Turkey Says U.S. Diverting Gaze From Gaza by Attacking Erdogan

Turkey accused the U.S. of attempting to divert international attention from the Israeli military campaign against Gaza Strip militants by condemning the Turkish president’s criticism of the onslaught as anti-Semitic.

“Enabling an apartheid regime in its repression of innocent people in occupied territories and then turning around and blaming others who call it out is the height of hypocrisy,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s communications director, Fahrettin Altun, said on Twitter. “We categorically reject any attempt to misrepresent our President Erdogan’s words.”

The State Department on Tuesday rebuked Erdogan over what it called “reprehensible” remarks he made while lashing out at the Biden administration over its support for Israel in the conflict.

“We urge President Erdogan and other Turkish leaders to refrain from incendiary remarks, which could incite further violence,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement. “We call on Turkey to join the United States in working to end the conflict. Anti-Semitic language has no place anywhere.”

He didn’t cite specific references, but Erdogan, after a cabinet meeting Monday, denounced Israel and its allies over the violence that erupted last week. He claimed that Austria, in its support of Israel, was trying to atone for the Holocaust by “making Muslims pay a price” for it. He called Israeli military attacks in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip a “massacre.”

The ill-tempered exchange between Washington and Ankara over what Turkey sees as Israel’s excessive use of force in Gaza is the latest between two NATO allies that have quarreled repeatedly in recent years, including over the war in Syria and Turkey’s purchase of Russian military hardware.

Erdogan has previously compared Israel’s campaigns in Gaza to Nazi atrocities against Jews. On Monday, he linked the Israel-Gaza conflict to another grievance against the Americans -- President Joe Biden’s recognition of the 1915 massacres, executions and deportations of Armenians as genocide.

“Mr. Biden, you have sided with the Armenians on the so-called Armenian genocide,” Erdogan said. “Now you are, unfortunately, writing history with blood on your hands in this incident that led to a seriously disproportionate attack in Gaza.”

Biden on April 24 marked the the 106th anniversary of the mass killings of Armenians during the closing days of the Ottoman Empire by twice referring to it as a “genocide” -- a word no American president since Ronald Reagan has used to describe the event for fear of alienating Turkey, a NATO ally.

The Ankara government has fiercely opposed the characterization of the events as genocide and said that Armenians and Turks were killed in ethnic clashes during the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after Armenian groups sided with Russia in World War I.

Erdogan has been on a quest to restore Turkish influence in the region, intervening in civil wars in Syria and Libya, as well as the recent clash between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

The latest Israel-Gaza conflict began when Hamas fired rocket barrages into Israel after unrest between Palestinians and Israeli security forces in Jerusalem, and Israel responded with airstrikes.

Israeli aircraft hit about 40 underground military targets belonging to Hamas overnight, as well as rocket-launching sites and other military facilities of the Islamic Jihad militant group, the Israeli army said. The strikes sent the Palestinian death toll climbing to 219. Rocket fire pounded Israel, where 12 people have died since the fighting began on May 10.

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