When Mahmoud Ahmadinejad leaves the Iranian presidency in just over two weeks,
the man most likely to succeed him as the most outspoken anti- Semitic world
leader is Turkey’s volatile prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. There may be
competition for the title, but so far he’s the frontrunner.
Holocaust denial, threats to wipe Israel off the map and other bombast have made
him a pariah in the civilized world, and Erdogan’s brand of bigotry is costing
him some of the glory he covets. He had wanted to be the leader of the
Arab/Muslim world in the Middle East, replacing the moribund Egyptians as the
one who would broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians, but he has
managed to alienate both sides.
When his neo-Ottoman dream of building a
great mosque and shopping mall in Istanbul’s popular Gezi Park in Taksim Square
triggered weeks of massive anti-government demonstrations, disorders he blamed
on an all-too-familiar scapegoat: the Jews. When, on Erdogan’s orders, the
police launched a brutal assault to drive out the demonstrators, he only ignited
even greater demonstrations around the country.
It is too early to tell
how much political damage the demonstrations and his response did to Erdogan and
his Justice and Development Party (AKP), but the brutal crackdown may already
have dashed his ambition to create a presidential system for Turkey and for
himself when his third term ends in 2014. Turkey’s long-delayed bid for EU
membership was further damaged by the Taksim crackdown.
So who was to
blame for these setbacks? The Jews, of course.
The Turkish demonstrators
were protesting Erdogan’s increasingly autocratic and authoritarian rule and his
efforts to impose his Islamist viewpoint. The public outrage was planted,
cultivated and grown at home, and the government’s brutal response – a reminder
of Bashar Assad’s response to peaceful demonstrations in Syria two years ago –
only exacerbated the problem.
Erdogan is paranoid, thin-skinned and
convinced of his own infallibility, and “polarizing,
confrontational, vindictive and repressive,”
according to Gareth Jenkins, a Turkish-based analyst with the Central
He does not tolerate criticism and is loathe to
admit mistakes, which makes reconciliation with Israel particularly difficult
despite getting the apology he demanded for the Mavi Marmara flotilla incident.
But that’s only part of the problem; more troubling is his deep-seated hostility
toward Jews and Israel. He makes no distinction between Jews and Israel, and has
called Zionism a crime against humanity.
On June 16, hours before Erdogan
was to address his party’s rally in Istanbul after the police crackdown in Gezi
Park, a pro-AKP newspaper claimed it had evidence the protests were part of an
anti-Erdogan plot orchestrated by the “Jewish lobby” in the US, specifically the
American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the American Enterprise
Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington, and assorted and mostly
Jewish former Bush 43 administration neocons.
Several AKP leaders
endorsed the accusations and claimed the Erdogan government had concrete proof
of the conspiracy by the Jewish cabal to transform Taksim into Tahrir
One was Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalayl, who fingered the
“Jewish Diaspora” and was quoted in the pro-Erdogan Hurriyet Daily News saying:
“There are some circles that are jealous of Turkey’s growth. 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 doing an evaluation.”
He later claimed he was
misquoted, but a recording of his remarks is reportedly on the
Another AKP official, Melih Gokcek, mayor of Ankara, posted a
note on Twitter saying the protests were “a game of the Jewish lobby” to
undermine the Turkish government.
What did Erdogan do to stop the
anti-Semitic attacks? Nothing. He failed to distance himself from these
accusations and, in fact, ordered an investigation into the foreign financiers
and “interest lobby” – said to be his euphemism for Jewish bankers – behind the
“dark forces” he says have been out to get him since long before the Taksim
demonstrations because they’re jealous of Turkey’s “rise to greatness” under his
leadership. He suggested Israel must be “delighted” with the protests because
they served its interests.
A former Israeli ambassador to Turkey, Gaby
Levy, has said, “He’s a fundamentalist. He hates us religiously and his hatred
An Israeli foreign ministry report said since Erdogan took
power he “has conducted an ongoing process of... fashioning a negative view of
Israel in Turkish public opinion,” including repeatedly accusing Israel of war
crimes and even “anti-Semitic expressions and incitement.”
Turkey “Jews are targeted as individuals, a community, people and race, and as a
sinister political entity seeking Jewish dominance of world affairs, business
and media,” reports MEMRI, the media monitoring organization.
who has championed the cause of Hamas, the terrorist organization dedicated to
destroying the Jewish state, has accused Israel of killing “hundreds of
thousands of Palestinians” and said “the image of the Jews is no different from
that of the Nazis.” Israel’s “murder of innocent children” goes unreported
because “the world media is under the control of Israel.”
anti-Semitism under Erdogan’s rule has been unnerving for Turkey’s Jewish
community, which expressed worry about “the consequences” of talk about a Jewish
conspiracy being behind the demonstrations.
The Turkish media carry
articles questioning the loyalty of Turkish Jews, according to Israel’s foreign
ministry, and Erdogan “grants legitimacy” or “turns a blind eye” to television
programs of an “inflammatory, anti-Semitic nature.”
organizations have voiced concern for the safety of Turkish Jews. The ADL’s Abe
Foxman said the anti-Semitic attacks are “all the more outrageous and harmful”
coming from top government officials.
US President Barack Obama has
called Erdogan one of the five world leaders with whom he has “friendship and
bonds of trust.” It’s time to reevaluate.
Turkey’s continued belligerence
toward Israel and Jews is a slap at Obama, who brokered the Israeli apology for
the Mavi Marmara incident that Erdogan demanded – and when he failed to deliver
on his end, Obama was silent.
Obama needs to stop treating the
thin-skinned bigot like an important ally and recognize him for the racist
hate-monger that he is and let him know that such behavior is
Obama doesn’t need to act because he needs the Jewish vote
– he’s already got it. This has nothing to do with the Jews; it’s about bigotry,
human rights, decency and American leadership.
Paranoid autocrats and
religious zealots make unreliable and dangerous