By Ben Cohen/JNS.org
It’s a familiar pattern.
Click photo to download. Caption: Turkish Prime Recept Tayyip Erdogan. Credit: World Economic Forum.
The citizens of a Middle
Eastern state explode with frustration against their corrupt, repressive
government. They gather for noisy, impassioned demonstrations in their capital
city. The authorities react violently. Images of middle-aged women and
wheelchair-bound individuals being tear-gassed, clubbed, and sprayed with water
cannon race across social media platforms like wildfire. The protests then
spread to other cities. The authorities step up their repression.
And then, inevitably, the country’s
political leaders snarl that outside forces are stoking the discontent.
Newspapers and websites are suddenly full of lists of American neoconservatives,
illustrated with lurid graphics that superimpose the logos of organizations
like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) over pictures of
demonstrations. No one needs to say the word “Jew” in order to know who’s being
referred to here.
So where is this happening?
In Bahrain? Egypt? Tunisia?
Actually, no. What I’m
describing is taking place in a non-Arab, inwardly Muslim but outwardly secular
candidate nation for European Union (EU) membership.
The protests there began on May 31, when an initially small
group of activists gathered in Istanbul to voice opposition to the
redevelopment of the city’s Gezi Park. But the anger quickly escalated into an all-out confrontation with the
Islamist government of Reccep Tayyip Erdogan. Many Turks are fed up with the
slow yet inexorable Islamization of their country, which Erdogan has begun.
Specifically, they are fed
up with Erdogan’s promotion of conservative Islamic dress codes; with his
demand that married couples have at least three children; with his prohibitions
on the sale of alcohol and his opposition to abortion; with his scolding of
couples who dare to smooch in public; and with his clampdown on freedom of
speech and of the media, which has resulted in Turkey having more journalists
in prison than any other country in the world. As the German magazine Der Spiegel pointed out recently,
Turkey’s enthusiasm for incarcerating journalists–by some estimates, more than
60 are currently in jail–beats the records of even China and Iran.
It was always unrealistic to
expect that an arrogant autocrat like Erdogan would actually listen to the
demands of the protestors. His standard response has been to fulminate against
shadowy plots hatched by Marxists, Kurdish separatists, and–most of all–Jews.
As the Turkish
demonstrations were reaching their height this month, the conservative
newspaper Yeni Safak published an
article which featured a “rogues gallery” of prominent American
neoconservatives–Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith and so forth–as
well as a photo of a masked protestor flanked by the logos of the American
Enterprise Institute think tank and AIPAC. The thrust of the article was clear:
the protests are being actively encouraged by a group of Jews hell-bent on war
with the Islamic world. In tone and substance, it was thoroughly in line with
other anti-Semitic screeds published by Yeni
Safak–for example, a 2005 article that warned “Jewish paranoia” was at the
root of the Middle Easts conflicts and predicted that this same paranoia would
one day “destroy the Jews themselves.”
If you really want to see a
plot, though, look no further than Erdogan himself. Yeni Safak is owned by Berat Albayrak, who is married to Erdogan’s
daughter (their wedding ceremony was …read more