The American Jewish Committee (AJC) called on authorities in Germany to investigate threatening anti-Israel rhetoric at a rally in support of Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan. Chants of “Down with Israel” and “Israel be cursed” in Turkish were recited at a Sunday demonstration in Dusseldorf.
“We are horrified that supporters of Prime Minister Erdogan are using political protests in Germany to fan anti-Israel sentiment,” said AJC Berlin Director Deidre Berger. “Stoking the flames of antisemitism through denunciations of Israeli policies is dangerous.”
AJC called on state authorities in North Rhine Westphalia to investigate the degree to which the anti-Israel rhetoric at the pro-Erdogan rally was public incitement. “We call on German politicians and civil society leaders to speak out and condemn the anti-Israel agitation, which can only complicate current attempts to improve strained Israeli-Turkish relations,” Berger said.
The Turkish-language chants at the rally were brought to public attention by Lale Akgün, a former member of the German parliament, who witnessed the demonstration and reported it on her Facebook page. German television confirmed the report, adding that the anti-Israel chants were loud and frequent.
The Turkish born Dr. Lale Akgün served as an MP for Cologne II electoral district in the German Bundestag from 2002 to 2009.
Tens of thousands of the estimated 3.5 million German residents of Turkish descent, the largest such community outside of Turkey, have participated in large demonstrations in recent weeks protesting the current disturbances in Istanbul.
At a June 22 rally in Cologne an estimated 40,000 demonstrators protested the Turkish government’s response to the peaceful protests against a building project in Gezi Park. In Duesseldorf on July 7 an estimated 25,000 demonstrators voiced support for Erdogan’s policies.
German government officials have criticized Erdogan, a frequent visitor to Germany, for making appeals to the Turkish-speaking community in Germany to maintain close ties with Turkey.
The demonstration in Duesseldorf follows public remarks in Turkey by representatives of Erdogan’s AKP party, who blamed “Jewish interests” for the ongoing demonstrations in Turkey. Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay claimed that the Jewish Diaspora is behind the demonstrations in Turkey and that Jews are responsible for negative media reports about Turkey. Istanbul Mayor Ybrahim Melih Gokcek tweeted that the protests in Turkey are “a game of the Jewish lobby.”
AJC has firmly condemned the anti-Semitic remarks of senior Turkish officials, including Erdogan, and called on responsible world leaders to speak out.