Turkey, despite officially being a U.S. ally and member of NATO, deserves blame for the latest missile attacks and kidnappings carried by Hamas. The Erdogan government is sponsoring Hamas, inciting extremist fervor and is even harboring the terrorist leader that oversees kidnappings in the West Bank.
The latest missile attacks by Hamas were preceded by the kidnapping and execution of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank by Hamas operatives. The Hamas leader urging kidnappings of Israelis in the West Bank is named Saleh al-Arouri, and he operates from Turkey.
The kidnappings were preceded by a concerted effort by al-Arouri to fund and plan such operations. He may or may not have masterminded this specific attack, but it was the fruition of his orders. Hamas officially denies involvement, but Israel has identified the kidnappers as Hamas terrorists that were previously arrested and released.
Israeli intelligence has reportedly concluded that Turkey has been the top financial sponsor of Hamas since 2012, with Erdogan arranging for the transfer of $250 million to the terrorist group annually. Another report puts the figure at $300 million. The funding comes from private sources he is close to and not from the official budget. Turkey is also said to have trained Hamas security forces in Gaza through non-governmental groups.
The report said that Turkey coordinates the fundraising with Qatar, another supposed U.S. ally. Members of Congress have asked Qatar to stop financing Hamas. Khaled Meshaal, the political leader of Hamas, lives in Qatar and even gave an extremist sermon at its Grand Mosque. The U.S. blocked a $400 million aid package from Qatar to pay 44,000 employees of the Hamas government in Gaza.
The Egyptian government is placing the blame on Hamas, Turkey and Qatar for the continuing conflict. When Egypt proposed a ceasefire, Israel accepted it. Hamas did not, responding with rocket fire and making demands it knows will not be met.
“Had Hamas accepted the Egyptian initiative, at least 40 Palestinian souls would have been saved,” said the Egyptian Foreign Minister.
Turkey responded with its own condemnation of Egypt. Erdogan said Egyptian President El-Sisi is an "illegitimate tyrant."
It is a remarkable change for Egypt to blame Hamas and its foreign sponsors for rising Palestinian casualties. The criticism of Israel is as minimal as one can reasonably expect from an Arab government. Previously, even the most pro-Western Arab governments reflexively accused Israel of the most egregious of deeds.
The reaction of the Arab world is one of near silence, with some voices outright condemning Hamas. The Islamist propaganda isn’t striking the Muslim world’s chord like it used to.
Even though 80% of Turks dislike Hamas, the Turkish government, , is trying to change that.
Turkey is making outrageous claims to demonize Israel and spark a pro-Islamist backlash. Erdogan branded Israel as a “terrorist state” that has launched a campaign of "systematic genocide" of Palestinians. He claims “massacres in Palestine continue and children get killed.”
"They always curse [Adolf] Hitler, but they [Israel] now even exceed him in barbarism, " Erdogan said, while criticising U.S. President Barack Obama for backing Israel's right to self-defense.
"Some Americans ask why the prime minister [referring to himself] makes such comparisons with Hitler. What's that to you? You're America, what's Hitler got to do with you?" Erdogan continued.
Truthfully, Israel is going to extraordinary lengths to avoid civilian casualties. If Israel were a fraction the villain that Erdogan says it is, then Hamas would be crushed without concern for collateral damage. Israel certainly has the capability. But facts and logic are never allowed to get in the way of Islamist propaganda.
Violent protests at the Israeli embassy in Ankara and the Israeli consulate in Istanbul followed Erdogan’s incitement. The families of the diplomats had to be evacuated. The demonstrators weren’t just anti-Israel. They were pro-Hamas and even terrorists themselves.
“Hail to the resistance from Istanbul to Gaza,” some of the protestors chanted.
“The occupying Israel has made a bloodbath of Palestine by bombing them for the past 15 days,” said a deputy in Erdogan’s political party that joined the protests.
The Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH), the Erdogan-linked group behind the Mavi Marmara incident in 2010, took part in the demonstrations. It has extensive links to terrorism and has been labeled a terrorist group by Germany, the Netherlands and Israel. There is bipartisan support in the U.S. Congress to follow suit.
Turkish security forces are widely seen as competent. Yet, they did not stop the violence against the Israeli diplomatic facilities. Israel is condemning the “gross violation of diplomatic rules and of the Vienna convention.”
Erdogan says he will only normalize relations with Israel when all Israeli military operations against Gaza end permanently and Israel lifts an “inhumane” embargo designed to deny Hamas materials to carry out attacks. He has also stated that Hamas is not a terrorist group.
Turkey is actively assisting anti-Western forces and sponsoring a terrorist group. Erdogan vigorously supports the Muslim Brotherhood and his government is linked to Iran-backed terrorists. It is sharply moving towards Iran and away from the West. It may even have nuclear weapons ambitions.
The Erdogan government is violating the democratic standards of NATO. It is cracking down on social media and is rated as the biggest jailer of journalists in the world—even more so than China and North Korea.
Turkey’s behavior is incompatible with the purpose of NATO. The alliance’s website says, “NATO promotes democratic values and encourages consultation and cooperation on defense and security issues to build trust and, in the long run, prevent conflict.”
Turkey cannot be permitted to play both sides of the fence. An Islamist supporter of the Hamas terrorist group is incompatible with NATO.
Ryan Mauro is the ClarionProject.org’s National Security Analyst, a fellow with the Clarion Project and is frequently interviewed on top-tier TV stations as an expert on counterterrorism and Islamic extremism.