Israel Using Same Methods as Nazis on Palestinians in Gaza, Erdogan Says

Turkey's Erdogan calls U.S. out for defending Israel at the UN, saying Jerusalem 'must be held accountable for massacre of innocent people'

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan gestures as he delivers a speech during a rally on March 26, 2017 in Istanbul
OZAN KOSE/AFP

Israel's actions against Palestinians are similar to methods employed by the Nazis in Europe, Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday at a summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Istanbul.

"There is no difference at all between the persecution inflicted on the Jews in Europe 75 years ago and the brutality faced by our brothers in Gaza," Erdogan said.

"The children of people who were tortured in concentration camps in every way during World War II unfortunately today resort to methods against innocent Palestinians that are in no way inferior to those of the Nazis," Erdogan said.

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Erdogan also said on Friday he will take Israel to the United Nations General Assembly for its role in recent events in Gaza. Erdogan said the United States blocked every step toward justice in the United Nations Security Council.

"Israel must certainly be held accountable for the innocent people it has massacred in front of international law. We will follow this issue in the United Nations General Assembly as well," he said. 

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The comments comes in the midst of a diplomatic crisis between Turkey and Israel over the killing by Israeli troops of Palestinians after they massed by the tens of thousands on the Gaza border with Israel to protest the dedication of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem. On Wednesday, the Israeli ambassador to Turkey, Eitan Naeh, whom Turkey was expelling over the Gaza killings, was filmed by local media being required to undergo a thorough security screening at Istanbul International Airport in a deliberate humiliation.

'Curse oppression, support Jerusalem'

Just hours earlier, Erdogan urged Muslim unity to counter Israel at a rally which state-run media said was attended by hundreds of thousands of people. 

Erdogan and his political allies spoke at the rally, where demonstrators waved Turkish and Palestinian flags, days after 62 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip. 

Opposition politicians said the Turkish president was capitalizing on events in Gaza ahead of snap elections in Turkey next month. 

"The Muslim world has failed the Jerusalem test. Not only the Muslim world, humanity as a whole has failed in the Jerusalem test," Erdogan told the crowd.

He charged that since the Ottoman Empire's collapse about a century ago, Jerusalem, a city holy to three religions, has not known peace.

"The al-Aqsa mosque is more frequently being contaminated under the boots of radical Zionists," Erdogan said. 

Erdogan, who was locked this week in a Twitter war with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and accused Israel of carrying out a genocide in the Gaza Strip, proudly pointed to rising tensions between Ankara and the Jewish state. 

"The fact that Turkey is the country targeted most by Israel, I am the leader targeted most, shows how true and effective this stance is," Erdogan said. 

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah also addressed the crowd at the protest, taking place under the slogan "Curse oppression, support Jerusalem." 

A BBC reporter shared footage showing demonstrators burning the flags of the United States and Israel. 

The presidential candidate from Turkey's main opposition party was critical of Erdogan, saying that the president was holding rallies while refraining from taking concrete steps against Israel, such as boycotts or sanctions.

"The meeting is not for Palestine, the meeting is not for Muslims. The meeting is for the elections," said Muharrem Ince, the candidate of the centre-left Republican People's Party (CHP). Presidential and parliamentary elections are set for June 24. 

Fresh protests in Gaza saw 23 people injured by Israeli forces on Friday. 
Thousands have been injured in recent weeks while more than 100 people were killed since Palestinian began the Great March of Return in March, ahead of the 70th anniversary of Israel's founding.

The OIC meeting is the second time in six months that Erdogan has tried to rally Muslim leaders for the Palestinian cause, but without any concrete action. Leaders attending including President Hasan Rohani of Iran and Jordan's King Abdullah. 

"The blood of innocent Palestinians is on the hands of the United States of America, whose Jerusalem decision laid the ground for Israel's massacre," Erdogan said in reference to the country's embassy move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.