Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is no stranger to controversial, even outlandish, comments made on a regular basis, sometimes aimed at Israel, often aimed at the West in general.
In his latest installment, Erdogan accused the Western world of hating Muslims but loving their money, and of wanting to see people of the Muslim faith dead.
“They look like friends, but they want us dead, they like seeing our children die. How long will we stand that fact?” he said on Friday during an address to the Standing Committee for Economic and Commercial Cooperation of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (COMCEC) in Istanbul.
“Only we can solve our problems. I speak openly; foreigners love oil, gold, diamonds and the cheap labor force of the Islamic world. They like the conflicts, fights and quarrels of the Middle East. Believe me, they don’t like us,” he was quoted by the Turkish daily Hurriyet as saying.
“The only condition to overcome the crisis in the Islamic world is unity, solidarity and alliance. Believe me, we can resolve every problem as long as we are united. Islamic countries, which have developed economically recently, have been experiencing the biggest humanitarian and political crisis in their history simultaneously,” the Turkish president said.
“If we act together, we will end the loneliness of Palestine which has continued for nearly one century … It is possible to end the bloodshed in Iraq and killing of Syrian children if we unite,” he added.
Erdogan, who sees himself as a champion of the Palestinian cause and who has often unleashed scathing criticism of Israel, stepped up his rhetoric in the wake of the IDF’s recent Operation Protective Edge in Gaza, leading to continued shaky ties with its former close ally.
During the 50-day conflict between Israel, Hamas and other Gaza-based terror groups, Erdogan accused Israel of being “more barbaric than Hitler” during the military campaign, that it launched on July 8, aimed at stopping rocket fire from Gaza at Israeli cities and destroying tunnels, dug under the border by Hamas, that were used by terrorists to infiltrate into Israel and carry out deadly attacks.
In the latest head to head, Israel has accused Turkey of allowing Palestinian terror group Hamas to operate and plan terror attacks against Israelis from its territory, a charge Ankara denies. According to a report on Israeli media Friday, Israel has appealed to the NATO coalition — of which Turkey is a member – and to the US leadership to take steps against Ankara for the offense.
Turkey-Israel relations have been tense since the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident in which the ferry was boarded by Israeli commandos as it attempted to break the naval blockade of the Gaza Strip. In the ensuing melee, after the Israeli soldiers were attacked with iron bars and wooden bats, troops opened fire and nine Turkish activists were killed; 10 Israeli soldiers were injured.
Talks on Israeli compensation for the victims began a year ago after Israel extended a formal apology to Turkey in a breakthrough brokered by US President Barack Obama. But they stalled following this summer’s outlandish comments by Erdogan and other Turkish officials against Israel.
‘King of controversy’
Earlier this month, Erdogan declared that Muslims discovered the Americas before Columbus and that women are not equal to men. But these were just some of the latest headline-grabbing declarations from Erdogan over a long career of controversy.
He rarely backtracks on a statement and in the two most recent cases has come out fighting, accusing Western media of distorting his remarks and insisting he was right in the first place.
“Just because I repeated a fact based on scientific research, I have been targeted by the Western media, and the foreigners inside us, who suffer from an ego complex,” he said Thursday in response to the controversy over the Americas comments.
But while the statements embarrass some inside Turkey and cause consternation abroad, analysts say they are aimed at impressing his core conservative support base that helped him win the August presidential election.
“Most Turkish voters, given the level of their education, enjoy it when a Turkish leader locks horns with a foreign power,” said Adil Gur, head of the A&G polling group.
“The highly educated voter may ask questions about how these statements are seen abroad but the average voter does not and they approve.”
But the frequency and intensity of Erdogan’s broadsides is now starting to cause concern even in places where he could normally count on fervent support.
“He must think about speaking out less because, even if he is right, the way he talks gives rise to endless polemics,” said Mehmet Barlas, commentator for the pro-government Sabah newspaper.
Herewith are the most famous, and notorious, of Erdogan’s statements:
– Muslims discovered America –
November 15, 2014: Erdogan says Muslim explorers made it to the New World before anyone else.
“Contacts between Latin America and Islam date back to the 12th century. Muslims discovered America in 1178, not Christopher Columbus.”
– ‘Women not equal to men’ –
November 24, 2014: Erdogan causes an outcry by saying women and men are not equal.
“Our religion (Islam) has defined a position for women (in society): motherhood. Some people can understand this, while others can’t. You cannot explain this to feminists because they don’t accept the concept of motherhood.”
– ‘Stop smoking now!’-
November 3, 2014: On a visit to a district of Istanbul, Erdogan personally upbraids a member of the public for breaking the law on smoking in a public place.
“This shameless guy is sitting there and keeps smoking even after the president tells him not to do so.”
– ‘Israel like Hitler’ –
July 19, 2014: Erdogan launches a bitter attack against Israel amid its air campaign against Gaza.
“(Israelis) have no conscience, no honour, no pride. They curse Hitler day and night, but they have surpassed Hitler in barbarism,”
– ‘New iPhone same as last’ –
September 28, 2014: Erdogan ridicules the fuss over the new iPhone 6, saying it is the same as the last.
“This brand brings out a new model pretty much every year. But in fact it (the iPhone 6) is not really different from last year’s version,” he said.
– ‘We will wipe out Twitter’ –
March 20, 2014: Never a friend of new technology, Erdogan threatens to go a step further and eradicate Twitter.
“We will wipe out Twitter. I don’t care what the international community says. They will see the Turkish republic’s strength.”