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Turkish Minister Denies 'Jewish Diaspora' Remarks

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay denies reports that he blamed the "Jewish diaspora" for the anti-government protests.
By Rina Tzvi
First Publish: 7/2/2013, 10:52 PM

protests in Turkey
protests in Turkey
Reuters

Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay denied Tuesday he blamed the "Jewish diaspora" for the recent anti-government protests. 

"I am upset that the statements I've made about Gezi Park have been deliberately distorted by a (news) agency. An accusation regarding the Jewish lobby or Jews is out of the question," Atalay was quoted as saying by the local media.

The deputy prime minister said his remarks were taken out of context.

"I do not make any statement that hurts Jews ... I very carefully select the words," he said, according to AFP.

The Gezi protests started in May, presumably triggered by Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality’s plan to remove a unique green area, Gezi Park, next to the iconic Taksim Square to build a replica of Ottoman artillery barracks and mall. 

Erdogan has dismissed protesters as "vandals" and "looters" and branded the turmoil as a plot "hatched by traitors and their foreign accomplices."

Atalay's initial reported comments caused worries among members of the Turkish Jewish community.

"We would like to express our concern that all Jews around the world including Turkish Jews may be a target because of such sort of remarks in almost every situation," the community said in a statement posted on its website.

The leader of the World Jewish Congress representing Jewish communities in 100 countries to governments, parliaments and international organizations called the comments "despicable."

"It is shocking to hear from a senior Turkish government minister such despicable and totally baseless slurs," Ronald S. Lauder said, according to AFP.

"Mr. Atalay should have the decency to apologize. His remarks are an insult not only to the Jewish people but also to the many Turkish citizens who took part in the protests and who have real grievances," added Lauder.