DAVOS, Switzerland (Hurriyet)–An influential Jewish organization slammed on Friday Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan after he verbally sparred with Israeli President Shimon Peres and stormed out of a panel on Gaza at the World Economic Forum, saying his behavior was "a public disgrace that may well encourage further outrages against Israel and Jews."
"Prime Minister Erdogan’s tantrum at Davos throws gasoline on the fire of surging anti-Semitism," American Jewish Committee (AJC) Executive Director David A. Harris said in a statement issued on the organization’s website early on Friday.
"Erdogan’s unjustified remarks and disrespect of Israel’s president are yet another demonstration of how criticism of Israel is becoming increasingly virulent," Harris added according to the statement.
Erdogan had stormed out of an angry debate on the Gaza war with Israel’s President Shimon Peres at the Davos forum on Thursday. Turkey harshly criticized Israel over its Gaza operation which left more than 1,300 people killed. The relations between Turkey and Israel, two countries who have close diplomatic and military ties, have been strained, experts say.
Although Erdogan underlined that his reaction did not target the Israeli people or Jews but the moderator of the session, AJC said it cannot stay silent in the face of such rhetoric.
"The relationship between Turkey and Israel is a vital one that has enjoyed the support of American Jews," Harris added.
"But we cannot remain silent in the face of such appalling rhetorical denunciations of Israel, particularly when there has been a worrying surge of anti-Semitism in Turkey in recent weeks."
AJC also was stunned to see Erdogan quote with approval the obscure writings of a Jew turned anti-Semite, a former Israeli citizen named Gilad Atzmon, who has said that "the Jewish state is the ultimate threat to humanity and our notion of human’sm."
"When the author of such ravings is quoted by the prime minister of a democratic country, we must seriously ask ourselves where reason ends and hatred begins," Harris said.
In a letter to Erdogan last week, AJC and four other American Jewish organizations expressed profound concern over the current wave of anti-Semitic manifestations in Turkey.
Angered by Erdogan’s remarks, the Jewish organizations called on the Turkish prime minister to "urgently address" the wave of anti-Semitism in his country, warning that Turkey’s recent condemnation of Israel will make it difficult to continue supporting Turkey’s attempts to prevent US recognition of the Armenian Genocide.