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June 24, 2013 9:36 am

Turkey, Amid Islamization and Anti-Semitism, Fit for EU Membership?

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Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Photo: wiki commons. – It’s a familiar pattern.

The citizens of a Middle Eastern state explode with frustration against their corrupt, repressive government. They gather for noisy, impassioned demonstrations in their capital city. The authorities react violently. Images of middle-aged women and wheelchair-bound individuals being tear-gassed, clubbed, and sprayed with water cannon race across social media platforms like wildfire. The protests then spread to other cities. The authorities step up their repression.

And then, inevitably, the country’s political leaders snarl that outside forces are stoking the discontent. Newspapers and websites are suddenly full of lists of American neoconservatives, illustrated with lurid graphics that superimpose the logos of organizations like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) over pictures of demonstrations. No one needs to say the word “Jew” in order to know who’s being referred to here.

So where is this happening? In Bahrain? Egypt? Tunisia?

Actually, no. What I’m describing is taking place in a non-Arab, inwardly Muslim but outwardly secular candidate nation for European Union (EU) membership.


The protests there began on May 31, when an initially small group of activists gathered in Istanbul to voice opposition to the redevelopment of the city’s Gezi Park. But the anger quickly escalated into an all-out confrontation with the Islamist government of Reccep Tayyip Erdogan. Many Turks are fed up with the slow yet inexorable Islamization of their country, which Erdogan has begun.

Specifically, they are fed up with Erdogan’s promotion of conservative Islamic dress codes; with his demand that married couples have at least three children; with his prohibitions on the sale of alcohol and his opposition to abortion; with his scolding of couples who dare to smooch in public; and with his clampdown on freedom of speech and of the media, which has resulted in Turkey having more journalists in prison than any other country in the world. As the German magazine Der Spiegel pointed out recently, Turkey’s enthusiasm for incarcerating journalists—by some estimates, more than 60 are currently in jail—beats the records of even China and Iran.

It was always unrealistic to expect that an arrogant autocrat like Erdogan would actually listen to the demands of the protestors. His standard response has been to fulminate against shadowy plots hatched by Marxists, Kurdish separatists, and—most of all—Jews.

As the Turkish demonstrations were reaching their height this month, the conservative newspaper Yeni Safak published an article which featured a “rogues gallery” of prominent American neoconservatives—Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith and so forth—as well as a photo of a masked protestor flanked by the logos of the American Enterprise Institute think tank and AIPAC. The thrust of the article was clear: the protests are being actively encouraged by a group of Jews hell-bent on war with the Islamic world. In tone and substance, it was thoroughly in line with other anti-Semitic screeds published by Yeni Safak—for example, a 2005 article that warned “Jewish paranoia” was at the root of the Middle Easts conflicts and predicted that this same paranoia would one day “destroy the Jews themselves.”

If you really want to see a plot, though, look no further than Erdogan himself. Yeni Safak is owned by Berat Albayrak, who is married to Erdogan’s daughter (their wedding ceremony was broadcast live on Turkish television.) Berat’s brother, Serhat Albayrak, is a press advisor to Erdogan, while their father, Mustafa, is the head of Albayrak Holdings, a construction company that has prospered visibly under the present Islamist government. The company recently issued a nervous denial that it had been awarded the contract to build a shopping mall on the ground currently occupied by Gezi Park—the very same affront which sparked the protests in the first place.

When this intimate network of familial and business ties is properly considered, it stretches credibility to think that Erdogan is somehow unaware of Yeni Safak‘s vile Jew-baiting. Indeed, when you introduce Erdogan’s consistent assaults on Israel into the equation—like his recent, outrageous declaration that Zionism is a “crime against humanity”—you can see perfectly well how such attacks serve his broader political interests. After all, blaming the Jews is what Middle Eastern autocrats do.

Which brings me to the issue of Turkey’s bid for membership of the EU. There’s a widespread impression that the bid, launched as far back as 1999, is unlikely to result in full membership. But that’s not what Erdogan believes. He is adamant that Turkey is entitled to EU membership and his virulent reaction to the European Parliament’s recent condemnation of his government’s repressive acts—”I don’t recognize you!” he roared in response—is a sign of his growing impatience.

To their credit, EU leaders have, thus far, proven that they have something of the backbone that many observers have doubted they possess. Stefan Fule, the EU’s enlargement commissioner, told an audience in Istanbul, which included Erdogan, of the need to “aspire to the highest possible democratic standards and practices… These include the freedom to express one’s opinion, the freedom to assemble peacefully and freedom of media to report on what is happening as it is happening.”

Now Germany, led by Chancellor Angela Merkel, is stepping up the pressure on Erdogan. Following Merkel’s description of the government’s response to the protests as “appalling,” the Germans are blocking forthcoming talks to move Turkey’s accession bid further down the line.

But the fundamental question remains unresolved: Should Turkey be admitted to the EU? One can see how membership of the EU would boost the fortunes of those courageous Turks who have risked life and limb in their confrontation with Erdogan. Equally, the Europe that emerged after the Second World War cannot, by its very nature, tolerate the kind of government that has hospitalized more than 7,000 of its own citizens simply for exercising their right to peacefully protest. And it certainly cannot tolerate the kind of anti-Semitic agitation that brings to mind the worst excesses of the 1930s.

Ben Cohen is the Shillman Analyst for His writings on Jewish affairs and Middle Eastern politics have been published in Commentary, the New York Post, Ha’aretz, Jewish Ideas Daily and many other publications.

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  • Observer

    Regardless of Erdogan or not, no islamic/muslim country should be allowed in the EU. The main reason being that regardless how moderate they look, that moderation is simply a temporary condition and, with just one change of leader, these countries can turn into more repressive regimes. Same is Kosovo for example. Muslim countries, even when not Sharia regulated, are anyway largely Kuran regulated and when not Kuran regulated, they still draw at Islamic regulations to set laws. Islam and Secularized world, as of today (and for a long while in the future, i think) simply don’t match. Also, there is a common misconception of “Moderate” Muslims, which don’t exist. You either practice Islam (Which also regulates when to marry minor girls, when to beat your wife, when to slay christians and non muslims at large etc.), or don’t practice (many don’t but as we have seen, radicalizatio can also come later in age or at second or third generation). This makes Muslim communities in the West a threat. Now, imagine Turkey in the EU, and imagine all Muslim immigrates we have in the EU now setting up Muslim only parties (it’s happening in Belgium already); add up the rate at which they reproduce (Often thriving out of our welfare systems) and you’ll see how Europe can look in 50years time. Not only Turkey should be restricted from entering (at max i could understand a privileged TRADE PARTNERSHIP), but the muslims we already have in the EU should be invited to leave, in time, and return to their countries (Including those who were born in our countries). I’d also setup new immigration laws with only temporary permits, NO IUS SOLI, and no citizenship. The only reason why Muslims (But also extra EU immigrants) should be allowed to enter EZ area is “temporary working contract” (even if they last 4 or 5 years). Then they should leave back to their countries. This already happens in Asia, where i currently reside (For example in Hong Kong certain people can get citizenship but not filipino, indonesian housemaids etc. for which there are different rules in place). This prevents an “excess of multiculturalism”, overpopulation, welfare exploitation and makes sure that once an immigrant doesn’t have a job he returns back to his country, rather than being in Europe, on the dole, with 3 wifes and 12 kids, happily reproducing on taxpayers’ expenses. Less Muslims in Europe would also mean less need to control everyone, since one of the reasons why today it’s necessary to spy everyone is that in a “multicultural” society you implicitly allow in a lot of country’s enemies who shouldn’t be there in the first place. And once you need to control everyone, then you understand multiculturalism isn’t possible but with similar cultures, and Turkey, and Islam at large ARE NOT compatible with our culture. Turkey, Kosovo etc. should stay out. Same applies to Muslim investments, like the planned investment Qatar is planning in France, with the approval of Hollande. That is an economic colonization that’s just going to alter the political balances at national level in France and an EU level.

  • Vivienne Leijonhufvud

    There is little to be said in defense of Turkey joining the EU. The EU already has an Islamic problem within its midst. No single leader of the EU is strong enough to take the bull by the horns and deal seriously with Islamic immigration into Europe. Britain has a serious case of Shariah law, already being practiced. Britain is simply burying its head in the sand. France’s streets are covered with Arab bums all over the pavements at Friday prayer time, as is unfortunately Russia. Scandinavia and Germany have major problems so NO Turkey many acerbate the situation further by dragging Sharia Law further into Europe. I am shocked the world is so oblivious of the rise of Wahhabism.

  • E.S.Lombard

    If the EU has provisional memberships reviewed each year for adherence to its standards, it might obligate Turkey to reform, but their headstrong leader is too rash to allow such a “humiliating arrangement.”

  • Rudy Hoffmann

    M E R D O G A N ! Should be only allowed into a European jail! Or maybe into a Zoo, with that donkey face… But all these back of the moon dictators miss what’s up to date: ZIONISM IS FASHIONABLE! AND ISRAEL IS TOP OF THE POPS! Anti-semites should get updated and copy their briliant Jewish neighbours, or else they’ll find themselves sheppards of desertworms very soon, hahaha!!!

    • Rudy Hoffmann

      As soon as Erdogan becomes a moderate I’ll moderate my comments too! LE CHAJIM!

  • “Should Turkey be admitted to the EU?

    In three words: NO! NO! NO!

    In fact I want a reversal of the Turkish invasion of Germany, where their overwhelming numbers not only bleed the social services dry(*), but are also overrepresented in violent criminality.

    (*) Although polygamy is illegal in Germany, there is a florishing “Industry” of it among muslim migrants.

  • Aurora Aronsson

    Eurabia is certainly ready for its new nazism, and with it its carriers: Muslim fundamentalists.
    Nothing new for Europe, which has been used to antisemitism for 2,000 years and has generated most LIBERTY-KILLER IDEOLOGIES!

  • Alter

    Like most Western Europeans or most Israelis, Turks have Edomite blood, not Ishmaelite blood.