Erdogan again likens Israel to Nazi Germany, says it commits ‘cultural genocide’

At Jerusalem conference in Istanbul, Turkish president says it’s not anti-Semitic to call out Israel: ‘No one can stop us from calling a spade a spade’

Raphael Ahren is a former diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses Muslim parliamentarians during a meeting on Jerusalem in Istanbul, December 14, 2018 (Presidential Press Service via AP, Pool)
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses Muslim parliamentarians during a meeting on Jerusalem in Istanbul, December 14, 2018 (Presidential Press Service via AP, Pool)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday compared Israel to Nazi Germany and accused the Jewish state of committing a “cultural genocide” against the Palestinian people.

“Today, the Palestinians are subjected to pressures, violence and intimidation policies no less grave than the oppression done to the Jews during WWII,” he said at a conference on Jerusalem in Istanbul, according to a transcript of his speech posted to his website.

“To us, it does not matter who the perpetrator is. Both of these are massacres, atrocities and oppressions. Shelling with bombs the children playing on the beach of Gaza is as serious a crime against humanity as the inhumane crime called the Holocaust.”

It was not clear what Erdogan was referring to, though he may have been talking about an incident during the 2014 Gaza war in which four children were killed.

Palestinians are paying the price for the Holocaust, the Turkish leader argued, saying that European countries are ignoring Israel’s actions because of their “shame” for what happened during World War II.

Turkey opposes oppression “no matter where it takes place and regardless of its identity, faith, ethnic or cultural origin,” Erdogan said, rejecting claims that his aforementioned claims could be viewed as anti-Semitic.

“It is by no means anti-Semitism to react to the spoilt acts of Israel. No one can stop us from calling a spade a spade,” he said.

Addressing the second “Conference of the Association of Parliamentarians for Al-Quds [Jerusalem],” the Turkish president insisted that Israel has for a half a century been trying to “erase the Islamic legacy” in Jerusalem in defiance of historical facts and international law.

“They are committing a cultural genocide there by usurping Muslims’ lands, businesses, residences and even houses of prayer. You are deceiving yourself if you think you can destroy Al-Quds’ spiritual identity by moving a few embassies and consulates there,” he said.

On Saturday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison formally recognized West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. He also announced his intention to open a defense and trade office in Jerusalem, though he stressed that Canberra would not move its embassy there before a final Israeli-Palestinian peace deal has been reached.

So far, only the US and Guatemala have their embassies in Jerusalem. The Czech Republic recently opened an honorary consulate and a cultural center in the city.

“Comparing the 1967 map of Palestine with the 2018 map of Palestine is enough to see the cultural genocide taking place in Palestine,” Erdogan said.

Arguing that Israel’s actions were supported by “certain members of the UN Security Council,” he called for a reform of the world body.

He also blamed the Western world for intentionally stoking conflict in the Muslim world for financial gain.

“When the tension escalates in the Islamic world, Western companies’ profits rise accordingly. When the conflicts escalate in the Middle East, Western governments sell more weapons,” he said.

Strife has been ignited between Sunni and Shiite Muslims, he lamented.

“The winner of such a conflict would never be Muslims. In such a landscape, Western arms and oil companies would be the ones to fill their pockets. Those, who drew our region’s map in line with their interests a century ago, are now playing on our differences for the same purpose. None of us must fall for such a plot.”

Israel-Turkey relations have long been tense but reached a new nadir in May in the aftermath of Israel’s response to violent protests on the Gaza border that were inspired by Hamas, and during which dozens of Palestinians were killed.

At the time, Erdogan placed the blame for the Gaza deaths squarely on Israel, accusing it of being a “terrorist state” that commits “genocide.” Then too, Erdogan compared Israel’s actions to those of the Nazis.

Turkey later recalled its ambassador from Tel Aviv and expelled Israel’s envoys to Ankara and Istanbul.

Israel responded in kind, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying Erdogan “well understands terrorism and slaughter” and should not preach to Israel about military ethics.

Israel expelled Turkey’s consul-general in Jerusalem, who represents Ankara to the Palestinians, while Turkey threatened to incriminate the Jewish state at the International Criminal Court in the Hague.

Despite reports about Israeli-Turkish back channel talks trying to restore diplomatic relations, none of the envoys who were recalled have returned to their respective postings.

Last week, Netanyahu indicated that there was a slight improvement in bilateral ties, joking that Erdogan used to call him Hitler every day and now only does so twice a week.

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