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Turkish Jews defend Erdogan against antisemitism charge by US

Main Jewish group calls it ‘unfair and reprehensible’ to imply Turkey’s leader is a Jew-hater after he branded Israelis ‘murderers’ and baby killers

In this March 24, 2021, file photo, Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan gestures as he speaks during his ruling party's congress inside a packed sports hall in Ankara, Turkey. (Turkish Presidency via AP, File)
In this March 24, 2021, file photo, Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan gestures as he speaks during his ruling party's congress inside a packed sports hall in Ankara, Turkey. (Turkish Presidency via AP, File)

JTA — The main organization representing Turkish Jews has criticized the US State Department for accusing Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of using antisemitic rhetoric.

The Jewish Confederation of Turkey said Wednesday that it was “unfair and reprehensible to imply that President Erdogan is antisemitic” in a tweet.

On Tuesday, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement that “the United States strongly condemns President Erdogan’s recent antisemitic comments regarding the Jewish people and finds them reprehensible.”

A day earlier Erdogan, who on multiple occasions has made statements widely deemed antisemitic, made a rambling speech in Ankara following a cabinet meeting in which he used “Jews” and Israelis” interchangeably.

“They are murderers, to the point that they kill children who are five or six years old. They are murderers, to the point they drag women on the ground to their death and they are murderers, to the point they kill old people… They only are satisfied by sucking their blood,” he said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan meets with leaders of US Jewry in Manhattan on September 22, 2016 (Courtesy of the Turkish government)

Erdogan, who said US President Joe Biden has “bloody hands,” also claimed that “a Jewish prime minister” had told him on a state visit to Turkey that he enjoyed killings Palestinians, adding that “attacks by Jews on the Al-Aqsa Mosque have turned into a powder keg.”

Erdogan has often called Israel and Israelis “child killers,” and in 2014 called a protester against his internal policies “seed of Israel.”

But in the tweet defending Erdogan, the Jewish Confederation of Turkey said it cannot concur with allegations that he is antisemitic.

“On the contrary, he has always been constructive, supportive & encouraging towards us,” the tweet said.

Turkey has about 15,000 Jews.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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