The atrocities and genocide that the Jewish people endured during World War II deeply shook the world. For thousands of years Jews had lived in ghettoes and exile, and faced oppression and pressures due to their identity. The Jewish community in Spain, whose lives were at risk, found a safe haven in the Ottoman Empire's tolerant political system.
This sad story ended when the modern West perpetrated the Holocaust. The post-World War II world, therefore, reflected a sense of guilt toward the Jewish people. It was under such circumstances that the state of Israel was founded in 1948 and the Middle Eastern question arose. The Arabs, who were unhappy with the situation, led an unsuccessful military campaign against Israel. Over past decades, the conflict turned into a greater, more complex challenge. Obviously, it would have been best for the two aggrieved peoples to agree on a two-state solution. But that proved elusive.
Currently, we are faced with Israeli aggression against Gaza, a massive ghetto, where approximately 1,060 people lost their lives. Over 250 children, in addition to scores of women and elderly, have perished. Unfortunately, there is the problem of anti-Semitism in the world and the Palestinian conflict aggravates it. Meanwhile, a lot of people have reacted against Israel for inflicting the kind of destruction upon Palestinians that their own ancestors had to endure.
Criticizing Israel's state terror without resorting to anti-Semitism and stopping anti-Semites from diverting the world's attention from Israel's human rights violations represents a serious challenge. In other words, we need to scrutinize both anti-Semitism and the attacks on Gaza. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has thus far done a good job in this area.
Against the backdrop of the Gaza attacks, certain unpleasant statements have been made in Turkey which we all criticized in our columns. But Erdoğan, a government official that evokes respect among conservatives, lending his support to the campaign against anti-Semitism marked a turning point. And to be fair, he has been quite sensitive about the issue during his entire tenure. Addressing hundreds of thousands of people, for instance, Erdoğan raised the following point with good effect:
"The Jews in Turkey are our citizens, and we are responsible for the life and property of our citizens. Recently, a certain institution made heavy statements but neither our history nor the Islamic faith would condone such an approach. It was our Prophet who founded the city-state of Medina with the Jews. Therefore, we cannot act emotionally to provoke the streets. We would never stand for that. We cannot encourage nor allow outbursts."
Elsewhere, he said, "There is a shameless campaign, at home and abroad, to portray us as anti-Semites. I was perhaps the first prime minister to state that anti-Semitism was a crime against humanity, and I asked them to identify Islamophobia as a crime against humanity. At an international summit in Warsaw, we put this on the record but Europe did not act honestly or sincerely. They could not view Islamophobia as a crime against humanity, but we do and we will continue to do so whether or not they want to. Wherever we are, we will continue saying this."
Nowadays, when the world – in particular the U.S. – stands idly by as a great tragedy unfolds in Gaza, Erdoğan's fair and balanced position bears additional importance. In Turkey and elsewhere, acting with immaterial political calculations does more harm than good with regard to world peace, anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism. That is, of course, if they are at all concerned about these issues.