Hugh Fitzgerald: In Turkey, Antisemitism Right and Left (Part Three)
“You are the partners to the Greater Middle East Project for the last 16 years,” Ince added. “You are those who are worthy of the Jewish Courage Prize with the services you have done and deserve this award.”
Many commentators have taken this as a negative reference to the “Courage to Care Award” that Erdogan accepted in 2005 from the US-based Anti-Defamation League, which was dedicated to the people of Turkey for their efforts to save Jews during the Holocaust.
Erdogan was not, pace Muharrem Ince, awarded the Courage to Care award; he only accepted it on behalf of its intended recipients, “the people of Turkey for their efforts to save Jews during the Holocaust.”
Erdogan also accepted a “Profile of Courage” award from the American Jewish Congress in 2004 for his commitment to protecting Turkish Jews and supporting Middle East peace efforts. He agreed to an AJC request to return the award in 2014, following criticism of his “dangerous rhetoric” during that summer’s war between Israel and the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas.
Ishak Ibrahimzadeh, president of the Jewish community of Turkey, denounced Ince’s language on Thursday, asking in a tweet, “Mr. Muharrem, what’s the problem with the ‘Jewish’ award?”
“In an environment where the word ‘Jewish’ has become a symbol of hatred and alienation,” he said, “we expect you to remove this tweet that lacks awareness!”
Ince’s comments are not the first to raise concerns about antisemitism in the Turkish left. In November, Ozgur Özel — a CHP parliamentary group leader — claimed that then-Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım would fail to discuss a US clampdown on Turkish visas during a visit to Washington, and would instead “seek support from the Jewish lobby.”
In Erdogan’s earliest days in power, having gone from being Mayor of Istanbul to Prime Minister, when it wasn’t clear how anti-Israel and how antisemitic Erdogan would turn out to be, the American Jewish Congress gave him its “Profile of Courage” award for his “commitment to protecting Jewish Turkish Jews” (which, rhetorically, he did), and his “supporting Middle East peace efforts,” which would, beginning in 2009, turn out to mean supporting the “Palestinians” to the hilt and denouncing Israelis for their attempts to defend their country from Hamas rockets. When that award was given to him in 2004, it still looked as if Erdogan might continue to treat Israel, if not any longer as an ally, at least not as the enemy it subsequently became for him. Indeed, in 2005 he paid a visit to Israel.
Muharrem Ince thinks it shameful that Erdogan should ever have accepted any awards from any Jewish group. For him, that implies a sinister connection — no need to spell it out — to the “Zionists.” Erdogan was given, and accepted, exactly one award for himself (the other he accepted on behalf of the “people of Turkey”), and when asked by the American Jewish Congress to return that award in 2014 because of his strong criticism of Israel that year, he eagerly complied, taking the occasion to lash out at Israel yet again. But apparently that cuts no ice with Ince. Not even the fact that Erdogan has been described as possibly “the most antisemitic leader now in office” saves him, in Ince’s view, from being too close to the Zionists.
Erdogan’s incessant over-the-top comments about Israel are noteworthy. With his offer to create an “Army of Islam” to destroy the Jewish state, he can hardly be outdone in antisemitic malevolence. But he is not, alas, a lonely figure on the Turkish political landscape. He has plenty of company. There is Burhan Kuzu of the AKP, who knows “Jewish bankers” — a dozen families — control everything in the United States, and have done so since at least 1865, when the Zionists killed Abraham Lincoln. Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, the Koch brothers — please take note. There is Muharrem Ince, the opposition leader who hopes to outdo Erdogan in antisemitism, by accusing him of being too closely linked to the Jews. Pay no attention to how Erdogan has been lambasting Israel for the past 13 years, says Ince, but just remember that in 2004 he accepted an award for speaking in friendly fashion about Turkish Jewry. Erdogan, for shame!
There must be some sane people in Turkish politics, not unhinged by antisemitism. If you hear of them, please let me know. I’ll be glad to post both their names and examples of their sanity. For me, it would be a Turkish delight.