Turkey’s Erdogan says Netanyahu worse than Hitler, Israel running ‘Nazi camps’

Israeli leader says he won’t be preached to by a person ‘who commits genocide against the Kurds,’ in latest verbal brawl between erstwhile allies

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a rally organized by his AKP party in solidarity with the Palestinians in Gaza, in Istanbul on October 28, 2023, amid the war between Israel and Hamas terror group. (Yasin Akgul/AFP)
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a rally organized by his AKP party in solidarity with the Palestinians in Gaza, in Istanbul on October 28, 2023, amid the war between Israel and Hamas terror group. (Yasin Akgul/AFP)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was worse than Nazi leader Adolf Hitler during a speech he gave at an event in Ankara on Wednesday, drawing charges that he himself was guilty of genocide.

The barbed exchange was a return to form for the two leaders, whose long history of public attacks on each other has ebbed and flowed alongside Israel and Turkey’s on-again, off-again alliance. The attacks had halted in the last year or two as Jerusalem and Ankara rekindled their relationship, but the détente has seemingly fallen apart over the Israel-Hamas war.

During an opening speech at an award ceremony in the Turkish capital, Erdogan said the systematic slaughter of 6 million Jews in the Holocaust was not as bad as Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza, and likened Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in the Strip to that of Jews rounded up in concentration and death camps.

“We’ve seen the Nazi camps of Israel. How does this happen? They used to talk about Hitler, but how are you any different than Hitler?” he asked of Israel.

“This is even worse than Hitler,” he added to raucous applause. “What Netanyahu is doing is no less than what Hitler did.”

“Hitler was not as rich as [Netanyahu] is,” Erdogan continued after a short pause. “He is richer than Hitler. He takes support from the West, he receives all kinds of support from the US, and with all that support, 20,000 Gazans have been killed.”

Responding to Erdogan’s comments on Wednesday afternoon, Netanyahu told the Turkish leader not to lecture Israel about morality.

“Erdogan, who commits genocide against the Kurds, who holds a world record for imprisoning journalists who oppose his rule, is the last one who can preach morality to us,” he said.

“The IDF is the most moral army in the world, which fights against and eliminates the most abhorrent and cruel terror organization in the world: Hamas-ISIS, which has committed crimes against humanity and which Erdogan praises and hosts.”

Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza was triggered by the October 7 terror onslaught in southern Israel in which thousands of Hamas-led terrorists burst into the country by land, air and sea, slaughtering some 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and seizing around 240 hostages under the cover of thousands of rockets.

In response to the deadly assault, Israel launched an aerial campaign and subsequent ground operation, vowing to destroy Hamas and end its 16-year rule in the Gaza Strip.

The Hamas-run health ministry in the Gaza Strip claims that more than 20,000 people have been killed since October 7, an unverified figure that does not differentiate between civilians and fighters. Israel says it has killed some 8,000 Hamas operatives inside the coastal enclave, and works to avoid civilian deaths while fighting an enemy that embeds its military infrastructure in homes, hospitals, schools and mosques.

Following the outbreak of war, Israel recalled its diplomats from Turkey after Erdogan accused Israel of committing war crimes. Turkey later also recalled its ambassador from Israel.

Even as the countries re-established ties in recent years, Turkey’s strong relationship with Hamas remained a major sore point, with Erdogan refusing to cut ties and allowing the terror group to continue to operate from an office in Istanbul.

While the country insisted that it only hosted the group’s political wing, in 2020, Israel provided Turkish intelligence with evidence that members of Hamas’s military wing operate in the office, under the supervision of Beirut-based Saleh al-Arouri.

FILE – This handout photograph taken and released by the Turkish Presidency Press Office on July 26, 2023, shows Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) welcoming the leader of the Palestinian terror group Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, (R) during their meeting at the Presidential Complex in Ankara. (Mustafa KAMACI / Turkish Presidency Press Office / AFP)

War cabinet minister Benny Gantz also slammed Erdogan for his remarks Wednesday, saying they were “blatant distortions of reality and a desecration of the Holocaust’s memory.”

“Hamas was the organization that perpetrated a despicable massacre. Removing the threat of Hamas from the citizens of Israel is an existential necessity and an unparalleled moral imperative,” he said in a statement issued in both Hebrew and English.

Erdogan’s speech on Wednesday is not the first time that the Turkish leader has compared Israel to Nazi Germany.

In July 2014, during Operation Protective Edge,  Erdogan accused Israel of displaying “barbarism that surpasses Hitler” during the ground operation in Gaza. Then, in 2018, after the Israeli government passed the Nation-State Law, he said that the “spirit of Hitler” had “found its resurgence among some of Israel’s leaders.”

More recently, he has been extremely vocal in his opposition to the current war between Israel and the ruling Gaza terror group, calling Israel a “terrorist state” on more than one occasion and praising Hamas for “defending its lands.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to troops on a visit to Gaza, December 25, 2023. (Avi Ohayon/GPO)

Netanyahu has regularly responded to the comments by denouncing Erdogan over Turkey’s campaign against the Kurds. More than 40,000 people are thought to have been killed in Turkey’s long-running war against Kurdish separatists, which has included airstrikes in Iraq and Syria.

Israel and Turkey were long-time regional allies before Erdogan came to power, but ties imploded after a 2010 Israeli commando raid on the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara ship, part of a blockade-busting flotilla, that left dead 10 Turkish activists who attacked IDF soldiers aboard the ship.

Relations between the two nations have been up and down since then, and they only restored full diplomatic ties in August 2022.

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