ZOA Urges the U.S., Israel and the UN to demand the arrest of the Hamas leaders in Turkey.
Zionist Organization of America National President Morton A. Klein released the following statement:
ZOA supports Congressional efforts to persuade the U.S. State Department to take strong action against Turkey’s support for the Hamas terror regime.
On October 26, 2023, forty-four bipartisan Congressmembers signed a letter strongly urging U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to take decisive action to hold the Republic of Turkey (a.k.a. Türkiye) accountable for supporting and facilitating Hamas’ operations. The bipartisan Congressional letter emphasizes that Turkey’s and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s “longstanding political, logistical, and financial support to Hamas is well-known and a matter of grave concern.” The letter documents, with extensive citations, that:
- Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) maintains ideological affiliations with Hamas’ parent, the Muslim Brotherhood.
- Erdoğan consistently overtly defends Hamas, including telling Prime Minister Netanyahu that “Hamas is not a terrorist organization.”
- Erdoğan invokes the Hamas charter’s antisemitic genocidal threats that “those who think they own Jerusalem [Jews] better know that tomorrow they will not even be able to hide behind trees.”
- For over a decade, Erdoğan made Turkey a sanctuary for Hamas – “the second-largest Hamas base after Gaza.”
- Since 2012, Turkey hosted Hamas’s military wing in Istanbul, headed by Hamas’s second-in-command, Saleh al-Arouri, who publicly praised Hamas’s October 7 attack. Al-Arouri admitted responsibility for kidnapping and murdering three Israeli teens in June 2014.
- Other Hamas officials working in Istanbul include Hamas Finance Bureau Chief Zaher Jabarin, who directs and funds Hamas terror operations against Israel; and Jihad Yaghmour, who manages terrorist units throughout Judea and Samaria, helps establish non-governmental organizations as fronts for Hamas, and serves as a liaison to the Turkish government and its intelligence service.
- Hamas’ Istanbul office facilitated the transfer of millions of dollars to support Hamas operatives; directed numerous terrorist attacks against Israel (including the June 2014 kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens, the murder of an Israeli couple in Judea/Samaria in front of their four children, and the thwarted assassination attempt on Jerusalem’s former mayor); functioned as a crucial hub for strengthening Hamas’s capacity to launch attacks against Israel; provides training for Hamas operatives; engages in money laundering through Turkish financial institutions, and facilitates the infiltration of terrorists into Israeli territory.
- Erdoğan and Turkish officials frequently meet with senior Hamas leaders, including U.S. Specially Designated Global Terrorists Ismail Haniyeh and al-Arouri.
- Turkey granted citizenship and issued passports to Hamas operatives, including Al-Arouri, facilitating their ability to move freely throughout the region and plan terror operations, despite the fact that Al-Arouri is subject to a $5 million bounty by the U.S. Department of State’s Rewards for Justice Program.
- The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has imposed sanctions on several Turkish-based individuals and entities that facilitated financial and travel services to jihadist groups, including Hamas, the Islamic State, and Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
- In 2020, a U.S. judge ruled that a case could proceed against Turkey’s Kuveyt Turk Bank for aiding and abetting Hamas.
- In September 2023, Israel discovered 16 tons of rocket production materials originating from Turkey, including ammonium chloride, en route to Gaza.
The bipartisan Congressional letter affirmed that, especially after Hamas’ October 7 atrocities, the U.S. government has the “moral and strategic duty to utilize every available tool to sever any political, logistical, and financial links that empower Hamas.” Accordingly, the bipartisan Congressmembers asked the U.S. State Department to demand that Turkey must:
- Formally designate Hamas as a terrorist organization;
- Close Hamas’s office in Istanbul and any affiliated entities operating in Turkey;
- Revoke Turkish citizenship and confiscate Turkish passports from all Hamas officials within Turkey;
- Expel Hamas officials from Turkey and prohibit their re-entry;
- Investigate whether any Turkish banks are implicated in the financing of Hamas, report the findings to the U.S. State Department, and sanction any banks involved in such financing; and
- Investigate whether any Turkish officials were involved in Hamas’s October 7, 2023, attack on Israel and report the findings to the U.S. State Department.
ZOA joins in all these moral, bipartisan demands on Turkey and additionally demands that the U.S. & Israel & UN demand that Hamas leaders in Turkey be arrested immediately and tried for accessory to murder.
A recent MEMRI report describes further Hamas-Erdoğan ties throughout the past twenty years, including that Turkey gave Hamas $300 million; established a secret cyberattacks and counterintelligence center for Hamas in 2016; used a Turkish defense contractor to aid Hamas (the contractor’s founder called for preparing an army for Palestine outside Palestine); pressured the PA and Hamas to reconcile; held joint Fatah-Hamas meetings in Istanbul; met with additional Hamas leaders including Khaled Mashal; and hosts a Hamas investment office that generated revenue for Hamas by managing an over $500 million Hamas investment portfolio, including companies operating in Turkey and other Middle Eastern countries.
(Also see OFAC’s October 18, 2023 announcement of sanctions against Hamas terrorists, operatives and financial facilitators operating the Hamas investment portfolio in Turkey, Qatar, Gaza, Sudan, Algeria and elsewhere.)
ZOA also notes that in the recent weeks following the Congressional letter, Erdoğan’s antisemitic rants and actions have escalated dramatically, underscoring the need for the U.S. to make strong demands on Turkey. For instance:
- On October 26, 2023, at a “Great Palestine Rally” organized by Erdoğan’s AK Party, Erdoğan reiterated his absurd, despicable claim that Hamas is not a terrorist organization; alleged that “the West is the most responsible for the massacre in Gaza”; implied that the West was stirring up a “Crescent-Crusader fight” that Turkey was prepared to decisively respond to; and called Israel “war criminals” and an occupier. (Israel in fact left all of Gaza in 2005.)
- Erdoğan’s Anti-Zionist Conspiracy Theory: On November 10, 2023, in a speech at his Ankara palace conference room attended by high-ranking Turkish officials, Erdoğan claimed that Israel plans to annex Turkish territory – an absurd anti-Zionist conspiracy theory that Erdogan also referenced in subsequent addresses. Erdoğan asserted: “Not content with this [seizing Palestinian lands to create Israel 75 years ago], they [Israel] are also threatening to use nuclear weapons, including our country [Turkey] in their promised land, challenging our patience with their technological superiority and oppression.” (See also Turkish media TRT tweet.) Erdoğan warned that that Israel would soon face consequences and wake up from its immature dreams. Erdoğan is also expected to list Israel as a priority threat in Turkey’s national strategy document of fundamental principles (the Red Book).
The notion that Israel seeks to annex parts of Turkey is ludicrous: Turkey and Israel share no borders. Israel (and not Turkey) is the historic, religious and lawful Jewish homeland and “promised land.” Israel has never expressed even the slightest interest in annexing Turkey, which is 35 times Israel’s size, and has a population which is 99.8% Muslim and is nine times larger than Israel’s population. But unfortunately, Erdoğan’s conspiracy notion is likely to increase antisemitism among the Turkish population; just as his previous claims that Christian activities were a national security threat to Turkey resulted in killings of Christian clerics.
Erdoğan seems to have forgotten Israel’s tremendous efforts to help and have good relations with Turkey, including Israel’s rescues of Turkish citizens after a devastating earthquake hit Turkey in February 2023.
- Erdoğan and his wife are also busy promoting Muslim “solidarity” against Israel. On November 11, 2023, President Erdoğan attended the 8th Extraordinary Islamic Summit in Saudi Arabia, for representatives of the Muslim world to “address Israel’s attacks against the Palestinian lands under occupation, particularly Gaza, and the Palestinian people.” Erdoğan falsely accused Israel of perpetrating “massacres”; accused the West of cowardice; and demanded an investigation of Israeli nuclear weapons. Erdoğan’s speech at the Islamic summit also spread his anti-Zionist conspiracy notion that Israel seeks Turkey’s and many other Islamic countries’ lands. Erdoğan claimed: “The expression of unfounded notions about promised lands that pose a threat to the territorial integrity of many countries in the region, including Turkey, is the most explicit evidence of this [Israeli aggression].”
- On November 14, 2023, a long-time Erdoğan confidant Metin Külünk and his associates filed a criminal complaint with the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office seeking to prosecute Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for war crimes, and to refer to complaint to the International Criminal Court.
- On November 15, 2023, Erdoğan told the Turkish parliament, which responded with a thunderous standing ovation, that “Israel is a terrorist state” and would soon be destroyed. The same day, Erdoğan also threatened to bring Israel’s political and military leaders to trial in international courts, and described Hamas terrorists as “resistance fighters” defending Palestinian lands.
- Also on November 15, 2023, Erdoğan reiterated his Zionist conspiracy theory during a speech to his ruling AKP party, saying: “Circles with malicious intentions regarding our homeland, no matter how carefully they act, somehow expose themselves. For years, Armenia chased unrealistic dreams about our country’s territories. They learned their lesson with the Karabakh War and gave up. Now Israeli leaders have also started expressing similar delusions. Don’t worry. Like countless dreamers [about our land] over the past thousand years, theirs will also end in failure.”
- On November 15, 2023, Turkish First Lady Emine Erdoğan held an anti-Israel solidarity summit in Istanbul for the spouses of heads of state and female officials of 13 other mostly Muslim countries and the so-called “State of Palestine.”
- On November 20, 2023, Turkish First Lady Emine Erdoğan published a long anti-Israel screed in the form of a Newsweek interview, falsely and libelously accusing Israel of everything that Hamas is guilty of: war crimes; massacres, brutality, “explicitly and entirely” targeting civilians; attacking “the occupied Palestinian territories”; having a “discriminatory, vindictive, and hateful mindset”; etc., etc. Erdoğan never said a word about Hamas’ real atrocities or the hostages, despite claiming to care about peace and children. Oddly, Emine Erdoğan also claimed that “Christians and Jews in Gaza, as well as their places of worship, are also targeted by [Israeli] bombs” – even though there have been no Jews living in Gaza (other than the hostages) since 2005, and the few remaining Christians are oppressed by Hamas.
- On November 21, 2023, President Erdoğan visited Algeria to “exchange views on Israel’s attacks in Gaza and the occupied Palestinian lands” and other issues.
- On November 22, 2023, Erdoğan reiterated that Israel is a “terrorist state” and stated that he will ask the UN Security Council and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to verify whether Israel has nuclear weapons, and claimed that Israeli nukes “threaten the security of the entire region, including Turkey.”
- Allying with Iran: And on November 26, 2023, President Erdoğan and Iranian regime President Ebrahim Raisi affirmed on a phone call that Turkey, Iran and other Muslim countries are mutually standing against “Israeli brutality in the Palestinian territories.”
ZOA accordingly calls on the U.S. and Israel and the UN to take strong action to counter Turkey’s and Erdoğan’s dangerous, escalating support for Hamas terrorists; antisemitic, anti-Western and anti-Israel activities; and collaboration with the Iranian regime and its proxies.