspaper, Erdogan said that the Palmer Report was “worthless,” and noted that the publisher was not objective.
“Our short term goals are to help alleviate the current tension between our two countries,” Babuna said.
“We need to show that there is no real conflict between our two peoples. Jews have a right to live in Israel because they are descendants of the prophets. Muslim and Jews believe in the same God and love the same prophets. It says in the Koran that Allah settled the Jews in the homeland and that Jews, Muslims and Christians should live together in peace in the Holy Land so we are here to spread this message of peace, security, justice tolerance and democracy.”
More broadly, and rather grandiosely, Oktar’s movement Harun Yahya (a name by which he is also known), advocates what it calls a Turkish Islamic union and envisages a wide regional forum comprised of all Middle Eastern states to promote “economic, spiritual and political cooperation.”
The organization is explicitly religious, although emphasizes that freedom of religion is a closely-held tenet, and has been most active in denouncing evolution and promoting creationism.
Noted British biologist and atheist Richard Dawkins comes under particular heavy fire from the group and seems to be a particular antagonist of Mr. Okatar, who claims that Darwinism is scientifically wrong.
“It is impossible for a protein to be produced by chance,” says Babuna, a neurosurgeon, according to his business card. “Darwinism isn’t science, that’s the bottom line because a complete living cell must exist to produce proteins, it requires enzymes, DNA and various other cell organelles.
“Instead of believing in God, Dawkins believes in aliens having seeded
life on Earth, while also failing to explain how those aliens could have
come about as well.”
Darwinism, Oktar says, is a pagan religion and leads to violence,
terror, fascism and communism because of its doctrine of survival of the
fittest and is, according to Babuna, the source of radicalism even in
the Muslim world, the role of extremism not figuring highly in the
sources of political instability in the region.
The antidote to a world built on such a foundation, said Gundogdu, is
increased religious observance by Jews, Christians and Muslims.
“[In] the three divine religions God orders us to be compassionate, merciful, tolerant and just. This is religious morality.”
Back in 2008, Oktar said he would give “10 trillion Turkish lira” ($4.1
trillion) to anyone who could present a fossil of a creature in
transitional form from one species to another.
Assuming that such an offer is mere braggadocio, Oktar’s organization
nevertheless seems extremely well-funded, printing lavishly-produced
books such as Oktar’s anti-evolution tome Atlas of Creation, nearly a
million of which, according to Babuna, were supplied to intellectuals,
academics, politicians and the general public free of charge.
The envoys declined to say where the movement’s money comes from.
The mission will be meeting Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar on
Wednesday as well as other religious and political figures later in the