John Kerry’s recent rebuke of Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for “inflammatory verbal attacks on Israel” stands in sharp contrast to Barack Obama’s long-established indifference to them. In the three months prior to Obama’s speeches in Turkey in early April (6-7) of 2009, Jewish life had been under renewed assault throughout Europe, and nowhere more so than in Turkey, which Obama had chosen for the culmination of his Grand Tour of the old continent. Turkey had been the scene of the fiercest anti-Israel and antisemitic agitation in Europe, extending from streets to schools, newspapers, TV stations–for the very good reason that it was encouraged by PM Erdogan, who declared that”Israelis know very well how to kill” and that “Jews control the [Turkish]media.” But nary a word about this little unplesantness crept into Obama’s speeches to Turkish parliamentarians and students. Rather, they were full of his usual calls for “respect” for Islam plus assurances that America is not and “never will be” at war with it.
Since then the bellicose Turkish PM has become Obama’s favorite foreign politician, the recipient of special privileges to disregard American’s sanctions against Iran (by trading Turkish gold for Iranian gas), and reliably reported to be on the phone with Obama more frequently than any head of state.
In this instance, at least, Kerry has followed the advice not of President Obama but of his predecessor in the White House. On November 19, 2003 George W. Bush, speaking at Whitehall Palace, London, said: “Europe’s leaders–and all leaders–should strongly oppose antisemitism, which poisons public debates over the future of the Middle East.”