Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister on Monday blamed foreign elements and “the Jewish Diaspora” for the country’s recent mass protests, further entrenching anti-Semetic undertones emanating from members of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government.
“There are some circles that are jealous of Turkey’s growth. They are all uniting, and on one side is the Jewish Diaspora. You saw the foreign media’s attitude during the Gezi Park incidents,” Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay said, referring to the demonstrations in Istanbul, adding, “they bought it and started broadcasting immediately, without doing a [proper] evaluation of the [situation].”
Indeed, because Turkey’s mainstream media outlets paid scant attention to the demonstrations — mainly due to Erdogan’s years-long policy of cracking down on dissent and press freedom — foreign and social media and obscure Turkish news outlets were left to pick up the pieces, and the Turkish government is trying to punish them for doing so.
CAP’s Michael Werz wrote last week that “the tradition of blaming the ‘other’ has risen to new heights in Turkey” with the recent anti-government protests, including increased use of anti-Semitic themes:
After returning from his trip to Africa, the prime minister accused financial investors of encouraging the protests. Prime Minister Erdoğan said that an “interest-rate lobby” is “threatening Turkey with speculation,” adding that this group “has exploited the sweat of my people for years.” These barely disguised anti-Semitic themes have a long history in populist politics; even moderate elements of the Turkish cabinet joined in. Finance Minister Mehmet Şimşek was quoted as saying “there are factions that are trying to benefit from countries’ situations like this,” while U.S.-educated Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan added that “the interest-rate lobby knows who they are.” Some analysts have dismissed these statements as a nuisance, but rhetoric matters. The “interest-lobby” debate and distinctions between predatory and producer capitalism were core features of 20th century right-wing propaganda against so-called “Jewish finance capitalism.”
The uprising began in late May as a peaceful protest against the razing of a park in Istanbul but quickly grew and spread throughout the country as a general demonstration against Erdogan’s government.
While the protests have calmed in recent weeks, Erdogan and members of his Justice and Development Party, or AKP, throughout have blamed anything and anyone — Twitter, the media, foreigners, and political opponents — for the unrest and promoted anti-Turkey conspiracy theories in an effort to deflect legitimate criticism from demonstrators, including complaints of Erdogan’s increasingly despotic rule and a disproportionate police response to the protests.
“Turkish politicians need to acknowledge that there is no ‘conspiracy to bring down the country,’” Werz told ThinkProgress on Tuesday. “Blaming the ‘Jewish diaspora’ is the latest escalation of rhetoric by very senior AKP officials and such comments reveal how distorted the perception of Turkish reality is among some members of the current government and how deeply prejudiced their world-view is.”
Atalay denied that he blamed the Jewish Diaspora for the recent protest, saying that his comments were taken out of context and misquoted.