mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn bayles
Anti-Semitism Runs Deep in Turkey's AKP


It looks like the rot in Turkey’s AK Party runs deep—and perhaps even all the way to the top. An excellent analysis in the Turkey Analyst of how the Gezi Park protests have concretely set back Erdogan’s political program includes the following passage digging into the recent anti-Semitic drivel seeping out of the party leadership:

Erdoğan’s reactions to the Gezi Park protests have also been revealing in a number of other ways. Perhaps most striking has been Erdoğan’s insistence that the protests were instigated by foreign “dark forces” jealous of Turkey’s “rise to greatness” under his leadership and something he has described as the “interest lobby”. More disturbing has been the evidence of widespread—though not universal—anti-Semitism in the AKP. On June 16, 2013, hours before Erdoğan was due to address a rally of AKP supporters in Istanbul, the main pro-AKP daily newspaper Yeni Şafak claimed that it had uncovered evidence that the Gezi Park protests had been orchestrated by the “Jewish lobby” in the U.S. and even published the names and photographs of a number of prominent Jewish Americans who it alleged were the leaders of the conspiracy. The Yeni Şafak article was publicly endorsed by a succession of leading members of the AKP, who maintained that the government also had concrete evidence of the plot. On July 1, 2013, the Turkish Cihan news agency quoted Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay as publicly accusing the “Jewish Diaspora” of responsibility for the Gezi protests. Atalay later tried to claim that Cihan had willfully misquoted him. But a video of his speech is freely available on the internet and leaves no doubt that the Cihan report was accurate.

Erdoğan himself has not explicitly identified Jews as being responsible for the Gezi protests. Yet neither has he condemned or attempted to distance himself from the claims. Indeed, he has instructed several state institutions—including the Capital Markets’ Board—to launch an investigation to uncover evidence of suspicious financial trading by foreign financiers before and during the protests and to identify the foreign “dark forces” he is convinced are trying to undermine him.

Anti-Semitism is not just morally reprehensible; it is the sign of a profound inability to understand cause and effect in the world of politics. When politicians fall back on anti-Semitic tropes, analysts all too often assume that these leaders are being cynical and are exploiting the prejudices of members of their base. The truth, however, is that it’s more often a symptom of a political mental disorder—a tell of an inability to govern rationally.

Has Turkey’s AK Party fully succumbed to this disease of the mind? Perhaps not yet. But Erdogan’s lack of effort to condemn this kind of rot certainly doesn’t bode well for his party’s future—or his country’s.

[Protesters chant on July 6, 2013 before clashes on Istiklal Avenue in Istanbul. Photo courtesy Getty Images.]

Features Icon
show comments
  • wigwag

    For Americans, the problem is not so much Erdogan, Morsi or political Islam, the problem is Barack Obama.

    Political Islam was schooled in antisemitism at the feet of the Nazis during World War II and its aftermath. The Muslim Brotherhood in particular has roots in the Nazi past; its no surprise that its cousin, Turkey’s AKP shares the Brotherhood’s Jew hating sentiments.

    Unfortunately Barack Obama just doesn’t care. It was just a few months ago that Morsi called Jews the descendants of “apes and pigs.” It was only a few weeks after that when Erdogan called Zionism a “war crime.”

    After a few half hearted and ritualized criticisms, Obama and his gang of key stone kapos in the White House and State Department did nothing. For them it was business as usual. Obama’s Ambassador to Egypt hardly paused in her efforts to kiss the tuchases of the Muslim Brotherhood. Obama himself still worked over time to make clear that he and Erdogan were the best of buddies.

    Do you suppose that Obama might have had a different reaction to the statements of Morsi if he had said that blacks are the offspring of apes and pigs? Would Obama still consider Erdogan his best buddy if Erdogan had claimed that majority rule in South Africa was a war crime?

    Obviously foreign policy is hard. You often have to deal with characters that you find objectionable. Finding the right balance between interests and values can be exceedingly frustrating.

    But Obama’s willingness to look the other way when Islamists say the most vile things about Jews and his willingness to pretend that Islamist violence against Christians all over the world is nothing more than an aberration hardly worth discussing tells you everything about Barack Obama that you need to know.

    He’s a man berift of principles. If his foreign policy was a success that might be something of a saving grace, but his foreign policy is a disaster.

    • Corlyss

      “Unfortunately Barack Obama just doesn’t care.”

      Amen to that. Ronald Steel had a squib in a Jan 2010 American Interest in which he hit a trifecta. Just think how early he must have come to these realizations, never mind written them to get it in by the deadline for the Jan issue.

      1) “The problem is not that Obama has failed to provide solutions. Rather it is that he has not seriously tried to engage the American public—the vast majority of which wants him to succeed. When the President fails to provide the leadership we seek, even his most ardent supporters turn to apathy or cynicism. And at that point the vultures swoop in.”

      2) “He inspires. But he does not lead. Although elected by a post-Cold War coalition, he has failed to engage it in a post-Cold War foreign policy, or even to outline what such a foreign policy should be.”

      3) “Charisma is a declining asset unless continually renewed by accomplishment. Barack Obama has gloriously fulfilled our lower expectations. But if he wants to be remembered as the FDR of this generation—the President who boldly took on what he labeled the “malefactors of privilege”—rather than as its capable but ineffectual Herbert Hoover, he will have to trade in some of his charisma for a bigger dose of chutzpah and arm-twisting.”

      To many of us, it was patently clear from his CV he was unfit to be president when he declared in 2006. Indeed, some insiders say he reneged on a deal that traded then-current support for Senate for a promise not to run in 2008. If true, how typical of an inexperienced, overly-ambitious narcissistic ward heeler. In short, he should always have been identified by more experienced handlers as a dangerous man.

  • Jim__L

    So help them out, VM — provide the rational explanation for the problems that they’re pinning on “the Jews”.

    Demonstrate to these guys’ bosses what they are missing, and what sort of insight those bosses should be looking for in a replacement.

    • Corlyss

      I’m sure that’s just what Turks are looking for, message help from an American strategist.

      • Jim__L

        What’s the point of an article like this, if not to provide some constructive advice? If only the choir is listening, why sermonize? (Is VM pandering to its base as much as AKP is?)

        AKP: “It’s the Jews!”
        VM: “No, it’s not!”
        AKP: “Yes it is!”
        VM: “No it’s not, and you’re a horrible person for saying so!”

        Monty Python’s “Argument Clinic” sketch made about as much dialectical progress, and managed to avoid name-calling to boot.

        Neither side in this debate is actually addressing Turkey’s problems. Jews should be left out of it entirely, they are completely irrelevant here.

        If VM wants Turkey to do so, VM should set a good example, and bend its considerable analytic talents towards finding the non-Jewish roots of Turkey’s problems.

        Come on, guys. Over the years here, VM has expressed great sympathy for the success of the Turkish people, and even had a Turkish correspondent if I recall correctly. Focus on the actual problems. Be constructive. Don’t just posture for points. Get the subject off of anti-Semitism, or even anti-anti-Semitism, and concentrate on what’s really going on and how to address it.

  • Afrayedknot

    As I said, in response to your earlier post on Atalay’s statement, why would Erdogan contradict his deputy when he likely agrees with the sentiment. It would seem that this is more evidence to support my contention.

    • Shaul_R

      I think you are absolutely correct. I think WRM gives Erdogan way more benefit of the doubt than he deserves. While the West took his reference to a conspiracy by banks, international media and ‘interest lobbies’ as literal, all those raised on a steady diet of the standard ‘Jews owning banks and media’ propaganda took it exactly as he intended. Erdogan’s audience knows exactly who it is that owns banks and media, and charges interest, without him having to state it explicitly. Whether personally anti-Semitic, or not, he is certainly employing anti-Semitic rhetoric.

  • Jim__L

    “But [support for AKP] has not yet been completely detached in the sense of voters
    irrevocably transferring their allegiance to opposition parties”

    I have to wonder whether “irrevocable” transfers of allegiance from one political party to another are good for democracy. It seems to me that the kind of “swing” voters we have in America can provide a useful degree of flexibility in our political system, improving the responsiveness of our government by preventing them from taking a majority for granted.

    True, sometimes it only makes our government responsive to the narrow interests of the narrow “swing” category. Pandering to swing voters while ignoring the majority is definitely undemocratic.

    Still, some degree of flex in the system allows it to react effectively to events and individuals, which keep any political system dynamic and fun to watch as long as humanity and our fascinating world last.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2017 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service