When, on October 7, the terrorist group Hamas launched a barbaric attack on Israel, killing more than 900 Israeli men, women and children (and wounding thousands more), Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, instead of his usual inflammatory anti-Israel rants, uncharacteristically advised restraint to both sides.
The rise of political Islam in Turkey in the past two decades, however, and Erdoğan's inherent anti-Zionism -- he once called Zionism a crime against humanity -- have apparently left an indelible mark on the Turkish psyche. In addition to his balanced, ostensibly unbiased, advice for restraint, Erdoğan has also said that a Palestinian state is a requirement that cannot be delayed.
Turkey's top Muslim cleric, Professor Ali Erbaş, who answers directly to Erdoğan, was less unbiased. Erbaş, president of Turkey's Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet), a government office that commands a budget more than 12 ministries combined, said that Israel should "withdraw from the occupied Palestinian territories," adding that "we stand by the oppressed Palestinian people and the struggle for freedom of Al-Aqsa Mosque..."
"Palestinians' struggle for resistance is legitimate," commented Erdogan's coalition partner Zekeriya Yapıcıoğlu, leader of the HUDA-PAR party.
The murderous attack by Hamas, which the group named "Operation Al-Aqsa Storm," has once again unveiled the dominant Turkish sentiment on the Arab-Israeli conflict. How bizarre that Turkey, a nation that has suffered in the past 40 years from terrorist attacks that resulted in 50,000 killed, can so radically lack slightest hint of empathy in the face of unspeakable terror attacks on another nation. But then, empathy is not one of Turkish outstanding qualities.
The militant Islamist newspaper Yeni Akit called the Hamas terror campaign a "historic victory." Its story went on to detail, "here is how many Zionists have been killed." Presumably, the more Zionist bodies, the better. This newspaper's journalists are regular guests on Erdoğan's private jet.
When a local Kurdish politician referred to the Palestinians as the "children of a tribe that buried alive newborn baby girls," Yeni Akit attacked the man by calling him "Israeli trash."
Pro-Erdoğan daily newspaper Yeni Şafak wrote that the "terror state Israel is targeting civilians." What?! "Post-truth" reaches new heights.
Another pro-Erdoğan daily, Star, tagged the entire spiral of violence "Israeli oppression." As Hamas murdered hundreds of Israeli civilians and took hostage at least 100 men, women and children, a Star headline read: "Israel attacks a 14-story building in Gaza."
Sabah, another staunchly pro-Erdoğan daily, happily announced that "Israeli crowds are fleeing the country."
Yeni Akit claimed that the "Zionists targeted journalists... [it] is not only a violation of human rights, but also an attempt to censor the press and a betrayal of universal law." Seriously? You guys respect human rights by rubbing your hands and counting the Israeli death toll.
Meanwhile, crowds organized by three Turkish Islamist NGOs gathered at Istanbul's Fatih Mosque in show of solidarity with the "al-Aqsa heroes." Prayers for the terrorists were said. Yeni Akit heralded that "jihadists who broke the siege are in Istanbul." Its headline said: "Zionism stabbed in the heart."
According to this newspaper, what has happened starting October 7 is "another wave of Israeli terror." And according to another pro-government daily, Türkiye, "Israel is massacring people by land and air."
Turkey's state broadcaster TRT explained in a news article why this all had to happen: "... after a Palestinian was killed during clashes with illegal settlers in the occupied West Bank town of Huwara." And a quote: "An attack was launched to make Israel accountable for its aggression."
Yeni Akit complained that the Zionists cut power to Gaza. It said Hamas's attack was "jihad against terror state Israel." Turkish Islamists are accusing Israel of not helping Hamas by refusing to give it electricity, money, weapons, equipment and training to Gaza residents to kill more Israelis.
Amid all that nonsense, a news channel, HaberTürk , broadcast a live interview with Irit Lillian, Israel's Ambassador to Turkey. Islamist Milli Gazete reacted: "How dare you! While freedom fighters of Hamas are sending scores of occupiers to hell..." According to Milli Gazete, this is an "apocalypse for Israel," and the Palestinian casualties are "martyrs."
There is fragile peace between Ankara and Jerusalem. In theory, Erdoğan reconciled with Israel, but diplomatic relations were fully restored only after his vow to isolate Israel internationally had brought Turkey a heavy geopolitical cost.
The fanatical anti-Israeli legacy of Erdoğan has "successfully" poisoned an already xenophobic society; it will probably take generations to clean up.
Burak Bekdil is an Ankara-based political analyst and the Charles Wax Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum.