Jewish leaders have condemned the Turkish Deputy Prime Minister for blaming anti-government demonstrations on the “Jewish diaspora".
Besir Atalay was reported on Monday as saying: "There are some circles that are jealous of Turkey’s growth. They are all uniting, on one side the Jewish Diaspora. You saw the foreign media’s attitude during the Gezi Park incidents, they bought it and started broadcasting immediately, without doing an evaluation.”
Last month thousands of demonstrators gathered in Gezi Park to protest the rule of Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan.
President of the World Jewish Congress Ronald Lauder condemned Mr Atalay’s comments: “It is shocking to hear from a senior Turkish government minister such despicable and totally baseless slurs. Mr Atalay should have the decency to apologise. His remarks are an insult not only to the Jewish people but also to the many Turkish citizens who took part in the protests and who have real grievances.”
In a statement, Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, the President of the Conference of European Rabbis, said: “The classic antisemitic conspiracy theory is alive and well in Turkey. What makes this particularly shocking is the seniority of the perpetrators.
"Last month the Mayor of Ankara laid the blame for political unrest in Turkey with the Jewish lobby and today the Deputy Prime Minister has done the same. This is the most poisonous kind of state sanctioned antisemitism and the international community has a responsibility to challenge the Turkish Government on it.”
On Tuesday Mr Atalay’s office released a statement denying he had made the comments. It read: "There was no such statement or assessment made by our Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay."