A surge in antisemitism in Turkey, set against the backdrop of Hamas's terrorist attacks in Israel and the Israeli military's retaliation against targets in Gaza, has been exacerbated by officials in the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and its allies.
The Gharqad tree prophecy in which Muslims kill Jews at the end of time will soon be fulfilled, a Turkish governor tweeted on October 7. Mustafa Çiftçi, appointed by Erdogan to govern the eastern province of Erzurum, predicted that the fulfillment of the apocalyptic prophecy was near, God willing, and wished the Hamas militants victory over Israel.
Çiftçi was previously chief of staff for the parliament speaker and served as head of the human resources department at the Interior Ministry, which oversees law enforcement agencies that are supposed to protect all citizens including Jews from hate speech and hate crimes.
In light of the recent escalation in the Israel-Palestinian conflict, the Turkuvaz media group, owned by the family of President Erdogan, consistently promotes antisemitic and anti-Western narratives across various media outlets in Turkey.
For instance Erkan Tan, the morning news presenter on the group's news channel, A Haber, stated in a broadcast on October 11 that there are two Jewish states in the world — the US and Israel — and that both allegedly desire not only the demise of Palestinian Muslims but also all Muslims worldwide.
"The West is, as always, characterized as two-faced and disgusting. But what does 'the West' really mean? There are countries located in the East relative to us, yet they are considered part of the West. It's essentially an alliance between Christians and Zionist Jews, and this represents the West. Consequently, Christians and Zionists view matters through a Jewish perspective. The West is a coalition of Crusader Christians and Zionist Jews, and they are staunch adversaries of Turks and Muslims. Their collective desire is to kill Palestinian Muslims and Muslims across the globe," he said.
Tan described Israel as a murderous and terrorist group while praising Hamas attacks, stating that Israel has been severely weakened in the face of the Hamas operation, making it look like a clown. He further said, "Now, they lack the strength to confront Hamas, and they are indiscriminately bombing civilians, including women, men, children, the elderly and the young." These actions, he claimed, demonstrate Israel's aggressive nature, branding it as a terrorist organization despite its official state status.
He also alleged that the US and Israel were trying to bring about the apocalypse and are forcing God to Doomsday.
Hizbullah, designated as a terrorist organization in Turkey along with its political arm, the Free Cause Party (HÜDA-PAR), an ally of President Erdogan, has organized mass gatherings in support of the Hamas attacks and conducted rallies in dozens of cities across Turkey. During these demonstrations, antisemitic slurs and pro-Hamas slogans were frequently shouted, while the police refrained from intervening. Not a single investigation has been launched by prosecutors into any incident that amounted to a hate crime or an incitement to a violence.
In the national elections held in May, a discrete, decade-long alliance between the Iranian-backed Turkish Hizbullah and the Erdogan government became official. Three figures affiliated with Hizbullah secured parliamentary seats on Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) tickets. Among them, Şahzade Demir addressed parliament on October 10, urging the government to prevent the entry of Jews fleeing Hamas attacks and to prohibit Turkish Jews from enlisting in the Israeli army reserves. He also called for the revocation of Turkish citizenship for those Jews who volunteered for Israeli military duty.
Another prominent antisemitic group contributing to the spread of hatred towards Jews is a Turkish jihadist charity organization that provided logistical support to both al-Qaeda and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (İnsan Hak ve Hürriyetleri ve İnsani Yardım Vakfı, or IHH) has organized numerous rallies, including one held in front of the Israeli consulate building in Istanbul.
Numerous IHH officials have faced indictment and investigation in Turkey in the past due to their connections to terrorist groups. However, they managed to evade legal consequences thanks to the intervention of the Erdogan government in judicial investigations.
According to intelligence documents presented to the UN Security Council on February 10, 2016, the then-permanent representative to the UN, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, disclosed Russian intelligence documents that included the license plate numbers of trucks sent to Syria by the IHH, loaded with arms and supplies destined for jihadist groups, including the Nusra Front.
Erdogan ally the Perinçek group has a history of inciting antisemitism in Turkey. They recently declared their support for the Hamas attacks and celebrated the infiltration into Israeli territory as a significant achievement. The group, under the leadership of Doğu Perinçek, who is also chairman of the Homeland (Vatan, formerly Labor) Party, is known for its pro-Iran stance.
"We will certainly be happy about this," stated jihadist preacher Abu Hanzala (real name Halis Bayancuk) when asked for his thoughts on the Hamas terror attacks in Israel. Hanzala, who has inspired many young men to join al-Qaeda and ISIS, was recently released from prison in Turkey
"Scenes like this that warm everyone's hearts, indicating that Israel is afraid as well, showing that people in Israel are also apprehensive, and demonstrating that Israel can also have its nose rubbed in it with these kinds of scenes, of course, have delighted us all," he said in a video that was posted on his YouTube channel.
"Israel comes from a generation of pigs and monkeys, and Jews are the community that Allah has cursed," he added. Hanzala claimed Israel set up human test labs in prisons filled with Palestinian captives and has been experimenting with all sorts of tests on them.
"I saw the news, and my heart leapt with joy. I laid my head on the pillow with ease, and I slept. I said, 'Thank God' and prayed 'Oh Allah, destroy this herd of pigs," he said.
The antisemitic narrative has also extended beyond Turkish borders through the efforts of the Union of International Democrats (UID, formerly UETD), an organization that operates as a foreign interest group advocating for the Erdogan government overseas. Talip Oguz, a UID representative in Belgium, posted a message on X suggesting that Israel will be eradicated and that Hamas attacks will bring relief to oppressed Muslims.
Under Erdogan's leadership, Turkey has become a breeding ground for radicalism, and both the judiciary and the law enforcement agencies, which are supposed to investigate hate speech and hate crimes, have been emptied of experienced individuals who were dedicated to combating antisemitism in Turkey. Erdogan even succeeded in derailing a yearslong terror investigation into the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force network, which spearheads an antisemitic campaign in Turkey through propaganda, violence and terrorism.
The investigation, initiated in 2011 by Istanbul prosecutor Adem Özcan under case file No. 2011/762, identified 232 Turkish and Iranian suspects. Some of these individuals were later designated by the US Treasury under sanctions. This identification process involved painstaking surveillance of operatives, wiretapping of their phones and internet communications and a review of shell companies that were utilized as covers to conceal secret operations.
The prosecutor's investigation continued until 2014, when then-prime minister Erdogan intervened, bringing an end to the country's most comprehensive counterespionage and terrorism inquiry into the Quds Force in Turkey's recent history.
Abdullah Bozkurt, a Ginsburg/Milstein Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum, is a Sweden-based investigative journalist and analyst who runs the Nordic Research and Monitoring Network and is chairman of the Stockholm Center for Freedom.