Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan makes a speech during a ceremony in Istanbul, Turkey May 4, 2018.
(photo credit: REUTERS/MURAD SEZER)
In a speech in a main square in the Turkish city of Istanbul on Friday, Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan denounced Israel's recent actions with relation to this week's protests in Gaza, saying that the world's Muslims must take a "physical stance on Israel."
His speech began with a cry for Muslims around the world to unite with one another in the face of "fights and conflicts and disputes among themselves." He invoked phrases from the Quran to ignite the crowd, which cheered him on as he spoke of the Muslim unity and the faith's connection to the city of Jerusalem, revered as holy by the three Abrahamic religions.
"Whose blood did Da'esh spill? Whose cities did Da'esh burn? Whose lives did Da'esh take? Only Muslims," he said.
Da'esh is the Arabic name for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, which has waged a years-long bloody campaign against the civilian populations in both those countries, while simultaneously waging a war against the Iraqi and Syrian militaries. Of ISIS's targets, a majority have been Muslims, but the terrorist organization has also carried out what many to consider to be a genocide of the Yazidis. They have also murdered Christians and many other minorities.
"It is our sole responsibility to pick [up] the Islamic world from this hole of ignorance," Erdogan told the crowd.
The rally was held in support of the Palestinians, with participants waving Palestinian and Turkish flags together.
"The occupation of Jerusalem, the violation of the privacy of the al Aqsa mosque, and the violation of the rights of the folks of Palestine...we declare that we will not accept this," Erdogan continued. Echoing statements made earlier in the week by him and his Foreign Ministry, he condemned the move of the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which took place on Monday. After the move, Turkey recalled its ambassadors to the United States and Israel.
Israel later expelled Turkish diplomats in response.
Erdogan did not limit his criticism to Israel, however: He also critiqued the United Nations and the power he believes that the United States has over the international body. The United States is one of the Permanent 5 (P5) countries on the Security Council that allows it to veto resolutions.
He added that the country "only creates more problems" than it solves, and called on American citizens to "raise their voices against the government."
Turkey, he added "will definitely show where it stands with Palestine and Jerusalem issues." He told the crowd that "with the strength of Jerusalem in our feet, let's march together...let's come and unify and be together and fight the tyrants with one hand, with one strong fist."
"There is a global order that knows no human rights," he added, suggesting that both the United States and Israel were a part of this. "Turkey is the country that is targeted the most by Israel and the leader that is targeted the most by Israel is me," he said.
Erdogan and Netanyahu, both career politicians, have sparred on numerous occasions. Relations between the two countries have been rocky since they were re-established in 2016, 5 years after a diplomatic row over the Mari Marmara flotilla cut ties between them completely.
"Neither Erdogan nor the body called the 'UN Human Rights Council' will preach morality to us," former defense minister and IDF chief of staff Moshe Ya'alon said in response to Erdogan's remarks, and to the UNHRC's decision Friday to conduct an independent probe into Israel's actions in Gaza.
"Countries which remain silent about the ongoing massacre of hundreds of thousands of citizens in Syria are trying to tarnish Israel, which is [merely] protecting its borders and its citizens."
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