A viral video featuring Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan gives an impression that he is trying to project himself as the leader of the Islamic world amid the Israel-Palestine tensions.
In the video doing the rounds on social media, Erdogan is heard saying that if Jerusalem falls, no other Muslim area will be safe, including Mecca, Madina, Istanbul, Islamabad, Jakarta, and Cairo.
The EurAsian Times could not verify the authenticity of this video though.
This is what you call a true leader! My upmost respect goes to @RTErdogan for taking action and helping Palestine! If all countries join hands together we can make this stop!#Erdogan pic.twitter.com/4HXI16TJNM
— Wali Jan (@WaliJan_173) May 11, 2021
The Latest Flare-Up
Tensions have been brewing between two sides since the beginning of Ramadan in mid-April when Palestinians feared eviction from one of their oldest neighborhoods in Jerusalem, Sheikh Jarrah, as part of a broader Israeli effort to impose its authority over the whole city.
Last week, the Al-Aqsa mosque saw an escalation of confrontations with the Palestinians inside the compound, hurling stones, and chairs at the Israeli police who fired tear gas and stun grenades at them.
At the same time, the Palestinian militant group Hamas increased its attacks from Gaza with Israel also increasing its counterattacks. The violence has left at least 40 people dead.
Fatou Bensouda, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, has stated that her office “will continue to monitor developments on the ground” which she believes might constitute as “crimes under the Rome Statute.”
— Int'l Criminal Court (@IntlCrimCourt) May 12, 2021
Erdogan’s Power Projection
Islamic countries using Palestine to project themselves as regional leaders are not a new phenomenon. By the time Egypt and the rest of the Arab countries started toning down their rhetoric, non-Arab ones such as Turkey and Iran have stepped up.
Erdogan has fully diverged from the secular tones of his country’s founder, Ataturk. He is instead casting Turkey as the leader of the Muslim world.
In the viral video, Erdogan is heard saying that if Jerusalem falls, no other Muslim area will be safe, including Mecca, Madina, Riyadh, Istanbul, Islamabad, Jakarta, and Cairo.
He has been trying to create a non-Arab-dominated grouping of Muslim countries since his disillusionment with the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) after it failed to take a firm position on Egypt and Syria following the anti-governmental protests of the Arab Spring in the early 2010s.
Turkey spearheaded the Kuala Lumpur conference in December 2019 which was attended by Iran, Qatar, and Malaysia. On May 11, Erdogan discussed the Israeli attacks on Al-Aqsa Mosque with Malaysia and Qatar.
Appealing to the Muslim world to unite against the “cruel terrorist state” Israel, he stated that his government has “immediately launched the necessary initiatives to get the United Nations, OIC and all relevant institutions to take action.”
In a phone call with Russian President Putin on May 12, Erdogan brought up the idea of sending “an international protection force to the region in order to protect the Palestinian civilians”.
Putin diplomatically stated that it backed the UN-mandated two-state solution while Erdogan insisted that “Turkey and Russia were of the same opinion on the developments taking place in Palestine presented a significant message.”
Erdogan also has spoken to both Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas who is based in West Bank and Gaza-based Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh. He is probably projecting himself as a mediator between the divided Palestinians.
Calling on Erdogan to “restore Palestine’s liberty,” activist Fatima Es-Sus Umm Eymen said that “From the heart of Sheikh Jarrah, we greet our public in Turkey. Millions of greetings to [Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan,”
After stating staying silent is “no different than supporting” Israel, Erdogan’s rhetoric has also made others such as Saudi Arabia toughen their position on Israel. Recently, it had been growing closer to Israel over their mutual distrust of Iran.
But the recent events have compelled it to speak up against Israel lest its leadership be questioned.
On May 11, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry released a statement saying, “The sanctity and prayers of al-Aqsa Mosque have been openly attacked by the Israeli invading forces.”
Besides Turkey and Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Bahrain, the UAE, Iran, and Kuwait have also spoken up. Quoting noted American intellectual Noam Chomsky, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan stated he stands with Gaza. His Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi spoke with his Turkish counterpart over the “injustice being done to the Palestinians.”