Turkish Jewish community leaders on Sunday accused ex-economy minister Zafer Çağlayan of anti-Semitism after he suggested that “the Jews” might be behind the corruption investigation in which he was implicated.
Çağlayan, a lawmaker from Turkey’s ruling AKP party who was linked to the scandal in December, had said that he wouldn’t be surprised if “Jews, Zoroastrians or atheists” were behind the investigation, as a Muslim wouldn’t have opened the graft probe to begin with.
“This nation is aware what kind of a mentality we are struggling with,” Çağlayan said Saturday at a public rally in Mersin, in southern Turkey. “If Jews, Zoroastrians or atheists do this to us, I would understand it. But if the one who does this [against us] is passing himself off as a Muslim, shame on him.”
Turkey’s chief rabbinate issued a harsh response to Çağlayan’s comments, saying they constituted a crime against humanity due to their anti-Semitic character and accusing the ex-minister of “attacking” Judaism.
“We have sadly learnt about Mersin deputy Zafer Çağlayan’s remarks. We share with the public our concerns about the existence of such incidents and statements which attack our religion, and causing such views to penetrate society whether intentionally or not,” the chief rabbinate said in a statement translated by the Turkish Hurriyet daily.
“We expect all to avoid such a situation at a time when we need peace in the world, and in our country most; and the anti-Semitism and similar statements are regarded as crimes against humanity by all of us.”
Çağlayan resigned in late December after being implicated in the scandal, along with two other ministers belonging to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s party.
Erdogan himself has said the probe into corruption allegations leveled on several of his ministers, including allegations of illicit money transfers to Iran and construction bribes, was a foreign plot to discredit his government.