NATO ally encouraged to ‘liberate’ Jerusalem
President Obama and Turkish President Erdogan
Turkish and Palestinian flags fluttered like angry birds in a crowd of thousands of people chanting “Allahu Akbar!” and “Down with Israel!”
The chants grew more exuberant as the hulking, bearded man on the speaker’s platform assured them that “God willing, we will liberate Jerusalem together.”
The speaker was Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal and his audience was Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party, gathered for its annual meeting Dec. 27 at a convention hall in Konya, the hometown of Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
The Turkish prime minister introduced the Hamas leader and then took a seat in the front row, cheering and clapping for the radical Islamist statements being made by Meshaal.
“As Turkey for centuries was the main defender of Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque, likewise with you are the center of the Muslim Umma (Muslim nation) which will carry on the mission of liberating Jerusalem and al-Aqsa Mosque,” Meshaal told the crowd in an address that received almost no major media coverage. “Know this, that strong Turkey is the strength of Palestine and of Jerusalem. Turkey is the strength that represents all Muslims.”
Hamas, which leads nearly 2 million Palestinians in Israel’s Gaza Strip, remains a designated terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department and functions as an affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood.
So when the Hamas leader appears, unannounced, as the keynote speak at an official political event in Turkey, a member of NATO and an important U.S. ally, that’s a big deal.
“Essentially Hamas is playing to the nationalistic fervor in Turkey and Turkey is using Hamas to gain favor throughout the Islamic world so it really is a mutually beneficial relationship,” says Joel Richardson, author of the New York Times-best-selling “Islamic Antichrist” and director of the recently released documentary film, “End Times Eyewitness.”
Opinions are mixed among Middle East analysts as to whether Turkey’s top leaders, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Davutoglu, are true Islamists or just using the rhetoric of radical Islamism to gain influence throughout an increasingly radicalized region.
Elmira Bayrasli, the co-founder of Foreign Policy Interrupted and a fellow at the World Policy Institute, is among those who seems to think Erdogan is not a die-hard Islamist but is moving in that direction to curry favor with his base of support.
“Beset by domestic crises, Mr. Erdogan has turned his focus toward his core constituency, a largely conservative, anti-Western population in the heartland,” Bayrasli wrote in a New York Times column earlier this year. “In doing so he has reverted to a tactic that has resonated with them: aggression.”
Turkey broke off its once-friendly relationship with Israel in 2010 and then Erdogan turned on his former ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. WND has reported a series of stories documenting Turkey’s double-edged policy toward ISIS as it plays both sides of the war against the Islamic State. Erdogan also supported the Muslim Brotherhood takeover of Egypt, a move that eventually backfired as the Brotherhood was later tossed out of power by Egypt’s military.
Richardson, who spent weeks in the Middle East interviewing Islamic, Jewish and Christian leaders for his documentary, believes Turkey’s government deserves close scrutiny as signs point to an even more dramatic change in not just style but substance.
Richardson believes Turkey has undergone a “soft revolution” as Erdogan has gradually steered the country closer to Islamic values and away from the West. This represented a break with Turkey’s more secular past, but Erdogan’s changes still did not attract anywhere near the amount of media attention that was seen in Egypt, Libya or Tunisia, the revolutions of the so-called “Arab Spring.” Turkey was touted in the West as the model for other regimes in the Middle East seeking a “middle ground” between Islamism and Western secularism.
But the convention held Dec. 27, with thousands of Turks shouting Islamic slogans in support of Meshaal, leader of a terrorist organization, is just the latest evidence that a wake-up call might be in order for Western policy makers in Washington and Europe, Richardson said.
Written by LEO HOHMANN
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