Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 22 August 2019

Turkey and Israel in war of words over ‘lawless occupation’ of Palestine

Ankara lashes out after Benjamin Netanyahu accuses Turkish president of Kurdish ‘massacres’

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses a meeting of a youth organisation founded by his son Bilal Erdogan in Istanbul. AP
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses a meeting of a youth organisation founded by his son Bilal Erdogan in Istanbul. AP

Turkey and Israel are embroiled in a new war of words after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of committing “massacres” against Kurdish populations.

The latest spat began on Saturday when Mr Erdogan told young Turks in a speech: “Do not kick the enemy you have brought down to the ground. You are not a Jew in Israel.” He was accusing Israelis of kicking Palestinian men, women and children. Israeli politicians accused him of anti-Semitism.

In response, Mr Netanyahu tweeted that the Turkish leader should “not preach to Israel”. He called Turkey “the occupier of northern Cyprus, whose army massacres women and children in Kurdish villages, inside and outside Turkey”.

The Turkish military has committed a series of human rights abuses against Kurdish populations in Turkey, Iraq and Syria, rights groups say. Israel has also been charged with a string of violations of international law against the Palestinian people. That public barb from Mr Netanyahu stirred an angry response from Ankara on Sunday.

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Mr Erdogan's spokesman and chief adviser Ibrahim Kalin lambasted Mr Netanyahu, who he said "should end the lawless occupation of Palestinian lands and the brutal oppression of Palestinian people" instead of "begging President Erdogan not to speak out the truth".

He added in the tweet on Sunday: "Bashing Erdogan or using Kurds as a political chip will not save him from his domestic troubles."

Relations between the two countries have been fraught ever since Israeli commandos shot more than half a dozen protesters on board a Turkish ship in 2010.

A recent improvement in relations has broken down over several issues, including Washington’s decision to relocate its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and a law that defined Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people.

In May, following the embassy move and the killing of dozens of Gazan protesters along the border with Israel, Turkey ordered Israel’s ambassador to Ankara to leave. The envoys to each country were just reinstated the year before.

Mr Erdogan tries to portray himself as a champion of the Palestinian cause and regularly bashes Israel in a bid to curry favour with his nationalist base. In July, he called Israel “the world’s most fascist and racist state” and compared its actions in Gaza to the Nazis.

Updated: December 23, 2018 03:32 PM

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