The recent news that Israel and Turkey were upgrading their diplomatic relationship and would be exchanging ambassadors in the near future was received positively on both sides of the Mediterranean. As the two countries renew the ties that were cut in 2018, they are both hoping to see an increase in economic cooperation, bilateral tourism, and fraternization.
However, a question lingers: will these warmer relations lead to a reduction in the rampant antisemitism and anti-Zionism that is pervasive throughout the Turkish media?
Anti-Semitism & Anti-Zionism in Turkish Media: A Primer
Throughout the 21st century, there have been numerous instances of the Turkish media publishing material that either vilifies the Jewish state or resorts to classic antisemitic tropes and imagery.
For example, during the early years of the Second Intifada, when Israel was suffering an unprecedented wave of terror attacks, the Islamist daily Akit published a photograph of then-Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon with blood dripping off his fanged teeth during his visit to Ankara . In this instance, the newspaper employed antisemitic symbolism as a means of criticizing the Israeli government.
In early 2014, the newspaper Yeni Safak published a sympathetic interview with the cartoonist Carlos Latuff, who is known for his vulgar portrayal of Israelis. The piece featured a Latuff cartoon of Ariel Sharon descending steps into a fiery hell that was captioned with the words “Although Sharon is dead, he must be tried.”
Later in the same year, Faruk Köse wrote an opinion piece for the government-aligned newspaper Yeni Akit in which he called for the Jewish community and its business associates to be singled out and taxed in order to pay for rebuilding Gaza after that year’s Operation Protective Edge.
A year after these incidents, The Jerusalem Post reported that a study had found that antisemitism was “the most common religious or racial prejudice in Turkish media,” with 130 incidents reported.
Related Reading: Media Blast Israel for Banning Palestinian Terrorist Front Groups, Give Turkey’s Erdogan Pass for Real Civil Society Crackdown & Harboring Hamas Leaders
In 2018, the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) published a report in which it highlighted the antisemitic cartoons that were being published in Yeni Asya, a newspaper with thousands of subscribers. Some of these grotesque images included a Star of David controlling the United Nations, a hook-nosed Jewish man playing the harp while watching the Muslim world burn, and former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu drinking the blood of Gazans.
In 2020, Yeni Akit rehashed a Medieval blood dragonfly, claiming that Jews were expelled from their countries due to their use of the blood of young children in religious rituals during the holiday of Passover.
As late as 2022, the pro-government Daily Sabah newspaper published a report claiming that Jews were behind the early 20th-century Young Turks movement and that they were involved in the “Armenian deportation” (a euphemism for the Armenian genocide). According to Seth Frantzman of The Jerusalem Post, this article is “classic Elders of Zionism conspiracy and antisemitism, presenting Jews as behind everything secular and revolutionary.”
This latter article was published after Turkish President Erdogan had urged news editors to stop publishing antisemitic material in anticipation of the warming in ties between Jerusalem and Ankara.
Related Reading: The Media’s Inability to Uniquely Condemn the Uniqueness of Antisemitism
Now that Israel and Turkey have revitalized their relations, will Turkish media follow suit by reining in its antisemitism and anti-Zionism? Or will it continue to feed its vast readership a diet of mistruths and antisemitic stereotypes?
The answer to that question will go a long way toward determining how warm the new normalization between Israel and Turkey will be.
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Featured Image: STR/AFP via Getty Images