Pallone Denounces Anti-Semitism in Turkey

WASHINGTON–U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) issued a statement Wednesday denouncing the recent wave of anti-Semitism in Turkey exhibited by Turkish officials and the public.

For years, the New Jersey congressman, co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues, has asked Turkey to end its discrimination against the Armenia’s and other minority groups. In light of these recent events in Turkey, the congressman reiterates his call for Turkish leadership to put an end to its intolerance of minorities.

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Below is Rep. Pallone’s statement:

For many years, Turkey and Israel have shared a strong relationship diplomatically, militarily, and culturally. This affiliation has been showcased as an example that a secular, western leaning Muslim country can be an ally to Israel.

While many in the West have placed Turkey on a do-no wrong pedestal despite years of discriminating against the country’s ethnic Christians, this past January revealed growing anti-Semitism in Turkey from top officials to protesters in the streets.

Israel’s Gaza offensive was launched in response to the hundreds of rockets that the terrorist organization Hamas fired at Israel’s cities over the past year. Instead of defending Israel’s actions of self defense, Turkey chose not to stand by their ally.

What came next was a wave of anti-Semitism that swept across Turkey. Propaganda posters were plastered and graffiti sprayed on Istanbul’s walls calling for death to Israel. Even Jewish owned shops in Turkey have been targeted. These actions against the Jewish people cannot be minimized, and the West cannot stand for it.

On January 4th, thousands of protesters gathered in Istanbul’s streets chanting, ‘Death to Israel, we are all Palestinians.’ One day later, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in regards to Israel’s actions in Gaza, ‘Allah will sooner or later punish those who transgress the rights of innocents.’

The events that transpired during last week’s Davos World Economic Forum further distanced Turkey from Israel. While Israeli President Shimon Peres spoke frankly about his nation’s "aim for peace, not war," Prime Minister Erdogan refuted President Peres’ commen’s and chided the audience for applauding his remarks. After being cut short by the moderator, the Prime Minister walked off the stage.

As protesters hurl eggs outside the Israeli Consulate in Istanbul, Prime Minister Erdogan is on record questioning if it is appropriate for Israel to have a U.N. seat. Erdogan has also steered his diplomatic team to meet with Iran, Syria, and Sudan to discuss ending the conflict in Gaza, while Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia were gathering in Kuwait. Instead of discussing the issue with other moderate Muslim nations, Turkish leaders chose to meet with hardliner Iran and the Genocide wielding Sudanese government.

I am deeply concerned by this shift away from the West and the outright anti-Semitism that is rippling through Turkey’s streets. For a nation that prides itself on its friendship with the Jews, these actions are a step backwards and have the potential to harm ties between the two nations, and harm Turkey’s relationship with the West.

All of these moves from Ankara may just be pandering to the nationalistic, anti-Israel, anti-minority voters of Turkey, but regardless of Prime Minister Erdogan intentions, the results are dangerous and engender hate. What’s more is that they move Turkey away from its secular, moderate stance as a bridge between the West and other Muslim nations.

For years I have asked that Turkey end its constant discrimination against Christian minorities, specifically Armenia’s and Greeks. Now with anti-Semitism spreading through the country, I call on Turkey’s leadership to take concrete steps towards ending this destructive intolerance against minorities. Only these efforts will help to reestablish normal ties with Israel.

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