U.S. Jewish Group Wants Its Award to Erdogan Back

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Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during an Iftar in Istanbul, Turkey, July 18, 2014.Credit: AP

A Jewish American group is asking Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to return an award it gave him in 2004, accusing the Turkish leader of "dangerous rhetoric" and "inciting violence against the Jewish people."

In an open letter to Erdogan Thursday, Jack Rosen, the president of the Jewish American Congress, said Erdogan had become "arguably the most virulent anti-Israel leader in the world."

Erdogan, who is campaigning to be elected president next month, has spoken out strongly against Israel's operations in Gaza, accusing it of committing genocide and "barbarism surpassing Hitler."

Rosen said Erdogan was given the Profile of Courage award in 2004 because he had at the time worked for a peaceful solution to the Mideast conflict and because of his commitment to protecting Jewish citizens in Turkey.

When Erdogan received the award in January 2004, he called on Israel and the Palestinians to negotiate a peace deal. "We strongly condemn terrorism –we reiterate that the problem cannot be resolved solely with military power," he said, according to the AJCongress website.

He also said at the time that Turkey was prepared "to host an international peace conference in Istanbul."

Rosen, at the 2004 award ceremony, called Turkey "a model of Moslem democracy –one that can have a profound impact helping to spread the concept that nations with a Muslim heritage can adopt modern political values."