'Incendiary Words Have Tragic Consequences'

“Incendiary words can have tragic consequences,” says AJC in response to claims by a Turkish official that world Jewry is behind protests.

Rina Tzvi ,

protests in Turkey
protests in Turkey

“Incendiary words can have tragic consequences,” David Harris, Executive Director of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) warned on Wednesday in response to claims by a Turkish official that world Jewry is behind the recent wave of protests in the country.

The most recent charge came from Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay, who accused foreign powers and Jews of encouraging the protests that began in Istanbul at the end of May.

“There are some circles that are jealous of Turkey’s growth. They are all uniting, on one side the Jewish diaspora,” said Atalay, the Turkish daily Hurriyet reported. “You saw the foreign media’s attitude during the Gezi Park incidents. They bought it and started broadcasting immediately, without doing an evaluation of the [case].” Atalay also said the international media had a big role in "the conspiracy."

Last month, Prime Minister Erdogan blamed the protests on “the interest-rate lobby,” a term that in the past has been associated in the Turkish media with an alleged conspiracy of Jewish businessmen. Atalay’s reference to “International media” carries similar sinister connotations of conspiracy theories about Jews.

"Let’s be clear. Prime Minister Erdogan is responsible for setting this dangerous, indeed toxic, tone,” said Harris. He urged Turkey’s current political leadership and supportive media to “end the conspiracy peddling and bigotry mongering.”

AJC sent a letter three weeks ago to Turkey’s ambassador to the United States, expressing concern about Erdogan’s “delusional prejudices” regarding Jews.

“Whatever protests and opposition Prime Minister Erdogan may face domestically, they are home grown,” Harris wrote. “To blame such disturbances on external forces, and to resort to age-old Jewish conspiracy canards, is pure cowardice and runs the risk of incitement. [Prime Minister] Erdogan should be called to task by responsible world leaders for such crude tactics rather than his facing up to the reality that a significant segment of the Turkish public is challenging his increasingly authoritarian rule.”