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August 6, 2014 9:52 pm

Turkish Ambassador Responds Angrily to Criticism of Erdoğan by U.S. Congressional Committee, Risking U.S.-Turkey Relations

avatar by Joshua Levitt

Anti-Israel protesters burn an Israeli flag in Turkey on July 17, 2014. Photo: Algemeiner.

Anti-Israel protesters burn an Israeli flag in Turkey on July 17, 2014. Photo: Algemeiner.

A Turkish Ambassador on Tuesday responded angrily to a letter from four members of the U.S. Congress who wrote to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to object to his recent “historically inaccurate and provocative” statements about Israel’s Operation Protective Edge, and said his “inflammatory rhetoric” could negatively impact their work to strengthen the U.S.-Turkey relationship.

The original letter, seen by The Algemeiner, was sent last week by the co-chairs of the U.S. Congressional Caucus on U.S.-Turkish Relations and Turkish Americans, the U.S. Congressional Representatives were Steve Cohen, Gerald Connolly, Virginia Foxx and Ed Whitfield.

They said: “It has come to our attention that remarks you have recently made have been widely viewed as anti-Semitic and are most definitely anti-Israel. Your remarks, already reviled as ‘offensive and wrong’ by the U.S. State Department, make it increasingly difficult to communicate in a positive way about Turkey when interacting with our colleagues.”

They called out his recent statement, “You can see that what Israel does to Palestine, to Gaza right now, has surpassed what Hitler did to them,” as being “historically inaccurate and provocative.”

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“Many countries around the world are focused on working towards peace in the Middle East, and at one time Turkey was considered among them,” they said. “Your recent comments, however, do nothing to end violence but rather could serve to instigate further hatred.”

“We remain strong supporters of robust U.S.-Turkey relations and hope that you will consider the impact that such inflammatory rhetoric has on our relationship,” they said.

The Turkish Ambassador who responded in a two-page letter, also seen by The Algemeiner, was Volkan Bozkir, Chairman of the Turkey-USA Inter-Parliamentary Friendship Caucus and the Foreign Affairs Committee. He denied the charges of anti-Semitism and argued that Erdoğan’s anti-Israel stance was separate and based on the Israeli government’s actions in Gaza.

Bozkir wrote: “The assertion in your letter that some remarks of our Prime Minister are ‘anti-Israel’ and ‘can be viewed as anti-Semitic’ is completely baseless,” and said Erdoğan “has publicly denounced anti-Semitism as a crime against humanity.”

“Your characterization of the legitimate criticisms leveled by our Prime Minster at the Israeli government’s policies of terror and destruction as anti-Semitism constitutes a distortion of facts and a cover-up of Israel’s violation of law and, possibly, its war crimes,” he argued.

“Obviously, it is not a coincidence that anti-Semitic incidents increase during times when Israeli governments attack the Palestinian people. Each Israeli attack undermines the peace and tranquility of Jews living all around the world and turns them into targets of hate speech.”

On Monday, Jewish human rights group The Simon Wiesenthal Center said Erdoğan’s recent “anti-Semitic diatribe” was “unmatched since Hitler and Goebbels.”

Erdoğan told thousands at a rally, “They kill women so that they will not give birth to Palestinians; they kill babies so that they won’t grow up; they kill men so they can’t defend their country … They will drown in the blood they shed…”

The Simon Wiesenthal Center’s directors said, “These lines are the words of a modern day Goebbels who believes that if you repeat a lie often enough it will eventually be accepted as truth.”

Last week, Erdoğan, via Turkey’s ambassador to Washington, responded to an open letter from the American Jewish Congress asking for the return of its ‘Profile of Courage’ award, bestowed in 2004 for Erdoğan’s  stance on fighting terrorism and working towards peace.

In his own open letter, reported by Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News, Turkish Ambassador to Washington Serdar Kılıç said, “Prime Minister Erdoğan will be glad to return the award.”

Jack Rosen, president of the New York-based AJC, accused Erdoğan of “dangerous rhetoric” and “inciting violence against the Jewish people,” with a series of speeches condemning Israel and by not condemning protests in Turkey that devolved into violence at the Israeli embassy and consulate and even the Israeli ambassador’s private residence.

“A decade after we gave you our award, you have become arguably the most virulent anti-Israel leader in the world — spewing dangerous rhetoric for political gain and inciting the Turkish population to violence against the Jewish people,” Rosen said.

Political analysts in Ankara, as reported by Reuters, pointed to the upcoming election in Turkey, where Erdoğan’s Israel-bashing has helped him secure a dominant lead ahead of the vote.

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