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The Ten Worst Purveyors of Antisemitism Worldwide, #8: Recep Tayyip Erdoğan


Check out the previous installments in this ongoing series:

#10: David Irving

#9: Roger Waters


Back on June 10, 2005, in New York, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accepted an award from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) on behalf of Turkish diplomats who had saved Jews during World War II. Erdoğan had been elected two years earlier as head of the Islamist AKP Party, at a time when the Turkish-Israeli strategic alliance and trade relations were thriving.

Although antisemitism ran deep in the AKP and in the Turkish Islamist camp generally, Erdoğan’s words at the award ceremony sounded reassuring. “Anti-Semitism has no place in Turkey,” he said.

It is alien to our culture.

The Turkish nation has been living for centuries with the Jewish people and will continue its close and friendly relations with them in the future.… Our consistent policy towards anti-Semitic diatribes can be nothing short of zero tolerance.

Erdoğan went so far as to call antisemitism “a criminal disease of mind.”

Just a month earlier Erdoğan had visited Israel with a large group of businessmen, held talks with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, laid a wreath at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, and said Iran’s nuclear program was a threat not just to Israel but to the whole world.

Today Erdoğan is still in office, having been reelected twice. And yet, while unofficial trade relations continue, Turkish-Israeli strategic and military ties are in shambles. The small Turkish Jewish community of about 20,000 (some put the figure lower) has been subjected to terror attacks and vilification and largely lives in fear. The same ADL has denounced Erdoğan’s “vitriolic condemnation of Israel and unqualified embrace of Hamas.” Bloomberg columnist Jeffrey Goldberg has called him “a semi-unhinged bigot.”

What went wrong?