Erdogan’s veneer of respect hides blatant anti-Semitism

In Turkey, you can go to jail for calling someone a Jew. Earlier this month, a Turkish court sentenced a man to 10 months in prison, which the judge later commuted to a $ 700 fine, for a 2020 Facebook post referring to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as “a Jew who disguises himself as a Muslim.” The defendant’s lawyer said the word “Jew” is not an insult, but the judge appeared to agree with Erdogan’s lawyer, who described the word as offensive “towards the honor, dignity and reputation of the president.”

This peculiar disagreement among anti-Semites helps explain both the precarious state of Turkey’s dwindling Jewish community and the hot and cold ties between Turkey and Israel. Sometimes both Erdogan and his critics find it convenient to pretend they only have the utmost respect for the book’s companions, but their visceral anti-Semitism is clearly visible behind that veneer.

This is not the first time that Erdogan has become the target of anti-Semitic critics who claim that the Turkish leader is a crypto-Jew. In 2007, an ultra-nationalist author even published The sons of Moses, a comprehensive book of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about Erdogan, whom he insisted was Jewish. It is a testament to Turkey’s toxic anti-Semitic climate, worse than Iran’s according to cross-cultural polls by the Anti-Defamation League, that Erdogan has become a victim and not just a perpetrator of anti-Semitic attacks.

Since the rise to power of his Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) in 2002, Erdogan has moved away from the overt anti-Semitism of his early career. In the 1970s, when he was a youth leader in Turkey’s main Islamist political party, Erdogan openly propagated anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. He even directed and starred in a play called Mason-Communist-Jew, in which a Jewish agitator poses as a Muslim Turk to incite workers against a factory owner. In the play, a devoutly Muslim character recites the moral of the story: “All evil regimes are Jewish inventions!” It should come as no surprise that anti-Semitic critics of Erdogan suspect that he has a Semitic pedigree!

ONCE IN power, Erdogan switched to using anti-Semitic dog whistles so that he could have plausible denial when faced with accusations of anti-Semitism. After the nationwide protests that rocked Turkey in 2013, Erdogan alluded to a treacherous “interest rate lobby” working behind the scenes, an unmistakable reference to global Jewry. The following year, the Turkish leader yelled at a protester whom he called an “Israeli freak.” Also in 2014, Erdogan first mentioned the so-called “mastermind” plotting against Turkey. A documentary on a pro-AKP channel has since revealed that the mastermind is a millennial Jewish conspiracy to take over the world.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan speaks to the media after attending Friday prayers at the Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey, on August 7, 2020 (Credit: REUTERS / MURAD SEZER / FILE PHOTO )

Erdogan sometimes slips and employs crude anti-Semitic stereotypes. Earlier this year, he attacked Israel saying: “They are murderers, to the point where they kill five or six-year-olds. They are only satisfied by sucking his blood. “The US State Department and the House Bipartisan Task Force to Combat Anti-Semitism condemned Erdogan, the latter criticizing his statements as” amounting to a blood libel against the people. Jewish”.

Erdogan, however, also goes to great lengths to thwart accusations of anti-Semitism and to demonstrate his tolerance for the Jewish community. Over the years, the Turkish president has held highly publicized meetings with Jewish leaders in Ankara, London, New York and Washington. However, these meetings do not always have the desired effect. In 2016, when Erdogan met with Jewish leaders in Washington, a Haaretz The contributor asked: “Is Erdogan trying to co-opt US Jewish leaders to launder his reputation?”

In London, Erdogan did not meet with genuine leaders of the British Jewish community. Rather, he hosted Neturei Karta, a fringe group of anti-Zionist Jews with whom Iranian leaders often meet, hoping in vain to dispel accusations of anti-Semitism. It worked no better for Erdogan than it did for the Tehran regime.

AMONG ALL the Erdogan government’s clumsy attempts to protect itself from accusations of anti-Semitism, the award goes to the fiasco that took place on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly this year. When Erdogan was unable to secure an appointment with major American Jewish groups, the Turkish-American National Steering Committee (TASC), a Turkish-American organization with close ties to the Erdogan government, announced on September 21 the signing of a joint statement. with Orthodox Jews. Chamber of Commerce (OJC), a small initiative based in New Jersey and New York, in support of the Abraham Accords and against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign. Turkey’s Deputy Foreign Minister joined both organizations in posing with the statement, although Ankara echoed Tehran last year in criticizing the Abraham Accords and the Turkish government also sponsored, in June, a symposium dedicated to promoting the BDS and delegitimizing the Jewish state, an organized event. by a convicted Palestinian Islamic Jihad conspirator.

It didn’t take long for the Erdogan government, and therefore TASC, to walk away from its publicity stunt in New York. Within 24 hours, TASC announced: “Due to lack of adequate consensus, TASC withdraws from the TASC-OJC Joint Statement.” The next day, TASC went even further by issuing an apology, implying that Turkey’s Deputy Foreign Minister was not really aware of the content of the joint statement with which he posed for a photo.

Over the years, Erdogan’s opportunistic relationship with the Jewish people and the Jewish state has caused wild mood swings in Turkish-Israeli relations. Erdogan has built an entire political career on the Jewish scapegoat, but he also wants to play the role of a tolerant leader towards Jews and other religious minorities, modeled after the Ottoman sultans and their supposed benevolence towards their subjects. Similarly, Erdogan wants to benefit from cordial relations with Israel, especially in trade, defense, and diplomacy, but he would like these benefits to accrue as he attacks the Abraham Accords, supports the BDS campaign, and provides Hamas with a logistics base in Turkey. .

With Erdogan’s lifelong anti-Semitism seeming to have no cure as he approaches seventy, Turkey and the world will have to wait until he is removed from office for Ankara’s relations with Israel and the Jewish people to return no only to sanity but also to the win-win relationship of the 1990s.

Dr. Aykan Erdemir is a former member of the Turkish Parliament and Senior Director of the Turkey Program at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, where Enia Krivine is the Senior Director of the Israel Program and the National Security Network. Follow them on Twitter at @aykan_erdemir and @EKrivine.

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *