Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday branded Israel the “most fascist, racist state” in the world after Israel’s Knesset passed a new law defining the country as the nation state of the Jewish people.
“This measure has shown without leaving the slightest room for doubt that Israel is the world’s most Zionist, fascist and racist state,” Erdogan said in a speech to his ruling party.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promptly responded to Erdogan’s comments, saying Turkey is now living under a “dark dictatorship.”
In one of his toughest recent verbal onslaughts against Israel, Erdogan claimed there was “no difference between Hitler’s obsession with the Aryan race and Israel’s understanding that these ancient lands are meant only for Jews.”
“The spirit of Hitler, which led the world to a great catastrophe, has found its resurgence among some of Israel’s leaders,” he added, referring to Germany’s Nazi leader in the lead-up to and during World War II and the Holocaust.
Around six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust.
The Turkish leader warned the bill would lead the region and the world to “blood, fire and pain” and promised to stand with Palestinians. He also called on the international community to stand against Israel.
Erdogan also criticized Israel over recent deadly clashes on the border with the Gaza Strip.
“Advancing with tanks, artillery, jets and rockets upon civilian Palestinians, who solely seek to defend their own lands, Israel has once again shown that it is a terror state,” he said. “I call on the Muslim world, the Christian community, all countries, organizations, NGOs, democratic journalists and freedom advocates around the world to take action against Israel.”
In sharp comments posted to Twitter shortly afterward, Netanyahu cited an ongoing Turkish military incursion into Kurdish regions in Syria, and the regime’s response to a 2016 failed coup in Turkey, after which tens of thousands of civil servants, police, judges, teachers, and other officials were detained or removed from their posts.
“Erdogan is massacring Syrians and Kurds and has jailed tens of thousands of his citizens,” said Netanyahu. “The fact that the great ‘democrat’ Erdogan is attacking the nation-state Law is the greatest compliment for this law.
“Turkey, under Erdogan’s rule, is becoming a dark dictatorship, whereas Israel scrupulously maintains equal rights for all its citizens, both before and after the [nation-state] law.” he added.
Last week Erdogan, who was recently reelected as president with increased powers to rule, accused Israel of apartheid in passing the nation state law.
The legislation, adopted after a tumultuous Knesset session, for the first time enshrines Israel as “the national home of the Jewish people” in its quasi-constitutional Basic Laws.
The nation-state law (full text here) further declares that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, sets the Hebrew calendar as the official calendar of the state, and recognizes Independence Day, days of remembrance, and Jewish holidays. One clause of the law downgrades the Arabic language from official to “special” standing, but also cryptically stipulates that “this clause does not harm the status given to the Arabic language before this law came into effect.”
The issue is the latest source of tension between Israel and Turkey, one of the Jewish state’s few key Muslim partners.
In May, Ankara ordered Israel’s ambassador out over Palestinian deaths during clashes along the border with Gaza.
The strains have threatened a 2016 deal on normalizing ties following a crisis sparked by the May 2010 deadly clashes between Israeli commandos and Turkish activists on board a Gaza-bound Turkish ship.
Erdogan regards himself as a champion of the Palestinians and has twice recently held summits of Muslim states to denounce the recognition by the United States of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
But analysts note that behind the rhetoric economic ties remain strong, with trade robust and both sides interested in the export of Israeli energy resources to Turkey.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.