Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lost no time this year in publicly offering warm holiday wishes and Chanukah greetings to the nation’s Jewish community.
In fact, he issued that greeting via all media outlets an entire day ahead of the holiday, light years ahead of the annual holiday greeting to the Jews of America issued from the White House by President Barack Obama.
(By the way, there was no such delay in this year’s greeting from Obama to American Muslims for this year’s holy Islamic month of Ramadan, which began on Saturday evening, June 28. Obama’s holiday salutation came a full day ahead of time, on Friday June 27, 2014.)
“I congratulate our Jewish citizens on the advent of Hanukkah with my most sincere wishes. We see the diversity in our social, cultural and anthropological being as the greatest wealth that has made Turkey what it is today, and reinforced its unity and cooperation as well as enhanced our solidarity and fondness,” Erdogan said in a statement released Monday by Turkey’s Presidential Press Center.
“Turkey will continue to carefully protect this rich cultural and historical heritage carefully today, as it has done until now,” the statement continued, according to an article posted in the Daily Sabah.
The Turkish newspaper went on to explain that “Hanukkah Day, celebrated by the Jews worldwide for eight days and nights, is celebrated on the 25th day of Jewish month of Kislev, which coincides with late November to late December on the secular calendar. In Hebrew, Hanukkah means “dedication”, as the holiday celebrates the re-dedication of the holy Temple in Jerusalem after the Jewish victory against Seleucid monarchy in 165 B.C.E.”
Coming from the leader of nearly any other industrialized nation, this greeting to Jewish citizens would be prompt, timely for all time zones, and not at all out of place. But this is the president of Turkey we are talking about, the man with a track record of ambivalence, at best, in his relationship with Jews and the Jewish State.
Erdogan scored major points in the majority Muslim population in Turkey this summer for raising more than $20 million in aid to Gaza residents left homeless after Israel’s defensive war with Hamas and allied terrorists.
Hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Authority Arab families were aided by Turkey, including many in Judea and Samaria as well. In addition, Turkish aircraft transferred a number of wounded to Ankara for medical treatment as well. But the aid was secured by an agreement with Israel, and the aircraft used an Israeli airport. Israel facilitated the movement of goods from the aircraft to their destinations, and patients were transported to the aircraft the same way.
All that, despite some rather vicious, anti-Israel rhetoric by the same Turkish president-elect who the day before Chanukah offered warm greetings to his Jewish citizens.
In July, Erdogan told the Daily Sabah, “Jews in Turkey are our citizens. We are responsible for the security of their lives and property… I talked with our Jewish citizens’ leaders… and stated that they should adopt a firm stance and release a statement against the Israeli government. I will contact them again, but whether or not they release a statement, we will never let Jewish people in Turkey get hurt.” Erdogan suggested that Turkish Jewish leaders criticize “Israeli aggression,” the newspaper said, and said Israel’s government “abuses all Jewish people around the world for its fraudulent policies.”
It was Erdogan who said that Israel had “committed acts of genocide and surpassed Hitler in barbarism” during the summer war forced on the Jewish State by incessant rocket fire launched by Hamas.
Jack Rosen, president of the American Jewish Congress, sent a letter to Erdogan in July, demanding he return the Profiles in Courage award he received in 2004. Rosen wrote that Erdogan was “spewing dangerous rhetoric for political gain and inciting the Turkish population to violence against the Jewish people… your attacks on Jews call into question everything we honored you for… However, should your views change in the future we hope to be able to return the Profile of Courage award.” Subsequently Erdogan returned the award.