Secretary Antony Blinken just completed a tour of countries in the Middle East to drum up support for Israel’s position and freeing the hostages. Turkey was conspicuously absent from his itinerary. Hamas and Turkey’s Justice and Development Party are ideologically aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood, a transnational Sunni Islamist organization dominant in Gaza, which seeks a World Islamic Caliphate. Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan has a long history of collaborating with Muslim extremists, like ISIS.
The October 7 massacre requires countries to choose sides. Are they with the forces of civilization – or are they with the terrorists.
In response to Hamas attacks in Israel, Turkey’s Foreign ministry refused to use the word “terrorism.” Its statement cynically called on “the parties to act with restraint”. Drawing parallels between Hamas, which unilaterally attacked Israel, and Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) is shameful moral equivalency.
Erdoğan is deeply prejudiced and antisemitic. He stormed out of a panel with Israel’s President Shimon at the World Economic Forum in 2009, fuming: “When it comes to killing, you know very well how to kill. I know very well how you killed children on the beaches.”
Starting in 2015, there is ample documentation of Turkey’s support for ISIS, providing funds, weapons, and logistical assistance. When ISIS fighters were wounded in Syria, they received care in Turkish hospitals — no costs were billed or identification required.
Erdogan is a proven sympathizer of Hamas. He told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2018, “Hamas is not a terrorist organization and Palestinians are not terrorists. It is a resistance movement that defends the Palestinian homeland against an occupying power.”
According to Erdogan, Israel is “the world’s most Zionist, fascist and racist state. The spirit of Hitler…has found its resurgence among some of Israel’s leaders.”
Since October 7, when Hamas attacked, Erdogan led condemnation of Israel. He asserts that this provides leverage to mediate the release of hostages. He condemned Israel for its “massacre” of the Palestinians, which he characterized as “devoid of any ethical foundation.” His language has been inflammatory and over the top.
In the immediate aftermath of Hamas’ attacks, Erdogan asserted: “It is our responsibility to stand with the oppressed,” blind to atrocities of Hamas.
The Turkuvaz media group, owned by the Erdogan family, promotes antisemitic and anti-Western views through its media network in Turkey.
Turkey is not merely a host and passive partner of Hamas. Its support goes beyond rhetoric.
Turkey’s national intelligence agency (MIT) recently sought to smuggle rocket-making material into Gaza. Sixteen tons of explosive material was intercepted by Israeli Defense Forces.
The day after Hamas attacked, Secretary Blinken called Turkey’s Foreign Minister, Hakan Fidan, former head of MIT, to request “Turkey’s advocacy for a cease-fire”. Fidan, the original protagonist of Hamas’ headquarters in Turkey, was noncommittal. Blinken deleted the request from his social media account.
Turkey sponsors Hamas offices in Istanbul from which the terror group operates unfettered. Hamas leaders, including Khaled Mashal, Ismail Haniyeh, and Saleh al-Arouri, have met Erdogan several times. Haniyeh, who splits his time between Qatar and Turkey, is often photographed in embrace with Erdogan.
Mashal, Arouri and Haniyeh have been issued Turkish passports, which allows them to travel internationally. The US has designated Arouri, Hamas’ chief of operations in the West Bank, as a terrorist and offered a $5 million reward for his arrest. After the attack against Southern Israel, Arouri was jubilant, celebrating the massacre on social media.
Turkey’s government is riddled with antisemites. A Turkish governor tweeted on October 7, “The Gharqad tree prophecy in which Muslims kill Jews at the end of time will soon be fulfilled”. The deputy education minister, Nazif Yilmaz, threatened Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: “One day they will shoot you [and] you will die.”
Huda-Par, a radical Islamist party and a partner in Erdogan’s coalition, organized a rally outside the Israeli Consulate in Istanbul where people chanted “Israel be damned”. It held rallies in dozens of cities across Turkey where demonstrators shouted antisemitic slurs and pro-Hamas slogans.
Turkey uses NATO membership to excuse its conduct. However, Turkey is a NATO ally in name only. It continues to block Sweden’s membership and demand the extradition of Kurds whom it calls “terrorists”.
The Biden administration must be steely eyed seeing Turkey as a state sponsor of Hamas terror. Previous administrations were clear about targeting terror groups and the regimes that harbor them.
Turkey attacks the PKK for demanding greater cultural and political rights, while shielding Hamas and funding its operations. It also attacks Kurds in Northen Syria, US allies fighting ISIS, putting American Special Forces at-risk. Turkey’s deplorable double standard degrades its standing as a NATO ally.
Instead of kow-towing to Erdogan, the US should demand that the Turkish government designate Hamas as a terrorist organization and impose Magnitsky sanctions on Turkish officials who flaunt their support for Hamas.
Washington should draw a line, demanding that Turkey close Hamas offices, expel its members, and extradite Hamas leaders for trial in Israel. Turkey should cease all cooperation with Hamas and condemn it unequivocally.
Erdogan must know that he is either with the US or with the terrorists. If Turkey continues to support Hamas, it should pay a steep price beyond condemnation and rhetorical censure.
The views and opinions expressed above are the author’s and do not represent those of the Free Turkish Press.