Jewish Activist in Turkey Blames Erdoğan’s Incitement for Violence Against Jews as Israeli Diplomats Withdrawn
“Things are getting serious here,” a Jewish activist in Turkey told The Algemeiner on Friday, as riots in Ankara and Istanbul at Israel’s embassy and consulate overnight led the Israel Foreign Ministry to recall the families of its diplomats and to reduce its diplomatic representation to a minimum.
“Everything was at moderation until several speeches of [Prime Minister Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan, where he accused Israel of killing women and children,” said the activist, who requested anonymity due to safety concerns.
The escalation comes as Israeli forces entered Gaza in an expansion of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge aimed at ending rocket fire against civilians.
As well as Erdoğan, who condemned Israel in another hate-filled speech on Friday, the activist also fingered Bulent Yildirim, the head of IHH, a terror-tied humanitarian NGO behind the 2010 Mavi Marmara Flotilla in Gaza, for inciting Jew hatred in Turkey.
On Thursday, Yildirim told local television station Haber Turk that “Turkish Jews will pay dearly” for Israel’s actions. “Jewish tourists, don’t dare come to Turkey,” he said on television. “Tonight and tomorrow we are going to hold a different kind of protest, we do not have patience anymore. The Zionists are putting the future of the Jews in danger, we can not hold back our youngsters anymore.”
The activist said that “from the first days of (the) Gaza operation,” Yildirim “accused the Turkish Jewish community.”
“Yildirim said that Istanbul-Tel Aviv planes are full with Turkish Jews with dual nationality and that they are going to Israel to fight against Palestinians and that the Zionists in Turkey are the main financiers of Israel and Mossad,” the activist said.
“With the announcement of the ground operation, the debates on TV channels became really provocative against the Turkish Jewish community,” the activist said. “They asked the community to put pressure on Israel to stop the operation. Yildirim on TV said, ‘We are stopping people from doing ‘bad things’ to the community. The community has to stop Israel, if not ‘bad things’ can happen.’ And the protests in Ankara and Istanbul started. Today it’s Friday and we expect the continuation of these protests.”
Late Thursday, another Turkish Jewish activist also decried the violent situation in an interview with The Algemeiner. “The Turkish Jewish Community which has been living in Turkey peacefully for over 500 years, is in grave danger for their lives after the escalation of the events in the Middle East,” the individual said.
In Turkey, media opposed to Erdoğan pointed to elections next month as the catalyst for his fiery words against Israel, while newspapers close to the prime minister and his AKP party fanned those flames.
On Friday’s front page of the pro-AKP newspaper Yeni Safak, the main story is on Operation Protective Edge in Gaza, and the inset carries a photo of Thursday’s night protest.
The main headline reads “Murderers are in Gaza” alongside a photo of an IDF soldier. At the bottom right-hand side is a picture of the vast demonstrations that were held in Istanbul.
Additionally, the second activist interviewed by The Algemeiner cited IHH head Yildirim as saying “these protests are going to increase every day, and Israeli products will be boycotted.”
On Friday, Erdoğan accused Israel of “genocide,” according to Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News. Erdoğan then said Israel “has never pretended to be pro-peace. It has always tormented [the Palestinian people] and today it is continuing to do so,” with good relations between the two countries “impossible” under the current circumstances.
“The government and I will never look positively [at Israel] as long as we are in power … [Israel] may seem like the winner for now. But it will eventually be defeated,” Erdoğan said, before calling Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi an “illegitimate tyrant,” for attempting to broker a peace agreement to end the conflict.
On Friday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was expected to meet with Erdoğan directly in Turkey.
The violence in Ankara and Istanbul on Thursday night prompted the Israeli Foreign Ministry to withdraw most of its diplomats and issue a stern statement.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman instructed diplomats “to make it clear to the Turkish government that Israel strongly protests the flagrant violation of diplomatic rules, including the Vienna Convention, by the Turkish authorities and security forces during the protests, and to stress that Israel holds the Turkish government fully responsible for the safety of the Israeli representatives.”
The Foreign Ministry said, “Following the violent demonstrations last night outside the Israeli diplomatic missions in Ankara and Istanbul, during which stones were thrown, the windows of the consulate in Istanbul were smashed and a Palestinian flag hung on the wall of the home of the Israeli ambassador in Ankara, Minister of Foreign Affairs Avigdor Liberman instructed that the families of Israeli diplomats serving in Turkey were to return to Israel. It was further decided to reduce diplomatic representation in that country to a minimum.”
The Foreign Ministry also blamed Erdoğan’s rhetoric for the upheaval, saying “the violent protests came after inflammatory remarks made by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and that Turkish security forces did not take the required preventative action during the protests to prevent the hostile incidents.”