More divisive talk out of the AKP
Anti-Semitism appears to hover very near the surface for members of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), despite vociferous denials by party executives when such charges are leveled. This time it is Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay who is in the limelight, after reportedly uttering highly controversial remarks that clearly smack of anti-Semitism.
According to Cihan News Agency, Atalay told a group of journalists in the town of Kırıkkale on Monday that it was the “Jewish Diaspora” that was behind the Gezi Park protests, adding that those who were trying to prevent the rise of Turkey would fail in this attempt. This is paranoia at its worst, of course. It also underestimates the true causes for the social unrest that reflects displeasure over the way the country is being run.
Trying to quell the inevitable controversy that broke out after his remarks hit the mainstream media; Atalay said he had not said anything about a “Jewish Diaspora,” and blamed the news agency in question for “distorting his words.” Atalay added that he had merely referred “to “the capitalists that support the foreign media organization which had reported on the Gezi Park protests in an exaggerated manner.”
He was referring to CNN International, of course. There is great hatred in AKP circles for this network over the manner in which it has been covering the recent demonstrations in Turkey. But even if we take Atalay’s denial at face value, his explanation about what he had really said also smacks of anti-Semitism.
One can confidently say that the majority of AKP members today believe in the hackneyed “international Jews conspiracy” theory, a central theme of which is that the international media is controlled by politically manipulative Jews.
The accusation by Prime Minister Erdoğan that there is an “interest rate lobby,” which is trying to cause turmoil in Turkey in order to undermine the AKP’s successes over the past decade, can also be seen in the same light. Scratch the surface of this accusation and it will also reveal the belief that this interest lobby is driven by the Jews.
It is all very well for marginal politicians fishing for votes to say such things in this day and age. But when such remarks come from government quarters, this is a cause for concern because it leaves one questioning the intelligence, competence and sense of responsibility of those governing us; especially if this is all they have to say about a unique social upheaval in Turkey.
This attitude, which is widespread in AKP circles, also explains why the Erdoğan government is taking the normalization process with Israel very slowly, despite the apology by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu over the deadly raid by Israeli commandoes on the Mavi Marmara aid ship in May 2010 that left nine pro-Palestinian Turkish activists dead.
This process with Israel, which was brokered by Washington, is clearly not convenient for the AKP at a time when it is searching for scapegoats for the anti-government protests in order to deflect blame from itself. As usual the Jews are the easiest scapegoats to reach for.
No wonder then that alarm bells should be ringing once again among members of Turkey’s small Jewish community following the remark attributed to Atalay. A statement expressing concern on behalf of the Jewish community in Turkey also warned that Atalay’s remarks could lead to reprisals against its members.
But what is crucial here is that we see another member of the AKP who is using divisive instead of a unifying language at a time when the country needs unity under a functioning democracy more than ever. This is very dangerous in a country like Turkey whose social, ethnic and religious diversity is becoming more apparent as time goes by. The Sivas massacre of July 2, 1993, whose 20th anniversary we commemorated on Tuesday, should provide everyone with ample warning as to how far divisive language can push this country.