A Turkish social media site that usually posts about armed conflict attacked Jews as “overrepresented in Biden cabinet,” part of a rising crescendo of antisemitism and anti-Biden media coverage in Turkey.
Turkey’s ruling AKP Party and its president Recep Tayyip Erdogan were close to Trump, and Turkish pro-government media cultivated ties with America’s far-right, including the Proud Boys, often pushing conspiracy theories about Antifa and the US “deep state.”
The latest claim comes on the heels of a conspiracy theory spread by a high level AKP official that says US president Joe Biden is “Kurdish.”
Turkey has a long history of spreading populist racist rhetoric against Kurds, Armenians, Jews, Greeks and other minorities. Clash Report, the social media site, posted an image online on January 22 claiming to show the “Jews severely overrepresented in Biden cabinet. One percent of US population, more than fifty percent of cabinet.”
This is the kind of language that was used by antisemitic regimes to excuse discrimination against Jews. For instance, Germany passed a series of “numerus clausus” under the Nazis to keep Jews at only 1.5% of admissions to certain educational institutions. Nazism was influenced by Turkish nationalism. Adolf Hitler told Turkey’s ambassador in 1939 that he was influenced by Turkey. Expert Stefan Ihrig documented how Ankara’s extremism influenced Nazism.
Clash Report is ostensibly an open source intelligence social media site that posts about “clashes.” It got attention during Turkey’s involvement in Syria, Libya and Azerbaijan, showing off video of Turkey’s Bayraktar drone strikes. It was never clear how it obtained them, but the report’s tweets – which are often in English, Turkish and other languages – were widely shared, including by Washington-based think tank members and journalists who follow the Middle East.
Since few other Turkish media outlets appeared to have access to such immediate drone footage from military sectors, many online have suggested the opaque and shadowy Clash Report may be linked closely to Ankara, although it is not clear online because the social media site has no clear website or information about who runs it. It has 129,000 followers, meaning that its posts get a lot of attention.
What is clear is that on January 22, it suddenly tweeted in English, Turkish and Russian about the “Jewish overrepresentation” in Biden’s new government. It claimed that Antony Blinken, David Cohen, Avril Haines, Janet Yellen, Ronald Klain, Wendy Sherman, Merrick Garland, Eric Lander, Anne Neiberger, Rachel Levine and Alejandro Mayorkas are Jewish.
The post has numerous English spelling and grammatical errors, such as referring to Sherman as “he.” On Yellen it claims that she “was one of the three Jews taking place in a commercial against Trump in 2016.” It wasn’t clear what this means. For David Cohen, the deputy director of the CIA, it claims that “he has been closely involved with Jewish affairs for a long time.”
While some on social media joked about the Clash Report tweet, others in Turkish took it seriously and called out the antisemitism. While some did critique the post, most did not, including the many verified followers of Clash Report. For instance, the son-in-law of Turkish President Recep Erdogan is a follower.
While the post got the most retweets in Turkish, around 206 by Saturday afternoon, it was not getting a huge response.
A search of Clash Report tweets about Jews shows that this is only the second tweet to use the term “yehudiler” or “yahudilerin” in Turkish and the same was true in English, illustrating that the account had never zeroed in on Jews before and it was unclear why now it had shifted from covering “clashes” to “Jews.”
It appears that the report relied on a JTA piece that was headlined “all the Jews Joe Biden has tapped for roles in his administration.” The report repackaging of this information to claim Jews were overrepresented appeared to mischaracterize all the names as “cabinet” level appointees. In this sense, it relied on US media coverage of the same issue but made it appear negative.
The claim of Jewish overrepresentation comes on the heels of another antisemitic article in Turkey’s pro-government Yeni Safak newspaper, which claimed in early January that the “great president” Donald Trump had been removed by “Jewish lords” and that the “global Jewish power in America has dealt another blow to Trump.” The outlandish article asserted that Jews control America and were responsible for Pearl Harbor and conspiracies such as 9/11
These kinds of antisemitic articles are never condemned by Turkey’s ruling party and many of these far-right websites are read by Turkish government officials. All critical media in Turkey has been silenced and many journalists who are critical of Erdogan are in prison or exile.
This means that when Turkish media or social media accounts push antisemitism, it is with the approval of the government. Antisemitism has been rising in Turkey along with conspiracies. Turkey’s president also compared Israel to Nazi Germany during a speech at the United Nations in 2019.
Other Turkish media have focused on Jewish issues recently. An article at Salom in Turkey, a magazine that is a weekly Jewish newspaper, wrote positively about Jews in Biden’s cabinet. Pro-government Anadolu wrote about how France is investigating an Imam who bashed Jew there. According to the report, Algerian-born Imam Mohammed Tatai was referred to court, accused of “inciting racist hatred” against Jews.