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Turkish Textbooks Increasingly Demonize Israel and Zionism, Refer to Jews as ‘Infidels,’ Says New Report

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attends a joint news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin (not pictured), following a meeting in Moscow, Russia, March 5, 2020. Photo: Pavel Golovkin / Pool via Reuters.

A new report has found that the latest editions of Turkish school textbooks take a strongly negative view of Israel and now describe Jews as “infidels.”

The report by IMPACT-se, which examines education materials on the basis of UNESCO standards related to peace, human rights, and tolerance, has found an increasing “Islamization” of the Turkish curriculum, in accordance with the Islamist AKP government led by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

In the textbooks, three categories of human beings are posited: Muslim “believers;” Muslim “hypocrites” who try to tempt Muslims to sin; and “infidels,” consisting of all non-Muslims.

The report notes that previous curricula have referred to Jews as “people of the book,” but Jews are now referred to solely as “infidels,” as are Christians.

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Marcus Sheff, the CEO of IMPACT-se, commented, “We have identified a marked deterioration in Turkish textbooks since our last review in 2016.”

“School books have been weaponized in Erdogan’s attempts to Islamize Turkish society and to hark back to a nostalgic age of Turkish domination,” he said. “We note increased demonization of Israel and antisemitic aspersions that must make Turkish-Jewish school students feel unsafe.”

The group’s report found that several incendiary attacks on Israel by Erdogan, such as those made after Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in 2008, appear in the textbooks. The Palestinian cause is promoted throughout, and students are encouraged to support and take part in it.

It also said the curriculum seeks to demonize Zionism, calling it “the Zionism Problem” and claiming it is an imperialist conspiracy to take over all the land between the Nile and Euphrates rivers — a common antisemitic conspiracy theory in the Muslim world.

This is coupled with the false claim that Zionists are planning to take over parts of Turkey and annex them into a “Greater Israel.”

The textbooks also falsely claim that the goal of Zionism is for the Jews to construct a Third Temple in place of the Muslim holy sites on the Temple Mount.

Major crises in the Middle East, including the Syrian and Yemeni civil wars, and the military coup in Egypt, are blamed on Zionism. Students are further asked to discuss the “destructive impact” of Zionism and Israel on the Middle East in general.

However, the report notes, certain textbooks do show respect for Judaism itself and the Hebrew and Aramaic languages many of its sacred texts are written in.

Some textbooks, moreover, do teach about the Holocaust, though the report refers to much of this curriculum as “underdeveloped.”

IMPACT-se found that the textbooks are increasingly radicalized by the ideology of political Islam, promoting a combination of ethnic, nationalist, and religious imperialism involving concepts such as “Turkish World Domination” and a neo-Ottoman “Ideal of the World Order.”

The report also noted material that was violently anti-American, anti-Armenian, and anti-Kurdish, and that omitted Turkish atrocities committed against Armenians and Greeks.

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