Lauder harshly criticizes Erdogan deputy for blaming Jewish conspiracy for Turkish mass protests

Beşir AtalayTurkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s deputy Beşir Atalay has come under fire for saying that the recent mass protests against the Turkish government had been organized by the foreign media and the Jewish Diaspora. Outside forces had triggered the protests against the Erdogan government at Istanbul’s Gezi Park, Atalay reportedly said on Monday, although his office issued a statement on Tuesday denying that the deputy prime minister had made those remarks.

Atalay was quoted by the newspaper ‘Hürriyet’ as saying: "There are some circles that are jealous of Turkey’s growth. They are all uniting, on one side the Jewish Diaspora. You saw the foreign media’s attitude during the Gezi Park incidents; they bought it and started broadcasting immediately, without doing an evaluation.” Atalay also said that the international media had played a key role in what he called “the conspiracy" but added that “the ones trying to block the way of great Turkey will not succeed.”

Ronald S. Lauder, the president of the World Jewish Congress (WJC), harshly criticized these remarks. Lauder said: “It is shocking to hear from a senior Turkish government minister such despicable and totally baseless slurs. Mr. Atalay should have the decency to apologize. His remarks are an insult not only to the Jewish people but also to the many Turkish citizens who took part in the protests and who have real grievances.”

The Turkish Jewish community also reacted. "We are trying to obtain information about the meaning, the scope and details of Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay's statement about the 'Jewish Diaspora being behind Gezi protests,'" the community and the Chief Rabbinate said in a joint statement. "(Because) Turkish Jewish citizens, as well as other Jewish people living all around the globe, may be affected and pointed (out) as a target of such a generalization, we wish to express our concerns and share our apprehension and worry of the consequences that such perceptions can cause."

The protests broke out in early June in Istanbul when police used force and tear gas to disperse environmental activists demonstrating against a government plan to develop a mosque and shops at Istanbul's' Gezi Park in the city's Taksim Square. A sit-in by peaceful protesters soon turned into mass protests across the country with nearly two million people taking part and 79 of Turkey's 81 cities seeing unrest, according to the authorities.

The Turkish government, however, has repeatedly suggested that the protests were part of a plot against the country, involving foreign powers and financial institutions. Earlier this month, ‘Hürriyet’ quoted Erdogan as hinting that Israel must be "delighted" with the protests because the demonstrators served its interests.

Ronald S. Lauder added: “I am convinced that the people of Turkey are not going to be misled by these delusory statements from their leaders. This is a Turkish issue that will be resolved, hopefully democratically and peacefully, within Turkey. And Mr. Atalay should not forget that famous maxim: ‘When you are pointing your finger at someone, three fingers are pointing back at you.’ Let’s hope the Turkish government will heed that lesson.”

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