Turkish media vows to take over Tel Aviv, calls opposition ‘terrorists’

Vows to destroy Israel, “liberate Al-Aqsa,” and spread anti-Zionist and antisemitic comments have become normal in Turkey.

Turkey has in the last few weeks sought to use media connections abroad to push narratives about how it wants reconciliation with Israel, even as its own media pushes extremist anti-Israel comments. One commentator, according to T24 Turkish media, said that Turkey could “enter Tel Aviv in 48 hours.” He claimed, “we are not like the Arabs,” an apparent reference to the inability of Arab armies to defeat Israel in 1948 and 1967.

The commentary on Turkish television was not abnormal. Hatred of Israel and vows to destroy Israel, invade Jerusalem, “liberate Al-Aqsa” and spread extreme nationalist, anti-Zionist or antisemitic comments have become increasingly normal in Turkey. Most journalists who are critical of the ruling party in Turkey have been silenced, forced to flee the country or imprisoned. Turkey is considered the largest jailor of journalists in the world under the AK Party.

In March 2018, a Turkish daily also suggested that Turkey should form an Islamist army to destroy Israel. In 2019, according to MEMRI, a retired Turkish general named Adnan Tanriverdi who heads the SADAT consulting firm also spoke about the need to liberate Jerusalem from Israel. “The Islamic world should prepare an army for Palestine from outside Palestine. Israel should know that if it bombs [Palestine] a bomb will fall on Tel Aviv as well.”

It appears these views have become mainstream in Turkey’s ruling party. Israel is seen as the main enemy of Turkey. Abroad, Turkey works with a few lobbyists in Washington to try to get media to present the country in a more favorable image and even tries to influence some Israeli media with false stories of “reconciliation.” However, Turkey’s new envoy to Israel has said that Zionism is racism and accused Israel of displacing millions and committing “many massacres.”

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s office has vowed to “liberate Al-Aqsa” and declared that “Jerusalem is ours.”

At the same time, the increasing rhetoric of hate against minorities, non-Muslims, Israel, Greece, Egypt, the UAE, and others in the region, is also targeting all opposition groups in Turkey. An image on Turkish television showed the opposition HDP party’s logo changed to include grenades and bullets instead of the colors of the usual logo, a way for Turkey’s ruling party to incite against the opposition and call them terrorists. Turkey’s ruling party tends to imprison all critics as terrorists, including peace and environmental activists and journalists. “Terrorism” is used as an accusation for disagreeing with Ankara’s authoritarian trend. There is almost no space for any critique in Turkey, a country that was once more democratic and is still a member of NATO, despite Ankara’s drift away from NATO’s democratic and human rights values.

The increasingly extremist comments on Turkish media and Ankara’s army of social media activists who target any critics online illustrate that the narrative of Turkish ‘reconciliation” with Israel is largely hollow. Support for an “Islamist” army to take over Israel by numerous commentators in Turkey and Ankara’s frequent hosting of Hamas, shows that Turkey’s ruling party has embraced a worldview similar to Iran’s regime in how it views Israel as a central enemy and wants to “liberate” Jerusalem. This is in contrast to countries in the region that are embracing new peace deals with Israel and which have toned down this kind of extremist rhetoric.

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