Turkish Anti-Israel Activists Call for Boycott of Jewish Author
Calls for a boycott of a prominent Turkish author of Jewish descent over Israel's assault in Gaza have been denounced by politicians in Turkey as a "hate crime."
Turkey has taken a lead in denouncing the Israeli operation to stop rocket fire from Gaza, which Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has hyperbolically termed as a "genocide".
But the government insists that the criticism is against Israel's policies and is not in any way anti-Semitic.
A social media campaign for a boycott of Israeli products sparked a storm of criticism on Thursday after there were calls to include works by acclaimed Turkish-Jewish novelist Mario Levi.
Culture Minister Omer Celik described the "provocations" against Levi as "hate crime", while warning Turkish citizens against taking out their anger on the country's 17,00 strong Jewish community.
"...Provacations against Mario Levi, a brilliant author of Turkish (literature), are completely wrong. They are hate crimes," he wrote on Twitter.
Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek denounced the attacks against Levi as "an eclipse of reason."
Footballer-turned-MP, Hakan Sukur, wrote on Twitter: "If people launch a campaign to boycott a writer like Mario Levi for his beliefs, this is a hate crime to say the least."
The Istanbul-born Levi, 57, has penned more than 10 novels, most notably the 1999 novel "Istanbul was a Fairy Tale".
Levi himself expressed his sorrow over the Palestinian civilians killed during Israel's military operation in the Gaza Strip, as well as his regret over the campaign against him.
"Words are not enough to tell how much the tragic war in Gaza and the death of innocent children is breaking my heart. I can't believe I have experienced something like this in the country that I love to my bones," Levi said.
Turkey has seen a rise in anti-Semitism in recent years, with many young Jews choosing to leave the country as a result.
And despite official denials, many say the Islamist-led government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is actively fanning the flames of hatred.
Two weeks ago, the mayor of Ankara - a prominent member of Erdogan's AKP party - openly supported a prominent pop singer who praised Hitler.
Erdogan, who has dominated politics in Turkey for over a decade, is himself well-known for angry outbursts against the Jewish state.
He has in the past accused Israel of leading a "conspiracy" to overthrow his government, and in a recent heated exchange with a Turkish opposition activist referred to his opponent as "Israeli sperm".
In 1998, during his term as mayor of Istanbul at the time, Erdogan stated at a public rally 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."