Fethullah Gülen and the Jews: A different angle

Gülen is emerging as a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and we should care.

Fethullah Gülen‏ (photo credit: REUTERS)
Fethullah Gülen‏
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The image atop The Atlantic’s August 2013 interview with reputed radical Islamist, Fethullah Gülen, depicts him meeting with the then chief rabbi of Israel. The rabbi was giving a vase to Gülen, who now lives in a self-imposed exile in the US to escape charges brought by a Turkish court.
Interfaith dialogue. Coexistence. Synergy between the Abrahamic faiths. This is Gülen’s raison d’etre – but only in English and only when there are cameras to record his seemingly altruistic rhetoric.
With articles such as “To embrace the spirit of acceptance and tolerance” penned in English and centrally featured on his English-language website, Gülen seems like the perfect Muslim partner for Jews and leaders of other faith communities. Since the US government supported Gülen’s permanent residency in Pennsylvania (tacitly implying Washington’s endorsement of Gülen and his followers), many have celebrated the man. But increasing reports are contradicting the image Gülen has worked so hard to promote.
Gülen is emerging as a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and we should care; Gülen and his movement are very influential in the Turkish, US and worldwide private-school education network. His teachings will impact our collective future.
Gülen speaks differently to his followers than to outsiders, according to University of Utah political scientist Hakan Yavuz, a former follower. Yavuz says Gülen is pursuing an Islamist political agenda that conflicts with the image of Gülen as a “mainstream Turkish Muslim scholar, thinker, author, poet...who supports interfaith and intercultural dialogue, science, democracy and spirituality,” as his website describes.
This makes Gülen deceptive, perhaps a hypocrite at best and strikingly treacherous at worst. His writings betray a man who is virulently anti-Semitic and whose belief system is irreconcilable with and deeply opposed to Christianity, the West and the US.
An article published by Commentary in September 2013 reported a number of anti-Semitic writings by Gülen, uncovered by Harvard professors Dani Rodrik and Pina Dogan. These writings, copies of sermons Gülen gave in Turkey before escaping to the US in 1998 to avoid prosecution by the Turkish government for anti-secular activities, are in direct contrast to what he wants Jewish leaders to believe.
From “Fasildan Fasila-1,” which still appears online in Turkish:
“...The Jewish tribe is very intelligent. This intelligent tribe has put forth many things throughout history in the name of science and thought. But these have always been offered in the form of poisoned honey and have been presented to the world as such. For instance, Karl Marx is a Jew; the communism he developed looks like a good alternative to capitalism at first sight, but in essence it is a deathly poison mixed in honey.... It would not be an exaggeration to say that ‘the purpose behind the creation of such a people is to be the coil spring for human progress.’ Just as God unleashes the hawk to evolve the sparrow’s capability for flight, with the Jews He keeps humans alert and under tension....
“Jews will maintain their existence until the apocalypse. And shortly before the apocalypse, their mission of acting as the coil spring for humanity’s progress will come to an end, and they will prepare their end with their own hands.... These people... will finally end up in the position of Nazis and will look for a place to hide in the four corners of the earth.”
Gülen and his followers stood accused in October 2015 of targeting a Jewish lawyer who was hired by the Republic of Turkey to provide legal assistance in its ongoing global investigation into the Gülen movement. Lawyer Robert Amsterdam, according to a report by Daily Sabah, was targeted with vicious anti-Semitic attacks on social media by Gülen’s followers.
Prominent Gülenist figures criticized Amsterdam’s Jewish background on his Twitter account and blasted the Turkish state for hiring a Jewish lawyer. Amsterdam said his law firm was receiving death threats from the Gülen organization.
“They [sic] money comes from the nation, while the lawyer they hired is a Jew, and their target is to close down Gülen schools,” wrote lawyer Siddik Filiz, affiliated with the Gülen Movement, on his Twitter account on October 26, 2015.
Further, Turkish foreign policy in the Middle East has until recently shifted away from Israel and more toward friendship with Hamas, Hezbollah and Syria. Many in foreign policy circles believe this is less a policy of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and more a result of the systematic infiltration and influence of the shadowy Gülen cult of the Turkish government.
Gülen told the Atlantic reporter he had an “evolution of thinking” regarding the Jews since coming to the US in 2000 (though he admitted criticizing Israel). And while Gülen certainly has gone to great pains to scrub reference to the aforementioned anti-Semitic content from his English site, according to professors Rodrik and Dogan those efforts simply don’t align.
Translations of the anti-Semitic passages above were uploaded to Gülen’s site as late as May 2004, years after Gülen came to the States. Further, these anti-Semitic rants can still be found in their Turkish original on a website maintained by the Gülen movement.
Collectively, we must stop settling for those who say one thing in English and quite another in Arabic or Turkish. We must look at the essence of who Gülen is and what he is teaching – in his own language and before it is too late.
The author, a director of international communications for an Israeli think tank, is a former editor for The Jerusalem Post and a former editor-in-chief of The Baltimore Jewish Times.