The regime of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, through its hostility to the Israel-UAE peace deal, its hosting Hamas terrorists on its own soil, and its recent acts of aggression in Syria, Libya, Greece and Iraq, has once again demonstrated that it supports the destruction of Israel, regional instability, neo-Ottoman expansionism and war. Pictured: Erdogan (right) welcomes Hamas leaders Khaled Mashaal (center) and Ismail Haniyeh in Ankara on June 18, 2013. (Photo by Yasin Bulbul/AFP via Getty Images)
When the Israel-United Arab Emirates (UAE) peace agreement, also known as the Abraham Accord, was announced on August 13, the UAE became the third Arab country, after Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994, formally to normalize relations with Israel.
Turkey, however, condemned the Israel-UAE agreement despite its 71 years of diplomatic relations with the Jewish State. The Turkish foreign ministry said in a press release:
“While pursuing its narrowly defined interests, the UAE has attempted to present its betrayal to the Palestinian cause as an act of altruism. The history and the conscience of the people in the region will never forget or forgive this hypocritical act.”
Turkey’s Communication Director for the Presidency, Fahrettin Altun, said that they consider the agreement between the UAE and Israel “null and void.” The head of Turkey’s parliament, Mustafa Şentop, condemned the deal, calling it “disgraceful” and a betrayal of the Palestinian cause.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated that Turkey was considering suspending diplomatic ties with the UAE and withdrawing its ambassador.
“The step taken towards Palestine is not a swallowable step,” Erdogan said.
“Palestine is now probably either closing its embassy [in the UAE] or withdrawing [its ambassador]. The same is true for us now. I ordered my Minister of Foreign Affairs. We might suspend diplomatic relations with the Abu Dhabi administration and withdraw our ambassador there. Because we stand by the Palestinian people. We have never let them eat Palestine and will not let them do so now.”
Erdogan’s hostile reaction is ironic and irrational: In 1949, Turkey became the first Muslim-majority nation to recognize Israel. In the 1990s, Turkish leaders continuously visited Israel and several significant military agreements were signed. Although relations are now strained, there are still diplomatic and trade ties between the two countries.
Erdogan’s reaction, however, was not unexpected. Shortly after the announcement of the UAE-Israel accord, Erdogan’s regime once again showed which side they are on. On August 22, Erdogan received Ismail Haniyeh, head of the “political bureau” of Hamas — an organization whose covenant calls for the annihilation of Israel — and his accompanying delegation. The president of Turkey’s Intelligence Organization (MIT) Hakan Fidan; Turkey’s Communication Director for the Presidency, Fahrettin Altun, and Presidential Spokesperson, Ibrahim Kalın, were also present at the meeting, which was closed to the press. According to NBC News correspondent Raf Sanchez, who posted a photo of the meeting on Twitter, the delegation also included Hamas deputy leader Saleh al-Arouri, a wanted terrorist with a $5 million bounty on his head.
Erdogan’s reaction to the UAE-Israel agreement is reminiscent of his response in 2017 to the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. During a Human Rights Day event in Ankara, Erdogan said, “Those who think they are the owners of Jerusalem today will not even be able to find trees to hide behind tomorrow.” The reference is to an Islamic text sanctioning the killing of Jews. According to this hadith (a reported saying by Islam’s prophet, Mohammed), on the eve of the Judgment Day, Muslims will try to annihilate Jews, “Stones and trees will cry out to Muslims and say, ‘O Muslim, there is a Jew hiding behind me, come and kill him’.”
Having referred to Israel as a “terrorist state” several times, Erdogan is leading Turkey by example. Antisemitic slurs against Jews and hostile statements against Israel are now widespread in the Islamist, pro-government Turkish media, politics and public life. A few examples include:
In February Nurettin Yıldız, a pro-jihad and anti-Semitic Turkish cleric, said during a conference titled “Jerusalem and the martyrs of the Mavi Marmara [flotilla]” that Jerusalem will be conquered when Turkish women abide by the Charter of Medina (of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad in 622) instead of the Istanbul Convention on combatting violence against women:
“When Turkish women abide by the Medina Charter instead of the Istanbul… and prefer the protection of Allah rather than human protection, the Jews will disappear and Jerusalem will be ready for a [Islamic] conquest.”
Referring to Jews as an “accursed nation”, Yıldız went on to describe how Jerusalem could be “saved” from the Jews.
“If Jerusalem is holy and it is, those living in the homes that Jerusalem has conquered can conquer Jerusalem and save it from the Jew. Otherwise the conquest could only be a word. It cannot be actualized. When Muslims take a vow on Jerusalem, saying ‘I will conquer it and be Saladin [the Muslim Sultan who invaded Jerusalem in 1187]’, take your vows based on how much Jerusalem has conquered you… The people that Jerusalem has conquered can save the al-Aqsa mosque and Jerusalem…. Jerusalem is the work of courageous Muslims.
“As ummah [Islamic nation], we will be brought to account on the Judgement Day because Jerusalem is held captive at the hands of an accursed nation. We will also be brought to account for the empty talk we engage in concerning Jerusalem [if we do not conquer it].”
In December 2019, A-Haber network, owned by Erdogan’s family, allowed the morning news presenter Erkan Tan to refer to Israel as a “terrorist”. He further said that Israel does not exist as a state. “Israel is a murderer,” Tan said.
“Israel is a terrorist. There is no state called Israel. Israel is the name of the terrorist organization of Zionist Jews. And Jerusalem is not the capital city of Jews. If you accept Jerusalem as the capital of Jews, it means that you accept giving part of our lands including the cities of Malatya and Adiyaman to Jews. I hope I am clear enough. Know and learn about this filthy and disgusting game of Zionist Jews. They live according to the perverted faith based on the Torah that they distorted [falsified]. Is this clear enough? Israel is the name of the terrorist organization of Zionist Jews.”
A news article, “Stoning the Jew [in order to stone] Satan”, published in the newspaper Milli Gazete in 2016, referred to Jews as “Satan”. “Stoning exists in Judaism too,” the author Ibrahim Hakkıoğlu was quoted as saying. “That is why Palestinian children throw stones [at Jews] like they [Palestinian children] stone Satan. It is an expression of the fact that Jews cooperate with Satan.”
In a 2016 column on the newspaper Vahdet, author Seyfi Şahin referred to some Qur’anic verses and claimed that Jews were “turned into apes” as a punishment from God. He added, “The gorillas and chimpanzees in Africa are cursed Jews. Those are perverted humans that have been mutated.
Columnist Mehtap Yılmaz referred to Israel as “a rabid dog” and asked in the title of her 2014 article published in the newspaper Yeni Akit: “Who do you blame when you get bitten by a rabid dog?”
During the 2010 Mavi Marmara (“Gaza Flotilla“) crisis between Turkey and Israel, the headline of the newspaper Yeni Safak on June 1, 2010 read “Hitler’s Children”, referring to Israel. The paper also said “Netanyahu only knows how to kill” and “Israelis are Tel Aviv pirates that are not different from Nazis.”
Sadly, these are not isolated incidents. Jews and Israel are frequently exposed to hate speech in Turkish media. According to the Istanbul-based Hrant Dink Foundation’s latest yearly report, “Media Watch on Hate Speech,” published in 2018, Jews are listed as the most frequent target of hate speech in the Turkish media, with 1,133 news items or columns containing antisemitic hate speech.
Turkey has not only been targeting Israel through words. The Erdogan regime has also actively been supporting Hamas. “Turkey is granting citizenship to senior operatives of a Hamas terrorist cell,” reported the Telegraph on August 13, “raising fears that the Palestinian group will have greater freedom to plot attacks on Israeli citizens around the world.”
“Turkish identity papers seen by the Telegraph show that at least one of 12 senior Hamas members, who are using the country as a base of operations, has received Turkish citizenship and an 11-digit identity number.”
According to a 2019 report by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center:
“Turkey allows Hamas to conduct terrorist activities from its territory, including the handling of terrorist squads in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] and the transfer of funds to Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip to finance terrorism.”
It should not be a surprise that a government that supports Hamas is against the normalization agreement between Israel and the UAE. The accord will hopefully pave the way for more peaceful coexistence and cooperation between Israel, the UAE, and other Muslim countries. The Erdogan regime, through its hostility to the deal, its hosting Hamas terrorists on its own soil, and its recent acts of aggression in Syria, Libya, Greece and Iraq, has once again demonstrated that it supports the destruction of Israel, regional instability, neo-Ottoman expansionism and war.
Uzay Bulut, a Turkish journalist, is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Gatestone Institute.
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