Turkey’s Islamist government, frightened by protests that began in Istanbul in May, has decided to use a time-honored technique in order to deflect attention away from the real motivations of the protesters: blame the Jews.
Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay said, “There are some circles that are jealous of Turkey’s growth. They are all uniting, on one side the Jewish diaspora. You saw the foreign media’s attitude during the Gezi Park incidents. They bought it and started broadcasting immediately, without doing an evaluation of the [case].”
Atalay also blamed the “international media,” a code phrase for an apocryphal Jewish conspiracy. He echoed Prime Minister Erdogan, who said the protests resulted from “the interest-rate lobby,” a term that the Turkish media uses to reference an alleged conspiracy of Jewish businessmen.
David Harris, executive Director of the American Jewish Committee, responded, “Incendiary words can have tragic consequences. Let’s be clear. Prime Minister Erdogan is responsible for setting this dangerous, indeed toxic, tone.” Harris encouraged Turkish leaders to “end the conspiracy peddling and bigotry mongering.”
Three weeks ago, Harris fired off a letter to Turkey’s ambassador to the United States in which he mentioned Erdogan’s “delusional prejudices” regarding Jews. He wrote:
Whatever protests and opposition Prime Minister Erdogan may face domestically, they are home grown,” Harris wrote. “To blame such disturbances on external forces, and to resort to age-old Jewish conspiracy canards, is pure cowardice and runs the risk of incitement. [Prime Minister] Erdogan should be called to task by responsible world leaders for such crude tactics rather than his facing up to the reality that a significant segment of the Turkish public is challenging his increasingly authoritarian rule.
Now that Egypt’s Islamist rule has been toppled, Erdogan’s status may not be quite so solid, either.