Commentary Magazine


Topic: Congressional Turkey

Turkey Caucus Should Speak Out on Anti-Semitism

I’ve written a number of times about the Congressional Turkey Caucus, the congressional organization which seeks to promote and encourage a strong U.S.-Turkey relationship. While many Caucus members simply join to burnish foreign-policy credentials or qualify for Istanbul junkets, Namik Tan, the Turkish ambassador to the United States, has used membership numbers in the Turkey Caucus to imply U.S. endorsement of Turkey’s foreign and perhaps even domestic policies.

Alas, those Turkish policies run increasingly counter to U.S. interests with regard to the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, al-Qaeda, the Eastern Mediterranean, and NATO. The Turkish government has grown more noxious in recent weeks as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan or his top aides have blamed Jews and/or Israelis for everything from the protests in Gezi Park to the coup in Cairo to the the alleged use of telekinesis to undercut Erdoğan and his allies. He has promoted films which depict Jews as scavenging Iraqis for their organ, and Mein Kampf has become a best-seller. Anti-Semitism is rife increasingly among Turkey’s civil servants and diplomatic corps, and Erdoğan has suggested that Israel’s existence is a hate crime.

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I’ve written a number of times about the Congressional Turkey Caucus, the congressional organization which seeks to promote and encourage a strong U.S.-Turkey relationship. While many Caucus members simply join to burnish foreign-policy credentials or qualify for Istanbul junkets, Namik Tan, the Turkish ambassador to the United States, has used membership numbers in the Turkey Caucus to imply U.S. endorsement of Turkey’s foreign and perhaps even domestic policies.

Alas, those Turkish policies run increasingly counter to U.S. interests with regard to the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, al-Qaeda, the Eastern Mediterranean, and NATO. The Turkish government has grown more noxious in recent weeks as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan or his top aides have blamed Jews and/or Israelis for everything from the protests in Gezi Park to the coup in Cairo to the the alleged use of telekinesis to undercut Erdoğan and his allies. He has promoted films which depict Jews as scavenging Iraqis for their organ, and Mein Kampf has become a best-seller. Anti-Semitism is rife increasingly among Turkey’s civil servants and diplomatic corps, and Erdoğan has suggested that Israel’s existence is a hate crime.

When it comes to political theories and Jews, Erdoğan increasingly sounds like a cross between Russian ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky, Libyan strongman Moammar Gaddafi, and former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The difference between Erdoğan and those three footnotes to history, however, is that only Erdoğan has 135 congressmen watching his back. How shameful it is that the chairmen of the Congressional Turkey Caucus have not spoken out on Turkish anti-Semitism. Their silence convinces the paranoid and conspiratorial Erdoğan that American congressmen support his theories. Sometimes, diplomacy isn’t simply about making friendships; true diplomacy requires sometimes breaking them as well.

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