(JTA) — Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Israel was worse than Hitler, but appeared to heed calls to urge his political allies to tone down attacks on the country’s Jews.
“Those who condemn Hitler day and night have surpassed Hitler in barbarism,” Erdogan said Saturday, addressing supporters in Ordu, a city on the Black Sea, according to Reuters.
Erdogan has made repeated Israel-Nazi comparisons during the current Israel conflict in Gaza with Hamas, a group with which he has formed close ties. But Erdogan also called for the country’s Jews to be left alone.
“I don’t approve of any [bad] attitude towards our Jewish citizens in Turkey, despite all this. Why? They are the citizens of this country,” he said.
Israel ordered withdrawn non-essential diplomatic personnel from Turkey on Friday after riots outside Israeli legations.
Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), the top Democrat on the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, on Friday urged Erdogan to denounce attacks on Jews by a newspaper affiliated with his party.
Yeni Akit, a newspaper with ties to Erdogan’s ruling AKP party, has run a number of attacks on Turkish Jews calling on them to apologize for defending Israel during the current Gaza conflict and suggesting they are guests in Turkey.
“It is ludicrous to hold Jews, or anyone else for that matter, responsible for a regional conflict that they have nothing to do with simply on the grounds of a shared religion with one of the warring sides,” Engel said in his statement.
“This is a textbook case of hate speech and anti-Semitism, and should be immediately rebuked by Turkish leadership,” he said. “I call on Prime Minister Erdogan to defend his citizens and denounce Yeni Akit and its dangerous incitement against the Turkish Jewish community.”
The Anti-Defamation League also called on Erdogan to reject “targeting” of Turkish Jews during the conflict.
“We are alarmed by the growing hostility toward Israel in Turkey, which is increasingly being directed at the Jewish community,” said the group’s director, Abraham Foxman, citing the Yeni Akit writings among other factors.
“Now is the time for the prime minister to speak out again and reject those who target Turkey’s Jews,” Foxman said. “He needs to assure this increasingly vulnerable community that it has the full support and protection of the state.”