US slams Erdogan for ‘anti-Semitic comments’ in attack on Israel, US, and Austria

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (Photo: AFP)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (Photo: AFP)

WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan 24) – Late on Tuesday, the US State Department issued a statement criticizing derogatory statements made by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan about Jews.

“The United States strongly condemns President Erdogan’s recent anti-Semitic comments regarding the Jewish people and finds them reprehensible,” the statement, issued by State Department Spokesperson Ned Price, affirmed.

Although Price did not specify which of Erdogan’s statements he meant, he urged “Erdogan and other Turkish leaders to refrain from incendiary remarks which could incite further violence.”

Turkish-Iranian Competition as Biggest Defender of Palestinians?

On Monday, after a meeting of the Turkish cabinet, Erdogan, in a nationally-televised address, attacked the US and Israel over the conflict in Gaza.

Austria, too, was a target of Erdogan’s wrath. On Friday, it had flown Israel’s flag on official buildings to show sympathy with the Jewish state. Iran responded by cancelling the planned visit of its foreign minister, Mohammed Javad Zarif.

Erdogan, it seemed, could do no less. On Monday, as he blasted the US and Israel, he also complained about Austria—as if Turkey and Iran were competing with each other to pose as the strongest defenders of the Palestinians.

As Tehran and Ankara appear to vie for that distinction, the general Arab position appears more restrained. On Wednesday, while interviewing a Palestinian political figure, the Moscow-based “Russia Today” described the Arab position as “muted.”

Indeed, the UK’s Guardian newspaper noted already on Monday, “While some states with Muslim majorities, such as Turkey and Iran, have accused Israel of incitement at the al-Aqsa mosque and committing atrocities in Gaza, other countries that had followed suit during previous flare-ups have this time been more restrained," even as it failed to suggest an obvious possibility: neither the Turkish nor Iranian leadership have any stronger commitment to the Palestinian cause than the Arabs. But, rather, Turkey and Iran see political advantage in posturing while that is less true of Arab governments.

Erdogan’s Assault on Israel, the US, Austria

Erdogan claimed that Israel was a “terrorist state,” and speaking as if he were actually addressing Israelis, he charged, “You are using disproportionate force” and “dropping bombs on Gaza with your warplanes.”

“Does Gaza have warplanes,” he continued. “No! Yours are countless, with which you strike.”

Erdogan also charged the US with complicity in Israel’s attacks, while complaining of its recent recognition of the mass murder of Armenians in 1915, during World War I and the last years of the Ottoman empire, as “genocide.”

Read More: US recognizes Armenian genocide, prompting Turkish anger

Erdogan seemed to suggest that what Israel was doing now to the Palestinians was the same as what the Ottomans are charged with doing to the Armenians over a century ago.

“Mr. Biden,” Erdogan said, as if he were directly addressing the US president, as he had appeared to directly address Israelis, “you sided with the Armenians on the so-called Armenian genocide.”

“Now, unfortunately, you are writing history with your bloody hands in these events of seriously disproportionate attacks on Gaza that have caused the martyrdom of hundreds of thousands of people,” he continued.

Erdogan went far beyond even the most extreme Palestinian claims. Indeed, on Wednesday night, the Gaza Health Ministry reported 227 deaths had occurred there in the fighting since May 10.

Of course, that figure is nothing like what Erdogan claimed.

Dr. Aykan Erdemir, a former Turkish parliamentarian and now Senior Director of the Turkey Program at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, had some advice for Erdogan.

“When it comes to preventing collateral damage and civilian casualties, the Turkish president should strive to lead by example,” Erdemir told Kurdistan 24, “and take immediate steps to prevent a repeat of the devastation of Kurdish towns and Kurdish civilian casualties resulting from his government’s military operations, not only in Turkey, but also in Iraq and Syria.”

“It is not unusual for Erdogan to use anti-Semitic dog whistles when he criticizes Israel’s foreign and security policy,” Erdemir added.

“What is unusual is for the State Department to call out his anti-Semitism by labeling his statements as ‘reprehensible’ and ‘incendiary,’” he continued, praising the US statement as “a sign that the Biden administration will not look the other way” in regard to Erdogan’s “hate speech and incitement,” which “makes not only Turkey’s dwindling Jewish citizens a target of hate crimes, but also others around the world.”

On Austria, Erdogan asserted, “Flying a flag of a terrorist state from an official building amounts to living under the protection of terrorism.”

Ironically, the one genocide that Erdogan seemed to acknowledge was the Nazi genocide against the Jews during World War II—when six million were killed, two-thirds of European Jewry.

Whether Erdogan would have acknowledged that genocide, if he could not use it to attack a country that now sympathizes with Israel is unknowable. But Erdogan continued his diatribe against Vienna, charging, “The Austrian state seems to be trying to make Muslims pay for genocide to which it subjected Jews.”

Editing by John J. Catherine