Besir Atalay, one of four deputy prime ministers in Turkey, claimed Monday that recent protests and antigovernment sentiment in the region were linked to the “Jewish Diaspora,” Haaretz reports. Turkey’s Jewish community is worried that those remarks could spark anti-Semitic anger.
“We are trying to obtain information about the meaning, the scope and details of Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay’s statement about the ‘Jewish Diaspora being behind Gezi protests,’” the Turkish Jewish Community and chief rabbinate said in a joint statement on the community’s website.
Turkey has seen intense protests throughout the last month by those in opposition to Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan. But Atalay claimed that others were “envious” of Turkey’s growth in recent years, the Forward reports.
“They are all uniting. On the one side you have the Jewish diaspora. You have seen the foreign media’s attitude over the Gezi Park events, how quickly they bought into it and how quickly and widely they started broadcasting before any assessment was made,” he said.
Relations between Israel and Turkey have been tense, making life harder for Jews in the country. Ties were at their worst in the summer of 2010, when the IDF raided the flotilla headed to Gaza from Turkey, killing nine Turkish activists. And this year, Erdogan said that Zionism was “a crime against humanity.”
The World Jewish Congress came out against Atalay’s remarks, Reuters reports.
“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,” it said in a written statement.
The media coverage, though, seems to have made Atalay back down a bit, according to JTA.
“In his speech, (he) has never intended, uttered or indicated anything to offend Jewish citizens of Turkey or Jewish communities around the world,” the statement said.
A video of Atalay’s statement can be seen here.