Turkey’s Islamist Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan — who in recent weeks has belittled Israeli efforts to seek rapprochement, mocked Syrian ruler Bashar al-Assad for not militarily attacking the Jewish state, and accused Jerusalem of “state terrorism” — declared Wednesday that Zionism is a “crime against humanity”:
Speaking in Vienna at a United Nations event devoted to dialogue between the West and Islam, Erdogan decried rising racism in Europe and the fact that many Muslims “who live in countries other than their own” often face harsh discrimination. “We should be striving to better understand the culture and beliefs of others, but instead we see that people act based on prejudice and exclude others and despise them,” Erdogan said, according to a simultaneous translation provided by the UN. “And that is why it is necessary that we must consider — just like Zionism or anti-Semitism or fascism — Islamophobia as a crime against humanity.”
The Geneva-based NGO U.N. Watch — which captured on tape and exposed Erdogan’s latest remarks — noted that they were made with U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon present and listening silently, and without objection, on the stage. Previous Secretary-General Kofi Annan had recognized that equating Zionism with forms of racism was “an especially unfortunate” moment in the U.N.’s history and its battles against anti-Semitism.
U.N. Watch is calling on Ban Ki-moon to similarly condemn Erdogan’s remarks:
UN Watch expressed shock over anti-Jewish remarks delivered by Turkish prime minister Tayyip Erdogan at a UN summit for tolerance, and urged UN chief Ban Ki-moon — who was present on the stage yet stayed silent — to speak out and condemn the speech. The Geneva-based human rights group also called on Erdogan to apologize, and hoped US President Obama would press him to do so.
Turkish diplomats were recently forced to scramble after past anti-Semitic statements by Erdogan reemerged, heightening speculation that his hostility to Israel is grounded in something other than the promotion of objective Turkish national interests.
Diplomatic sources tell The Tower that behind the scenes, U.S. and European NATO allies are startled by Turkish behavior, and are expressing concern that it is difficult to reconcile Turkish membership in the trans-Atlantic treaty alliance with statements suggesting the sheer existence of a NATO ally and partner is a “crime against humanity,” a term most often associated with the Nazi effort to exterminate the Jewish people during the Holocaust, and which come on the heels multiple calls for Syria to militarily attack Israel, the only stable, liberal, Western democracy in the region.
Analysts have noted that regardless of motive, Ankara’s posture toward Israel is irrational:
The Turkish government for whatever reason is incapable of rational and level-headed behavior when it comes to Israel. Instead, it reverts to all sorts of childish tactics; empty threats, bullying, ridiculous attempts at shaming, name calling, etc. when it could do a much better job by calmly assessing the situation, realizing that the Israeli raid benefits Turkey as well, and stop with the empty boasts of coming to Syria’s defense. Not only does nobody buy the act for a second, it makes Turkey’s own Syria policy more complicated and makes Erdogan and Davutoglu look small rather than like serious statesmen with aspirations of turning Turkey into a dominant regional power.
Leading U.S. foreign policy analysts are increasingly criticizing Turkey’s rhetorical attacks on Israel as “nothing short of irresponsible,” and Ankara’s moves to block Israeli participation in NATO — moves which Erdogan has bragged about — have been criticized for negatively affecting U.S. and NATO capabilities.
Erdogan’s consistently undiplomatic behavior undermines the NATO alliance and American interests, according to The Tower‘s diplomatic sources, and is prompting private questions among U.S. and NATO allies about how to address these issues. The rhetorical gambits, combined with Turkey’s objective policies, may begin to prompt questions among White House and Pentagon reporters regarding the tone and substance of conversations between President Obama and Erdogan, who has been described as one of the president’s closest friends among foreign leaders.
U.N. Watch’s video: