Turkey’s dictatorial president Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s recent efforts to mediate between the Saudis, their Arab Gulf allies and Egypt on one side versus his Qatari ally (both are staunch supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood) on the other, have failed to materialize. At the same time, his war of words with Germany, and the European Union’s cold shoulder, has left the arrogant Erdogan with one avenue to make headlines – incite Muslims against Israel. His crude anti-Semitic incitement has gone hand-in-hand with his posturing as the leader of the Sunni-Muslim world.
Erdogan has called on Muslims to show solidarity with the Palestinians by flooding Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. He has used invectives against Israel with such words as “racist and discriminatory.” This comes after the Israeli government backed away from a confrontation with the incited Muslim community, and ordered the removal of the metal detectors and security cameras. The Israeli actions followed a week of Palestinian rioting, and the murders of three Israeli family members by a Palestinian terrorist. Erdogan declared that, “In our religion and historical responsibility for Al-Quds and the fight of our Palestinian brothers for rights and justice is of great importance to us.”
Israel’s Foreign Ministry was quick to respond to Erdogan’s repeated incitement (he previously ranted about a proposed bill that would ban the religious institution from using loudspeakers. Switzerland already banned loudspeakers in mosques.) It called Erdogan’s comments “baseless slander,” adding that, “anyone who systemically violates human rights in their own country should not preach about morality. It’s absurd that the Turkish government, which occupies Northern Cyprus, brutally represses the Kurdish minority and jails journalists, should lecture Israel, the only true democracy in the region. The days of the Ottoman Empire have passed.” The Foreign Ministry statement added, “Israel strictly adheres to protecting full freedom of worship for Jews, Muslims, and Christians – and will continue to do so despite this baseless slander.”
Erdogan’s incendiary remarks, in a speech to his party’s parliamentary group in Ankara, stated, “When Israeli soldiers recklessly pollute the grounds of Al-Aqsa with their combat boots by using simple issues as pretexts and then easily spill blood there, it is because we [Muslims] have not done enough to stake our claim over Jerusalem.” Turkey’s Erdogan is currently the chairman of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). Clearly, in Erdogan’s mind, Jews and Israelis are merely dhimmis who should be disciplined by the Islamic Empire, and he considers himself a ‘Sultan’ of sorts.
Israeli political leaders reacted this time to Erdogan’s incitement with unsuppressed anger. Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin said, “We have heard voices which attack Israel for building Jewish life in Jerusalem. I must tell these people: For the last 150 years there has been a Jewish majority in Jerusalem. Even under the Ottoman Empire there was a Jewish majority in Jerusalem. Under Israeli sovereignty we continue to build Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the Jewish people.”
Jerusalem’s mayor, Nir Barkat, went even further in responding to Erdogan’s charges saying that, “Turkey ruled Jerusalem for 400 years under the Ottoman Empire. It is surprising that Erdogan, who leads a state that occupied Jerusalem for 400 years, wants to preach to us about how to manage our city. Unlike, during the Turkish occupation, Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty is a flourishing, open, and free city that allows freedom of religion and worship for all. In recent years, record numbers of Muslims have visited the Temple Mount and held prayers, exercising their absolute freedom of religion under Israeli sovereignty.” Barkat added, “The connection of the Jewish people to Jerusalem dates back more than 3,000 years. Jerusalem is and will remain, our eternal united capital forever. In every corner of the city, we see Jewish roots – from the time of the First and Second Temple to the Muslim period and the Ottoman conquest.”
Israeli Knesset (Parliament) Speaker, Yuli Edelstein, said, “As long as Erdogan is Turkey’s leader, ties will not be back to what they were.” Ex-Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon was more adamant, saying that “Erdogan aspires for there to be Muslim Brotherhood hegemony in the Middle East, and is working toward an Islamic Europe. This should be surprising only to those who ignore the facts.” Former Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar, in an interview with 103FM Radio, stated that “We made a mistake by paying damages and apologizing for the Marmara incident.”
Erdogan’s latest attempt to scapegoat Israel with his Al-Aqsa speech comes after his failure to bring an end to the Arab Gulf crisis. In fact, Erdogan’s meddling on behalf of Qatar has cost Turkey a lucrative shipbuilding contract with the Saudis to sell four warships to the Saudi navy, worth $2 billion. Erdogan’s expedited bill in the Turkish parliament to send Turkish soldiers to a Turkish military base in Qatar, doomed the prospects for expanding Turkish trade with the Arab Gulf states.
It was not only in the Middle East that Erdogan suffered a significant setback…he recently created a crisis with Germany as well. The relationship between the two countries had already soured. Last March, the German government refused to allow Erdogan and his ministers to hold election campaigns in Germany. In response, Erdogan accused the German government of implementing “Nazi practices.” Turkey’s refusal to allow German parliament members to visit their contingent at the Incirlik air base led Germany to move its soldiers to Jordan. Things deteriorated further when the Turkish government arrested a Turkish-German journalist reporting for the German newspaper Die Welt on phony charges, alleging support for a terrorist organization. Germany also provided political asylum for Turkish generals. Erdogan is holding German nationals in detention as a bargaining chip.
Erdogan’s spat with Israel didn’t advance his standing with Germany, the European Union or with the Arabs. His anti-Israel and anti-Semitic tendencies were already on display in January, 2009 at the Davos, Switzerland World Economic Forum. At a panel discussion, Erdogan walked off the stage in protest because the moderator ended the discussion. Yet he managed to say to the late Israeli President Shimon Peres, “When it comes to killing, you know well how to kill.” He was referring to Israel’s campaign in Gaza in retaliation for Hamas’ missile attacks on Israel. Peres responded by saying Turkey would have reacted the same way had rockets been falling on Istanbul. In May, 2010, a Turkish organized flotilla attempting to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza, resulting in Israeli commandos boarding the Turkish Islamist lead ship, the Navi Marmara. Nine violent Turkish Islamists died in the confrontation with Israel, which the Turks provoked. Erdogan called for Israel to be punished for its “bloody massacre.”
Erdogan assumed dictatorial powers following an April referendum in Turkey, and has jailed at least 47,155 people without charges in the wake of last year’s failed coup against his continued rule. A consistently bellicose supporter of the Palestinians, Erdogan has frequently made anti-Semitic remarks, along with veiled threats to the Turkish Jewish community.
Erdogan is providing money to Palestinians to continue their violent demonstrations against Israel, allegedly to “defend” Al-Aqsa. This is a dangerous game the megalomaniacal Erdogan is playing in order gain influence with the Arab masses, ultimately, at the cost of Palestinian and Israeli blood.
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