Prison photo of Hamas leader Salah al-Arouri, founder of the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Martyrs Brigade. Turkey gave al-Arouri refuge from 2011 until 2015. During that time, he planned multiple terrorist attacks against Israeli targets.
In December 2014, Turkey hosted Salah al-Arouri, a Hamas commander whom the Palestinian Authority had accused of planning multiple attacks against Israeli targets...Several months earlier, Arouri, while speaking at the World Conference of Islamic Sages in Turkey, boasted that Hamas had instigated the "heroic action carried out by the al-Qassam Brigades [the military wing of Hamas], which captured three settlers in Hebron." The "heroic action" consisted of Hamas operatives kidnapping and murdering three teenage boys, an incident that triggered the spiral of violence that led to a 50-day war in Gaza.
That same month, a Hamas leader confirmed that his organization was using Turkey as a refuge for logistics, training and planning terrorist attacks. Then Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu hosted then Hamas Chairman Khaled Mashaal at a high-profile party congress in Konya, Central Turkey. Taking the stage at the event, Mashaal congratulated the Turkish people "for having [President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan and Davutoglu." His remarks were received passionately, with thunderous applause, the waving of Palestinian flags and thousands of party fans shouting, "Down with Israel!"
Turkey's explicit support of Hamas demonstrates that Ankara is siding with Palestinian terrorists even as Erdogan claims Turkish troops are fighting terrorists in Syria.
In June 2016, Jonathan Schanzer forcefully reminded the public that, although Arouri had been expelled from his safe base in Istanbul, "many other senior Hamas officials remain there [a]nd their ejection from Turkey appears to be at the heart of Israel's demands as rapprochement talks near completion." Schanzer named half a dozen or so Hamas militants enjoying refuge in Turkey. These included Mahmoud Attoun, who had been found guilty of kidnapping and murdering a 29-year-old Israeli. Also enjoying safe haven in Turkey were three members of the Izzedine al-Qassam brigades. At least ten Hamas figures were believed to be in Turkey, Schanzer said, adding:
"There are a handful more that can be easily identified in the Arabic and Turkish press, and nearly all of them maintain profiles on Facebook and Twitter, where they regularly post updates on their lives in Turkey."
Stubbornly ignoring Hamas's violent past – and present – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has claimed more than once that Hamas is not a terrorist group but a legitimate political party. He has also repeatedly described Hamas militants as "freedom fighters." In November 2016, Erdogan said again that he did not view Hamas as a terrorist organization; he called it instead a "political movement born from [a] national resurrection," and mentioned that he meets with Hamas "all the time".
Ali Erbas, an Erdogan loyalist and Turkey's top cleric, said at an Istanbul conference:
"Diyanet (Turkey's Religious Affairs Authority) is with the suffering Palestinian Muslims who have been serving as the guardians of al-Aqsa for years despite any kind of invasion and violence, and will continue to be by their side and provide any kind of support for them."
Recently, the U.S. government declared Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh a "specially designated global terrorist" and imposed a raft of sanctions against him. Immediately afterwards, the Turkish Foreign Ministry condemned the U.S. for this decision. Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that the timing of Washington's decision was "suspicious". Apparently, the Turkish love affair with Hamas is not only about nice words.
This month, Israel's Shin Bet security service announced that a Turkish law professor was deported and an Israeli Arab faces indictment over involvement in a Hamas effort to funnel money for terrorism to the West Bank and Gaza via Turkey. According to Shin Bet, both men were recruited by a Hamas operative...
Enter Arouri – again. The Hamas recruiter, according to Shin Bet, was one of the chiefs of Hamas's West Bank Command, headed by Arouri, until recently Turkey's very important guest. The Hamas West Bank Command's mission is to plan and fund acts of terror in the West Bank.
The Shin Bet also accused Turkey of aiding Hamas's military build-up through a Turkish company called SADAT, a security services and training specialist. SADAT's owner, Adnan Tanriverdi, is a retired Turkish general who is now one of Erdogan's chief advisors.
SADAT has come under accusations that it may secretly be training pro-Erdogan militias in Turkey, as well as jihadist fighters in Syria, allegations which Tanriverdi denies. The Turkish law professor, however, who was deported from Israel, told his interrogators that SADAT does send money and arms to Hamas.
Recently, the U.S. government declared Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh a "specially designated global terrorist" and imposed a raft of sanctions against him. Immediately afterwards, the Turkish Foreign Ministry condemned the U.S. for this decision.
Unsurprisingly, Tanriverdi is another pro-Hamas Islamist. In 2009, before he was Erdogan's chief advisor, Tanriverdi gave a speech in which he said:
"To defeat Israel, the country must be forced into defensive warfare, all of its forces must be engaged and the war must be prolonged.
"What should Turkey do? The resistance units in Gaza should be supported by anti-tank and low-altitude anti-aircraft weapons.
"Turkey, Iran, Syria, the Iraqi Resistance Organization and Palestine should form the nucleus of a defense structure. Within this context, the formation of an Islamic rapid reaction force consisting of an amphibious brigade, an armored brigade and an airborne brigade should be encouraged."
For Turkey's Islamist leaders, Hamas is not a tactical alliance or a geopolitical necessity for the country. It is an age-old feature of political Islam capturing not just minds but hearts.
Burak Bekdil, one of Turkey's leading journalists, was recently fired from Turkey's leading newspaper after 29 years, for writing what was taking place in Turkey for Gatestone. He is a Fellow at the Middle East Forum. This piece has been lightly