The Israeli premier, the UN Chief and US officials criticized the Turkish PM’s claim that Jewish nationalism is a “crime against humanity,” and rejected comparisons to fascism, the ideology behind the Holocaust, which targeted European Jews.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu labeled Wednesday’s statement by the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan as “dark and libelous.”
“I strongly condemn the comparison that the Turkish prime minister drew between Zionism and fascism,” Netanyahu was quoted as saying by Haaretz, adding that he “thought that such dark and libelous comments were a thing of the past.”
Netanyahu was responding to a speech by Erdogan at the opening of the fifth United Nations Alliance of Civilizations in Vienna on Wednesday, where in passing the Turkish leader compared modern Zionism to fascism, in the way it treats Muslims.
“Just like Zionism, anti-Semitism and fascism, it becomes unavoidable that Islamophobia must be regarded as a crime against humanity,” Erdogan said in his address to high-ranking officials including UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
Following the speech, UN Watch, a Geneva-based non-governmental organization that monitors the treatment of Israel and Jews in general in the UN, asked Ban Ki-moon to condemn the speech and called on Erdogan to apologize for the statement, which it described as an “Ahmedinejad-style pronouncement.”
“We remind Secretary-general Ban Ki-moon that his predecessor Kofi Annan recognized that the UN’s 1975 Zionism-is-racism resolution was an expression of anti-Semitism, and he welcomed its repeal,”the lobby group stated.
The group argued that such statements by the Turkish leader “will only strengthen the belief that his government is hewing to a confrontational stance, and fundamentally unwilling to end its four-year-old feud with Israel.”
In its request to the UN General Secretary, UN Watch was referring to a November 1975 General Assembly resolution which said that Zionism, a multifaceted ideology that opposes the assimilation of Jews into other societies, was “a form of racism and racial discrimination.” In 1991 the resolution was repealed.
Following criticism over the UN chief’s silence, Ban spoke out on Friday, condemning Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s statement that Jewish nationalism is a “crime against humanity.”
“The secretary-general believes is it is unfortunate that such hurtful and divisive comments were uttered at a meeting being held under the theme of responsible leadership,” Reuters quoted Ban’s spokesperson as saying.
The US also disavowed Erdogan’s comments: “We not only disagree with it, we found it objectionable,” Reuters quoted US Secretary of State John Kerry as saying during a news conference with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
Kerry said he brought up the comment “very directly” with Davutoglu. “Given the many challenges that the neighborhood faces, it is essential that both Turkey and Israel find a way to take steps… to rekindle their historic cooperation,” Kerry said, emphasizing that Turkey and Israel are both key US allies.
In his first visit to Turkey since taking office, the two discussed economic relations, Middle East peace, Iran, Iraq, Syria,and Gulf security.
Earlier, US National Security Council spokesperson Tommy Vietor spoke out against Erdogan’s comment, saying it was “offensive and wrong,” and that people of all religions should “denounce hateful actions and overcome… differences,” AP reported.
Turkey and Israel have been at diplomatic loggerheads since the Mavi Marmara flotilla raid in 2010, when Israeli commandoes stormed a humanitarian ship trying to bring aid to victims of the siege on Gaza. Israeli forces killed nine Turkish civilians in the ordeal.