Erdogan: 'Zionism is a crime against humanity'

Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday described Zionism as a “crime against humanity” equal to anti-Semitism, fascism and Islamophobia.

In remarks to an Alliance of Civilizations event of the United Nations held in Vienna and devoted to dialogue between the West and Islam, Erdogan lamented growing racism in Europe and the fact that many Muslims “who live in countries other than their own” often faced harsh discrimination.

Speaking in Turkish he said: “We should be striving to better understand the culture and beliefs of others, but instead we see that people act based on prejudice and exclude others and despise them. And that is why it is necessary that we must consider, just like Zionism or anti-Semitism or fascism, Islamophobia as a crime against humanity.”

In recent months, Erdogan repeatedly attacked Israel.

Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu swiftly condemned Erdogan's remarks and accused his Turkish counterpart of making a "dark and false pronouncement the likes of which we thought had passed into history."

In Washington, the White House also condemned the Turkish leader. ''We reject Prime Minister Erdogan's characterization of Zionism as a crime against humanity, which is offensive and wrong,'' said Tommy Vietor, a spokesman for the National Security Council, in a statement.

Pinchas Goldschmidt, chief rabbi of Moscow and president of the Conference of European Rabbis, said Erdogan's criticism of Zionism amounted to anti-Semitism. "This is an ignorant and hateful attack on the Jewish people and against a movement with peace at its core, which relegates Prime Minster Erdogan to the level of  Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and, to Soviet leaders who used anti-Zionism as a euphemism for anti-Semitism," Goldschmidt was quoted as saying by the 'Reuters' news agency.

Watch the video of Erdogan's speech by clicking here.

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