Turkish deputy PM blames ‘Diaspora Jews’ for protests

Official cites jealousy of Turkey as motive for sparking unrest.

July 2, 2013 23:13
2 minute read.
Anti-government protesters shout slogans as they stand on barricades in Istanbul June 16, 2013.

Turkey protestors on barricades 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/Serkan Senturk)


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ISTANBUL – Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly blamed the so-called “interest-rate lobby” and the international media for boosting the anti-government demonstrations that had started with a police raid on a small group of environmentalist protesters in Istanbul’s Gezi Park on May 28.

But his government has pointed a finger at another alleged perpetrator on Monday. In a conference at the AK Party headquarters in the Central Anatolian province of Kırıkkale, Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay named the “Jewish Diaspora” as the culprit in triggering the country’s recent civil unrest.

In video footage released by the Cihan News Agency, Atalay said, “There are some circles that are jealous of Turkey growing so much.

They are all uniting, on one side the Jewish Diaspora. You saw the foreign media’s attitude during the Gezi Park incidents; they bought it and started broadcasting immediately, without evaluating.”

After accusing the Jewish Diaspora for provoking the events via the foreign media, Atalay concluded by asserting that “The ones trying to block the way of Great Turkey will not succeed.”

The AKP government has often been critical of Israel and the Israeli government’s policies, but its targeting of “Diaspora Jews” is seen as a first by many in Turkey’s small Jewish community.

An Israeli Foreign Ministry official said Atalay’s comment is a “classic anti-Semitic comment made by someone who apparently panics and loses self-control over the idea of street protest.”

World Jewish Congress President Ron Lauder harshly condemned Atalay’s statement, saying that it was “shocking to hear from a senior Turkish government minister such despicable and totally baseless slurs.”

“Mr. Atalay should have the decency to apologize,” he continued.

“His remarks are an insult not only to the Jewish people but also to the many Turkish citizens who took part in the protests and who have real grievances.”

When reached for comments on Monday, the spokesman for the Jewish community in Turkey said that they are surprised by these remarks and they “do not want to comment before we can do a thorough fact-check on the wording and content of the whole speech.”

The editor-in-chief of Shalom, the only Jewish newspaper in the country, similarly declined to comment.

However, on Tuesday afternoon, the community and the Chief Rabbinate issued a joint statement on their website, expressing “concern and regret” that “generalizations as such can be interpreted as including and targeting Jewish citizens of any country in the world, including us Turkish Jews.” Various members of the community reached for comment also expressed disappointment at the accusations.

Many spoke only on condition of anonymity, out of safety concerns.

“When I read the news, I was most disturbed by the word ‘Diaspora,’” said Ceni Palti, an Istanbul resident and a member of the Jewish community. The 29-year-old clinical psychologist said that “We felt uncomfortable many times before but this was possibly unintentional, due to some people’s inability to differentiate between Israel and the Jews. However, this [remark] is a first in terms of targeting us directly.”

Herb Keinon and Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.

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