A major reason for Jew-hatred in Turkey appears to be irresponsible leaders, such as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who repeat hateful propaganda while remaining completely blind to, or proud of, their own crimes. (Photo by Adem Altan/AFP via Getty Images)
As Hamas indiscriminately bombed Israeli cities from May 11 to May 17, Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivered a speech in Ankara in which he targeted both Israel and Jews with antisemitic slurs. Erdogan disseminated countless falsehoods that misinformed the Turkish public about Israel, the Jewish people, Gaza, and other issues -- all the while fanning the flames of antisemitism.
In discussing the Islamic history of Jerusalem, where the Jews were living for more than a thousand years before Islam even appeared with Mohammad (c. 570-632) -- and scooping up ancient Jewish leaders on the way:
"Jerusalem... is a region that hosts the most ancient settlements of humanity. Many prophets who were also our prophets, from Prophet Abraham to Prophet David and Prophet Solomon, lived in these lands and left their marks on these lands."
Erdogan's words need to be analyzed to see the parallels of how Islam views history. According to an Islamic perspective, Islam has always existed, apart from time, therefore all the prophets were originally Muslim and those who followed them later, Christians and Jews, distorted their teachings. Then the Angel Gabriel [Jibril] appeared before Mohammad and encompassed parts of Christianity and Judaism -- in versions rather different from those of the Bible's Old and New Testaments. This is how, in Islam, in the Qur'an, we find Musa (Moses), Ibrahim (Abraham), Yusuf (Joseph), Maryam (Mary) and Isa (Jesus), among others.
This view, according to Moshe Sharon, Professor Emeritus of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, consists of:
"[the] basic attitude is that all history is in fact Islamic history... that all major figures of history basically are Muslim − from Adam down to our own time. So, if the Jews or Christians are demanding something and basing it on the fact that there was a king called Solomon or a king called David, or a prophet called Moses or Jesus, they say something which is not true or, in fact, they don't know that all these figures were basically Muslim figures....
"In fact, since the creation of the world there is only one religion and it is the religion of Islam. So, if anybody says 'Look, there is a place connected with Solomon and that is the place where the Temple of Solomon stood,' a true Muslim would tell you: 'Yes, you're absolutely right. But don't forget that Solomon was a Muslim and David was a Muslim. And Abraham was a Muslim. And Isaac was a Muslim, and Jesus was a Muslim.' This is what they mean by the Islamization of history."
According to Sharon, there is, through this "Islamization of history," also an "Islamization of geography". In this view, any land once under Muslim rule -- as the entire Middle East was under the Ottoman Empire, as well as much of Spain and Portugal (Al Andalus) once under Muslim Arab occupation -- must now be "liberated" by Muslims and remain, in trust to Allah, under Muslim rule forever:
"Anywhere which was connected with these people or with these prophets who were all Muslims becomes a Muslim territory. And therefore, when Islam was not in that area before Mohammed came to it, it should have been there. By that area, I mean the Middle East or other parts outside of the Middle East which are now Muslim. So any place like this had to be freed, not to be conquered. They had to be liberated. So, Islam appeared in history in the time of Mohammed -- or reappeared in history from their point of view -- as a liberator. And therefore, there is no Islamic occupation. If somebody occupies anything, it will always be somebody else, not the Muslims. So, there is no Islamic occupation. There is only Islamic liberation."
Hence, when Erdogan and other Islamists say Jerusalem is home to Muslim prophets, they deny the Jewish faith of these religious figures.
Erdogan, glorifying the Arab invasion of Jerusalem in the seventh century as well as the Ottoman occupation of the city from 1517 to 1917, said:
During the first world war, the "tired Ottoman Army had to withdraw" from Jerusalem. But "we did not leave Jerusalem alone after we retreated... We must defend Jerusalem with everything [we have]." He continued:
"Like many geographies that lost its peace and tranquility following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the Palestinian lands are crying out with cruelty, pain and blood.
"The conflict has turned into a one-sided massacre and theft since 1948, which is today called Nakba, the day of disaster, by Palestinians.
"The state of Israel, whose boundaries are still uncertain, has turned into a terrorist device in the hands of politicians who pursue Zionist dreams and radicals who consider it permissible to commit crimes against humanity."
In reality, both Muslim Arabs and Ottomans violently invaded Jerusalem and remained occupiers there for centuries. While under Islamic rule, native Jews and Christians became dhimmis -- second-class "tolerated" subjects -- who were forced, by a "dhimmi pact" with Muslims, to buy protection for their lives and property with a special tax called a jizya. Even so, their rights were systematically and routinely violated.
As for Zionism, it was simply the struggle of the Jewish people's right to self-rule in their ancient homeland, part of which is still even named for them: Judea. Their struggle reached its goal when the Jewish people declared the establishment and independence of the State of Israel in 1948. A year later, Israel was admitted as the 59th member of the United Nations. In 1949, Turkey also recognized Israel.
The evening that Israel declared independence, on May 14, 1948, five Arab armies -- those of Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Transjordan, and Iraq -- invaded Israel in the hopes of killing the new country in its crib. Palestinians are the Arabs who fled, planning that when the Arab armies won, they all would come back and resume life in their former homes. Unfortunately for them, the Arab armies lost. When some of the Arabs who had fled tried to come back, they were not permitted in: they had proven themselves disloyal. Arabs who had not fled remained, and presently make up about 21% of Israel's population, or nearly two million out of a population of 10 million. They all enjoy exactly the same privileges and rights as Jewish and other Israelis. The only exception is that they are not obligated to join Israel's armed forces unless they wish to, so that if there were a conflict, brother would not have to fight brother.
When other Arab states also refused to integrate the Arabs who fled, they found themselves stranded and stateless, at times in refugee camps, where five generations later, many remain, including in the West Bank, run by the Palestinian Authority.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian leadership has rejected offers for a Palestinian state at least six times in the past 90 years: in 1937, 1948, 1967, 2000, 2008 and in 2020. All of the offers were either made or accepted by the Jews.
For Islamists such as Erdogan, the problem is that Jews now have a sovereign country in the Middle East, therefore, everything they do -- including just existing -- is supposedly a "crime against humanity."
Erdogan, in addition, referring to the US president Joe Biden's recent arms deal with Israel, falsely claimed that the recent conflict between Israel and Hamas "caused the martyrdom of hundreds of thousands of people in Gaza":
"Mr. Biden took the side of the Armenians in the so-called Armenian genocide [recognition], and now unfortunately, you are writing history with your bloody hands in this incident [Hamas-Israel war]... And today I remind you once again that we are continuing our Jerusalem watch with 84 million people [Turkey's population] altogether, and we will continue it."
Erdogan then referred to a "blood libel", and an example of classic antisemitism:
"A Jewish Prime Minister -- I will not give his name -- told me 'when I was killing Palestinians when I was a general, it gave me the greatest pleasure'. He told me this when I visited [Israel] as the Prime Minister of the Republic of Turkey. They [Jews] have it in their nature; they are only satiated by sucking blood.
"They [Jews] are murderous enough to kill babies. They are murderous enough to kill five-year-old, six-year-old babies. Murderous enough to kill women by making them crawl on the ground. They are such murderers that they kill old people. There is no other one like them."
Such accusations are, of course, totally false, but imagine how many ignorant people worldwide they infect with violent Jew-hatred.
What actually needs to be condemned is Hamas's terrorism. It is Hamas that aims to destroy Israel, that commits war crimes, and attempts genocide, not only against Israel but against the Jewish people, as can be seen yet in Article 7 of the Hamas Charter. Moreover, it is Hamas that harms its own people and puts them in danger, and uses them as human shields: an additional war crime. Hamas has made no secret of advocating the use of civilians as human shields. Hamas spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri, interviewed in 2014, openly called on the people in Gaza to use the human shield tactic to defend their homes. "We in the Hamas movement," he said, "call on our people to adopt this procedure."
The same year, The Atlantic published an article titled, "Hamas Quietly Admits It Fired Rockets from Civilian Areas."
In 2015, the New York Post reported that "Hamas stored mortars and other weapons in at least three UN schools during last summer's war and fired rockets at Israel from two of them."
Unlike Hamas, Israel tries to minimize harming innocent civilians in the Gaza Strip. The Israel Defense Forces call the residents of buildings and warn them to evacuate before targeting military sites where Hamas has deliberately hidden among civilians. Israel also withdrew from Gaza in 2005 to give peace yet another chance. Jihadists there responded with more rockets against Israel.
The problem with Islamists and other anti-Semites is that they refuse to see Jews as actual human beings who have feelings, struggles and sufferings that deserve respect and equal rights. This dehumanization has cost the lives of countless Jews. Palestinian-Arab terror groups, for instance, are responsible for the deaths of thousands of Israeli civilians. See a list of some major terror attacks against Israelis between 1948 and 1967 here. According to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs:
"While the Palestinians claim that terrorism is a response to 'occupation,' the fact is that Palestinian terrorism predates Israel's presence in the territories. Numerous terrorist attacks murdered and maimed Israeli civilians during the two decades before 1967 (and even before the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948). Therefore, terrorism was and still is nothing less than a tool intended to eventually bring about the destruction of Israel itself."
Referring to Israel "a state of thugs" and a" terrorist state", Erdogan said:
"When America and some other states following it announced that they recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel at the end of 2017, this murderous state's appetite for bloodshed increased.
"They [Israel] try to shadow the conscience of humanity by putting forward the missiles fired at Tel Aviv. How many rockets did they [Hamas] fire? I wonder what was destroyed by the rockets they fired. Explain it."
The recent bombardments were started by Hamas on May 10. More than 4,300 rockets were launched at Israeli civilians indiscriminately until the ceasefire on May 21. The reason Hamas and those who enable them could not commit a massacre or genocide against Israel is because Israel has a powerful military and the Iron Dome missile-defense system that intercepts and destroys short-range rockets. The Iron Dome is largely effective, and can intercept the vast majority of the rockets. However, some got through, killing 13 Israelis and injuring dozens more.
Erdogan's rage also targeted other nations. He went on to condemn Austria for showing solidarity with Israel during Hamas' attacks against the country.
"I curse the Austrian state that flies the Israeli flag on the building of its prime ministry. Raising the flag of a terrorist state on such an official institution means living a life of projection with terrorism. The Austrian state is probably trying to make Muslims pay the bill for the Jews they [Austria] subjected to genocide."
Unlike Turkey, which still aggressively denies the 1913-23 Armenian, Assyrian and Greek genocide, Austria responds differently. Austria was annexed by Nazi Germany in 1938 and today acknowledges Vienna's complicity in the Holocaust and announced in 2018 the creation of a memorial to Austrian Jews killed by the Nazis.
"Remembering in an honest way means admitting the truth," said Austria's leader, Sebastian Kurz, in 2018. "At that time, many Austrians supported a system to which people with disabilities, Roma and Sinti, homosexuals, people with different political views, resistance fighters, and many more fell victim. Above all, this system murdered over 60,000 fellow Jewish citizens and displaced around 130,000 from their homes."
Ironically, Erdogan also mentioned, with a straight face, Turkish occupied northern Cyprus: "Turkey expresses at every opportunity that it favors a just two-state solution in the Palestinian territories, just like in Cyprus."
There are two problems with these statements. First, Turkey has been illegally occupying the northern part of Cyprus since 1974 and forcibly displaced the indigenous Greek community there. It thus has no legal or moral right to impose any so-called "solution" on the sovereign government of Cyprus, an EU and UN member. Second, Hamas does not aim for a two-state solution. As Hamas co-founder Mahmoud al-Zahar told Britain's Sky News in a recent interview, Hamas thinks that Israel has no right to exist.
Erdogan also offered a regime change for Jerusalem:
"The management of Jerusalem by a commission consisting of representatives of three religions [Islam, Judaism, and Christianity] will be the most correct and consistent way in today's conditions. Otherwise, it is not easy to achieve permanent peace in this ancient city."
Erdogan's offer to change the administration of Jerusalem is an open assault on the sovereignty and security of Israel. The three religions are already present and enjoy religious liberty in Jerusalem, unlike the tiny, dying non-Muslim community in Turkey. Jerusalem's Old City has Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Armenian quarters, where those communities preserve their cultures and traditions. Why does Erdogan offer to create a new "administration" in Jerusalem, which is already multicultural, when Istanbul (or Constantinople), an ancient city built by Greeks, is today an almost Greek-free, Armenian-free and Jew-free city? Where are the Jewish, Greek and Armenian neighborhoods of Istanbul? There are none left. Properties left behind by the murdered or deported non-Muslims have been seized either by the Turkish government or citizens. A country like Turkey that has annihilated or driven out its indigenous non-Muslim citizens through genocide, pogroms, deportations and other rights abuses should not be lecturing Israel or anyone else about how to administer their own cities.
Erdogan also issued a threat -- his word -- to Jerusalem if he does not get his way:
"Every attack by the Israeli security forces [and] by the Jews against the Masjid al-Aqsa under protection has the effect of a bomb with the fuse lit. The history of the world is full of examples of gigantic conflicts, destruction, and bloodshed caused by the bombs fired in Jerusalem. The fastest and most effective way to prevent this threat in its current situation is to give Jerusalem a new administrative status as we propose.
"We call on the United Nations, the United Nations Security Council, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, which has [this proposal] as one of its founding objectives, and all other international organizations to act immediately and effectively for Jerusalem and the oppressed Palestinians."
Such misleading and malign statements can only increase the hatred of Israel and Jews within Turkey. They might even cause more violence, wars and instability within the region. The last thing Turkey needs is more hatred against Jewish people and other nations. When it comes to hostility against Israel, Erdogan's Turkey already has a record that is terrible. A 2014 Pew Research Center poll found that the country most hated by Turkish citizens is Israel. 86% of respondents had an unfavorable opinion of Israel, while only 2% viewed it positively. A major reason for this Jew-hatred appears to be irresponsible leaders who repeat hateful propaganda while remaining completely blind to, or proud of, their own crimes.
Uzay Bulut, a Turkish journalist, is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Gatestone Institute.