Watch: Erdogan Yells Anti-Israel Slur, Assaults Protester
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan made media headlines Thursday, after he screamed an anti-israel slur before sending his security forces to beat a protester.
A Turkish citizen approached Erdogan and his security team as they visited Soma Thursday, in the wake of a catastrophic mining accident that killed nearly 300 people. Erdogan responded with anti-Semitic violence.
"Why are you running away from me - Israeli sperm!" he shrieked, slapping the protester, in video footage uploaded to Sozcu TV. The word "sperm" is seen as a particularly offensive insult in Turkish. The footage later shows security forces beating the man.
The incident came the same day that Yusuf Yerkel, one of Erdogan's advisers, was caught on camera kicking a protester in Soma. The man was being held down on the ground by two Turkish soldiers at the time; witnesses say Yerkel got in three to four kicks on the prone man. The photograph sparked rage in Turkey, and ignited more protests.
Frustration has spilled over in Turkey following the mining accident, which unfolded in a dramatic media flurry as rescuers attempted to save more than 700 people overnight. 450 people were eventually saved, but hundreds more were killed in the explosion.
Protesters vented their rage en masse across Turkey Wednesday and Thursday, claiming that Turkey's mining records are less than safe and blaming statewide negligence for the accident.
Erdogan himself seemed to shrug off the significance of the accident late Wednesday, sparking even more fury among Turkish citizenry.
"Explosions like this in these mines happen all the time," he insisted. "It's not like these don't happen elsewhere in the world."
Several protests turned violent, with police cracking down on the demonstrations with tear gas and water cannons.
Erdogan's anti-Israel comments come despite the fact that Israel both offered condolences to Istanbul over the mining accident and offered to send a fully equipped Magen David Adom (MDA) team to the disaster site - the only country to do so thus far.
Concerns have been raised over growing anti-Semitism in Turkey, which locals blame on the power and influence of Islamist parties. Cooling diplomatic relations between the two countries, following the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident are also to blame, local leaders say - making the 15,000 strong Jewish community uneasy.
Erdogan himself has a long public record of anti-Semitic statements. In 1998, prior to his stint as PM, Erdogan - then mayor of Istanbul - infamously declared that "the Jews have begun to crush the Muslims in Palestine, in the name of Zionism. Today, the image of the Jews is no different than that of the Nazis."
More recently, Erdogan accused Israel of being behind the ouster of Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Morsi.