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Thursday, 21 March 2013

Erdoğan on anti-Semitism: is this really an apology?

As Barack Obama tours Israel and the Palestinian territories, Turkish media has seized on Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s remarks during his concurrent visit to Denmark.

“Erdoğan clarifies his comments on Zionism”, Milliyet reported yesterday, quoting comments the prime minister made to the Danish daily Politiken. What he actually did was clarify his views on Israel and Palestine – views that we already knew.

Politiken put it to Mr Erdoğan that his remarks last month were understood by some to question the very legitimacy of Israel’s existence and asked whether this was correct.

The prime minister responded, amply, with Turkey’s official line: he is critical of Israeli policy and the current government, not the state of Israel. He supports a two-state solution. He frequently condemns anti-Semitism.

The crucial sentence is his final one: “In this context, I stand behind my remarks in Vienna.”

So in his first public remarks on the matter since speaking at the UN conference in February, the prime minister has offered neither an apology, nor a withdrawal.

But does Mr Erdoğan truly believe Zionism is a crime against humanity? In the humble opinion of this blog, no.

We stand behind the explanation of Mr Erdoğan's behaviour we offered in our post three weeks ago: that he was speaking off the cuff and was hastily putting together a list of three. It was certainly offensive to bundle Zionism into that list, and the prime minister has clearly failed to understand that impact, but to suggest he truly believes it to be a crime against humanity is a step too far.

This piece in Al-Monitor speculates Mr Erdoğan’s “softened” latest remarks were made to coincide with Mr Obama’s Middle East visit, because the Turkish prime minister has fallen out of grace in Washington as of late.

The full Erdoğan interview is available on Politiken’s English website here.

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