Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan raged against Israel in a speech given before a pro-Palestinian rally on Saturday in Istanbul. He said he is preparing to introduce Israel as a “war criminal” on a world stage, at a moment the debate over Gaza continues heating up at the United Nations.
Erdogan said: “Israel, we will also declare you as a war criminal to the world, we are preparing for it, and we will introduce Israel to the world as a war criminal,” according to a state broadcaster. Footage of the event shows that the turnout was huge, in the hundreds of thousands or possibly over 100,000 people gathered in the capital.
He stressed that the West is busy justifying the massacre of innocent people in Gaza, as the civilian death toll soars, saying “Israel is committing war crimes” as an “occupier.” He added: the “West owes you, but Türkiye does not owe you.”
“Those shedding crocodile tears for civilians killed in the Ukraine-Russia war are silently watching the deaths of thousands of innocent children in Gaza,” he critiqued further, highlighting the double standard.
“I am asking West, do you want to create another Crusader War atmosphere?” Erdogan questioned, before saying provocatively: “The main culprit behind the massacre unfolding in Gaza is the West.”
“Of course, every country has the right to defend itself, but where is justice? There is no defense but an open, and vicious massacre going on in Gaza.” He went after Western elites and their ability to dress up everything they say in human rights rhetoric but which proves shallow:
Everyone knows that Israel is a pawn in the region that will be sacrificed when the time comes, he added.
“I said in Davos, you know how to kill. They know well how to kill.”
Erdogan continues, “We are saddened for every civilian in any way, but Israel does not care.”
This week the Palestinian Ministry of Housing issued a grim figure, saying that 20,000 buildings and homes in Gaza have been destroyed over several days of intensified Israeli airstrikes. Turkish media has tallied that in total since Oct. 7, over 200,000 homes and buildings have been leveled.
Thousands rally in solidarity with the Palestinian people in Gaza. pic.twitter.com/4LBJ2IJKHf
— TIMES OF GAZA (@Timesofgaza) October 28, 2023
Erdogan has earlier confirmed he canceled a planned trip to Israel where he was expected to meet with his Israeli counterpart PM Netanyahu. This was part of a normalization and restoration of ties effort, but are now definitely off.
From Tel Aviv’s perspective too, Erdogan’s ratcheting rhetoric in denouncing Israeli war crimes will likely been seen as unforgiveable, even after this current crisis is over. Turkey and Israel have long clashed over the Palestinian issue, and these tensions have now exploded back into full force.