Turkey's Erdogan romances Jews while calling them ‘Hitler’ - opinion

What was an Orthodox Jewish man doing working for Recep Tayyip Erdogan, arguably the world’s most vocal antisemite?

 RUSSIAN PRESIDENT Vladimir Putin, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pose for a picture before meeting in Tehran, in July (photo credit: SPUTNIK/REUTERS)
RUSSIAN PRESIDENT Vladimir Putin, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pose for a picture before meeting in Tehran, in July
(photo credit: SPUTNIK/REUTERS)

Last June I received an email invitation from Ezra Friedlander, an Orthodox Jewish lobbyist, asking me to attend, at the home of “HE Dr. H. Murat Mercan, Ambassador of Türkiye in Washington, DC,” a roundtable discussion.

Friedlander, whom I’ve met at Jewish communal events staged by AIPAC and the Republican Jewish Coalition, further wrote, “On behalf of the Embassy of Türkiye, I am looking forward to welcoming your participation.”

Hmm. On behalf of the Embassy of Turkey? I scratched my head. Didn’t the president of Turkey just, in 2018, call Israel “the spirit of Hitler”? Did he not also say in the same year, in a comment condemned by the Biden State Department as viciously antisemitic, that Jews “are murderers, to the point that they kill children who are five or six years old. They only are satisfied by sucking their blood.”

A Jewish man working for the world's most vocal antisemite

What was an Orthodox Jewish man doing working for Recep Tayyip Erdogan, arguably the world’s most vocal antisemite? My interactions with Friedlander had always been friendly, and I always admired that he dressed proudly as an observant Jew, with yarmulke and tzitzit always visible.

I called some of my Jewish communal leader friends, and they told me they had also received the same invitation. “Should I go?” one asked me.

I was dispirited. Here we go again. Another antisemitic Middle Eastern tyrant, seeking to rehabilitate his image as he and his country become increasingly isolated in the West. In this case, Turkey’s isolation was compounded by Erdogan’s refusal to condemn Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, going so far as to meet Putin in Iran in a summit with Iranian President Ebrahaim Raisi, where the beautiful photos of the triumvirate together captured a new axis of evil. Now, Erdogan seems intent on using the Jewish community to wipe his evil clean.

We had seen this in 2017 when Orthodox Jewish lobbyist Nicholas Muzin was paid millions of dollars to lobby for the Emir of Qatar to introduce him to the leaders of right-wing pro-Israel organizations, in an effort to curry favor with a Qatar-weary Donald Trump. Some of the most important right-wing activists for Israel were later ensnared in the controversy, exposed by national media outlets and in a huge investigative story by The Wall Street Journal. All said that they were traveling to Doha for Israel, even as, four years later, Qatar continues to be the largest funder of Hamas, whose raison d’etre is the murder of Jews.

 Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a news conference in Istanbul, Turkey October 16, 2021 (credit: REUTERS/MURAD SEZER) Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a news conference in Istanbul, Turkey October 16, 2021 (credit: REUTERS/MURAD SEZER)

We see what a failed farce that initiative was, as Qatar vouched for the Taliban to Joe Biden that he can leave Afghanistan and the Taliban would be civilized, even as we witness the daily atrocities against women perpetrated by these monsters.

Now, as Erdogan prepares to come to the United States for the opening of the United Nations General Assembly, fresh off exchanging ambassadors with Israel, get ready for an entirely new push to whitewash the Turkish tyrant, under whom the people of Turkey, a once proud Islamic democracy, now suffer from the brutality of one of the world’s most oppressive regimes.

To be sure, Israel just reestablished ties with the Muslim Brotherhood tyrant in Ankara. Not because he’s the UAE or Bahrain, which have shown Israel courageous and remarkable friendship, but because he is a dangerous dictator with a massive army on Israel’s northern border.

But America, with six million Jewish citizens, must challenge the vile antisemitism of an official NATO member who is dependent on the United States for his advanced F-35s and Apache helicopter gunships.

Just how bad is Erdogan?

In July 2014 Erdogan compared Israel to Nazis, something he does with great regularity. But this time he said the Jews are more barbarous than even the Nazis. “[Israelis] have no conscience, no honor, no pride. Those who condemn Hitler day and night have surpassed Hitler in barbarism.”

In July 2018 he said that Israel is a reincarnation of Hitler. “The spirit of Hitler, which led the world to a great catastrophe, has found its resurgence among some of Israel’s leaders.”

But this was only the beginning.

In December 2018 Erdogan compared Israel to Nazi Germany and said that Israel was guilty of a holocaust against the Palestinians. “Today, the Palestinians are subjected to pressures, violence and intimidation policies no less grave than the oppression done to the Jews during World War II. To us, it does not matter who the perpetrator is. Both of these are massacres, atrocities and oppressions. Shelling, with bombs, the children playing on the beach of Gaza is as serious a crime against humanity as the inhumane crime called the Holocaust.”

Erdogan regularly compares Israel to Hitler, as he did in the summer of 2014, during Operation Protective Edge, when Erdogan said “Just like Hitler, who sought to establish a race free of all faults, Israel is chasing after the same target.”

Erdogan especially delights in accusing Jews of murdering women and children. “[Israelis] kill women so that they will not give birth to Palestinians; they kill babies so that they won’t grow up; they kill men so they can’t defend their country....They will drown in the blood they shed.”

In May 2021, Erdogan said, “A former Israeli prime minister in the past told me that he had the highest pleasure in his life by killing Palestinians while he was a general. He told me that while I was visiting Israel as a prime minister. That’s part of their nature; they only get satisfaction by sucking blood.”

Anyone hear echoes of the blood libel?

In February of 2013, Erdogan said that Zionism was a “crime against humanity,” comparing it to Islamophobia, antisemitism, and fascism.

During Israel’s 2014 war with the Hamas terrorists, Erdogan said that Israel was conducting “state terrorism” and that its efforts were a “genocide attempt” against the Palestinians. He also warned that “if Israel continues with this attitude, it will definitely be tried at international courts.”

After the Gaza war, Erdogan again compared Israel to the Nazis and said the Jewish state is guilty of a holocaust. In an address to a summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, he compared Israel to Nazi Germany, saying that “there is no difference between the atrocity faced by the Jewish people in Europe 75 years ago and the brutality that our Gaza brothers are subjected to.”

He repeated the comparison later again, adding that the leadership of a people “who were subjected to all kinds of torture in the concentration camps during World War II is attacking the Palestinians with methods similar to the Nazis,” adding that “I will say openly and clearly that what Israel is doing is banditry, brutality and state terror.”

When, in May 2021, Erdogan said of Jews, “They are murderers, to the point that they kill children who are five or six years old. They only are satisfied by sucking their blood,” the House Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Antisemitism condemned Erdogan’s remarks as “tantamount to blood libel against the Jewish people.”

The Turkish people always showed friendship to Israel and the Jewish community. They are not responsible for Erdogan’s evil. Indeed, they are its victims. They need the American people, its elected leaders and the righteousness of the American Jewish community to stand up to Erdogan and demand that he cease disgracing Islam with his comparisons of Jews to Hitler, and set the brutalized people of Turkey free.

The writer, whom The Washington Post calls “the most famous rabbi in America,” is the author of Kosher Hate: How to Fight Antisemitism, Bigotry, and Racism. In 2015 he worked with the Armenian American leadership in publishing national ads recognizing the centenary of the Armenian Genocide. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter @RabbiShmuley.