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Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Strategic Alliances for a Secure, Connected, and Prosperous Region

The Two-Faced Erdoğan

Filed under: Israel, Peace Process, The Middle East, Turkey

The Two-Faced Erdoğan

Since winning the April 16, 2017, referendum to make changes in his country’s constitution, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been drunk on victory. He did not, however, receive a single telephone call from Prime Minister Netanyahu or President Rivlin to congratulate him on his win.  At the May 9, 2017, International Forum on Al Quds Waqfs in Istanbul to mark Al-Quds Day, Erdoğan decided to tongue-lash Israel.

Palestinian Authority President Abbas meeting with Turkish President Erdogan in the presidential palace in Ankara in 2015 in the presence of an Ottoman military honor guard. The 16 soldiers represent 16 unitedTurkish states. (Getty)
Turkish President Erdogan meeting with Palestinian Authority President Abbas in the presidential palace in Ankara in 2015 in the presence of an Ottoman military honor guard. Does Erdogan seek a return of the Ottoman caliphate? (Getty Images)

“Israel kills children who play at the seashore, and there is no force that can deter it or make it put an end to this policy,” said President Erdoğan. “Each day that Jerusalem is under occupation is an insult to us.”

He called on all the Muslims in the world to visit the Islamic holy places in Israel, and as a goodwill gesture, he also extended $10 million in financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority.

Erdoğan, the old-new dictator who has been further empowered by his latest political victory, is playing a hypocritical and two-faced game. While posing as a paladin of human rights, he is systematically violating human rights in his own country.

Whoever looks into the human rights situation in Turkey since last year’s failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016, will come up with amazing figures. Some 47,000 persons are now detained in Turkish prisons, 100,000 officials have been expelled from public service, and 4,200 judges have been dismissed.

Just recently the government issued arrest warrants for another 107 judges and general prosecutors on the grounds of membership in the “armed terror organization” of exiled leader Fethullah Gülen.

Reinstating the Death Penalty?

Erdoğan’s government is weighing whether to make use of the changes in the constitution in a manner that would allow reinstating the death penalty. The government could then even more severely intimidate and repress its opponents, and could also ease the dreadful crowding in the prisons caused by the mass arrests.

According to a report in the Turkish newspaper Zaman, Erdoğan is considering another referendum, this time on the question of restoring the death penalty.

Belgium and Germany have already announced that Turkish embassies their countries would not be allowed to conduct such a referendum among citizens of Turkish extraction.

Because Erdoğan sees himself as the new Turkish sultan and wants to bolster his status in the Islamic world at Israel’s expense, Israel is his convenient whipping boy.

Israel is not, however, the only country that Erdoğan chastises. Egypt, too, is a target for Turkish accusations that President Sisi’s regime is committing grave human rights violations.

Since 2013, Erdoğan has granted political refuge to dozens of Muslim Brotherhood leaders who fled Egypt after Sisi took power. Erdoğan has allowed them to set up Arabic television channels that broadcast daily incitement against the Egyptian government, including the issuing of a fatwa that permits the assassination of Sisi and other senior officials.

Palestinian supporters of the Hamas movement hold portraits of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Palestinian supporters of the Hamas movement hold portraits of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as they shout slogans against the military coup attempt in Turkey, during a demonstration in Gaza City, on July 17, 2016.
(Photo by Momen Faiz/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The fact that the Egyptian government has declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terror organization does not faze Erdoğan. He also hosts operatives of Hamas’ political wing in Istanbul who run sleeper cells in the West Bank from Turkish soil. It was one of those cells, directed from Turkey that murdered the couple Eitam and Na’ama Henkin near Nablus in October 2015.

According to a May 6, 2017, report in the Egyptian newspaper Al-Youm al-Saba’a, Erdoğan is funding and supporting two Muslim Brotherhood research institutes in Istanbul that praise and glorify him.  

These institutes have recently published two reports. One of them vilifies the Turkish regimes that preceded Erdoğan, especially that of Ataturk, and portrays Erdoğan as having saved Turkey from collapse. The second deals with Turkey’s involvement in the war now raging in Syria and Iraq.

This latter publication maintains that Turkey’s objective in the war is to protect its border, and it depicts Erdoğan as the “Ottoman caliph” who will defeat the European Union and bring it to heel on the refugee issue.

Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party is part of the global Muslim Brotherhood. Erdoğan regards himself as one of the movement’s foremost leaders in the world, no less so than the prominent Islamic sheikh and jurist Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who lives in Doha and heads the International Union of Muslim Scholars.

Hence it appears that Erdoğan’s outburst of anti-Israeli incitement will not be his last and that he will keep slamming Israel despite his signature on the Turkish-Israeli reconciliation agreement.

From time to time Erdoğan’s megalomania prompts him to launch such tirades against Israel with the aim of reaping popularity in the Islamic world.

It is, therefore, important to put him in his place – or as the saying goes, “Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones.” Erdoğan needs to know that he, too, is vulnerable to criticism.

Each time President Erdoğan talks about Israel violating the Palestinians’ human rights, it is well worth reminding him of his own abuses of the human rights of tens of thousands of Turkish citizens.