NEW YORK (JTA) — Turkey has long been one of Israel’s most important allies. While one is predominantly Muslim and the other Jewish, the two countries have prided themselves in maintaining their secular democracies.
But our friendship has been strained recently with an appalling level of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic rhetoric coming out of Turkey.
In a popular television show that airs on state-run television across Turkey and by satellite all over the world, Israelis are portrayed as child abductors and murderers. The portrayal, unfortunately, is becoming more the norm than an exception.
Turkey’s extremists, a minority in the country, are using state-run resources to push anti-Semitic propaganda. When the state controls many television channels and their message, the influence is widespread.
Turkey is becoming a prime example of how racism from the top down can work its way back up in order to reinforce the legitimacy of extremist views. It’s a disturbing cycle, one in which the people don’t even know they are
being brainwashed, for lack of a better word.
Such extremism incites the masses against Israel and world Jewry, and builds public support for condemnation of Israel.
Israel historically has had very strong ties with the Turkish government and the Turkish people. Far from being enemies, we have always found a partner in the other. Turkey acts as a mediator in peace talks between Israel and the Arabworld, and Israel is one of Turkey’s most valuable economic partners. But something has changed.
What once was a moderate country is being corrupted by a radical ideology. Extremists are transforming the Turkish people’s sense of nationalistic pride into xenophobia. Popular culture is turning Turks away from Israel and moving them closer to the Islamic Republic of Iran. Befriending President Ahmadinejad has reached a point where Iran is using Turkey when smuggling weapons to Hezbollah for use against Israel.
This comes back to the public’s perception of Israel, which is being framed by extremists whose power is increasing.
Turkey, once our most trusted ally in the region, has humiliated and insulted Israel. The constant incitement on Turkish TV is poisoning Turkish culture and contributing to the spread of anti-Semitism.
Israel is prepared to move on from these incidents and continue friendly relations with Turkey. We hope Turkey will choose to stop such incitement and continue to be the real friend that Israel respects, admires and reveres.
(Joel Lion is the spokesperson and consul for media affairs at the Consulate General of Israel in New York.)