It looks like the rot in Turkey’s AK Party runs deep—and perhaps even all the way to the top. An excellent analysis in the Turkey Analyst of how the Gezi Park protests have concretely set back Erdogan’s political program includes the following passage digging into the recent anti-Semitic drivel seeping out of the party leadership:
Erdoğan’s reactions to the Gezi Park protests have also been revealing in a number of other ways. Perhaps most striking has been Erdoğan’s insistence that the protests were instigated by foreign “dark forces” jealous of Turkey’s “rise to greatness” under his leadership and something he has described as the “interest lobby”. More disturbing has been the evidence of widespread—though not universal—anti-Semitism in the AKP. On June 16, 2013, hours before Erdoğan was due to address a rally of AKP supporters in Istanbul, the main pro-AKP daily newspaper Yeni Şafak claimed that it had uncovered evidence that the Gezi Park protests had been orchestrated by the “Jewish lobby” in the U.S. and even published the names and photographs of a number of prominent Jewish Americans who it alleged were the leaders of the conspiracy. The Yeni Şafak article was publicly endorsed by a succession of leading members of the AKP, who maintained that the government also had concrete evidence of the plot. On July 1, 2013, the Turkish Cihan news agency quoted Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay as publicly accusing the “Jewish Diaspora” of responsibility for the Gezi protests. Atalay later tried to claim that Cihan had willfully misquoted him. But a video of his speech is freely available on the internet and leaves no doubt that the Cihan report was accurate.
Erdoğan himself has not explicitly identified Jews as being responsible for the Gezi protests. Yet neither has he condemned or attempted to distance himself from the claims. Indeed, he has instructed several state institutions—including the Capital Markets’ Board—to launch an investigation to uncover evidence of suspicious financial trading by foreign financiers before and during the protests and to identify the foreign “dark forces” he is convinced are trying to undermine him.
Anti-Semitism is not just morally reprehensible; it is the sign of a profound inability to understand cause and effect in the world of politics. When politicians fall back on anti-Semitic tropes, analysts all too often assume that these leaders are being cynical and are exploiting the prejudices of members of their base. The truth, however, is that it’s more often a symptom of a political mental disorder—a tell of an inability to govern rationally.
Has Turkey’s AK Party fully succumbed to this disease of the mind? Perhaps not yet. But Erdogan’s lack of effort to condemn this kind of rot certainly doesn’t bode well for his party’s future—or his country’s.
[Protesters chant on July 6, 2013 before clashes on Istiklal Avenue in Istanbul. Photo courtesy Getty Images.]