Deputy Turkish Prime Minister Besir Atalay accused the “Jewish Diaspora” and other foreign agents of orchestrating recent unrest that has rocked Istanbul and other cities.
Atalay made the comments during a visit to the Central Anatolian province of Kırıkkale on Monday.
“There are some circles that are jealous of Turkey’s growth,” Atalay said, according to a report from the Hurriyet Daily News. “They are all uniting, on one side the Jewish Diaspora. You saw the foreign media’s attitude during the Gezi Park incidents; they bought it and started broadcasting immediately, without doing an evaluation of the [case].”
The demonstrations began in late May after police used tear gas and water cannon to smash a sit-in protest in Istanbul’s Taksim Square against the removal of the adjacent Gezi public park to make way for a mall and reconstructed army barracks.
The public response quickly swelled into a tide of protests against the government across Turkey, though focused in Istanbul, that continued throughout June with violent clashes between demonstrators and riot police that killed three campaigners and one police officer.
According to Hurriyet, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed several times that an “interest rate lobby” along with world media were responsible for the spread of the riots.
A number of Turkish commentators and lower-level officials have accused Jewish groups and others of conspiring to engineer the protests and fell Erdogan.
The president of the World Jewish Congress (WJC) Ronald Lauder slammed Atalay over his comments and demanded he apologize.
“It is shocking to hear from a senior Turkish government minister such despicable and totally baseless slurs. Mr. Atalay should have the decency to apologize. His remarks are an insult not only to the Jewish people but also to the many Turkish citizens who took part in the protests and who have real grievances,” said Lauder in a statement. ““I am convinced that the people of Turkey are not going to be misled by these delusory statements from their leaders. This is a Turkish issue that will be resolved, hopefully democratically and peacefully, within Turkey.”
Tensions between Israel and Turkey became strained in recent years following violent clashes in 2010 when Israeli forces boarded the Mavi Marmara ferry that was leading a flotilla to break Israel’s blockade on Gaza.