Photo: Reuters
PM Erdogan
Photo: Reuters
Tycoon George Soros
Photo: AP
Prof. Dror Zeevi
Photo: Haim Hornstein

Erdogan claims Jewish investors behind protests

At first he blamed opposition, hooligans, foreign governments, now Turkey's PM charges Western, Jewish financiers of scheming to topple economy through prolonged demos

After two weeks of protests, each side in the Turkish tumult is starting to produce its own narrative, explain the origin of the protest and plan the next step.


In the demonstrators' viewpoint, the protest's train has long left its humble beginnings as an environmental struggle against the redevelopment of Gezi Park in central Istanbul, and is now heading toward far more general goals.


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The object of the protestors' ire is no longer Gezi Park, the ruling AK party or even the government, but one man - Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.


הבחירה במשקיעים זרים נועדה להקהות את העוקץ הכלכלי של המחאה. איסטנבול (צילום: רויטרס)

Taksim Square, Istanbul (Photo: Reuters)


Described as an autocrat, demonstrators protest his attempts to force values, norms and codes of conduct on a widely diverse public, and especially against the move to make Erdogan president carrying sweeping authorities.


Erdogan's conduct toward the demonstrators – his refusal to meet with leaders and harsh measures aimed at suppressing the demonstrations – is for them ample proof to their claims.


The protestors have little love for the Turkish media outlets, as well, which act like cowed rabbits, provide little coverage of the demonstrations and tend to support the government's stance.


Conversely, over the last few days and especially since returning from a visit to north Africa, the Turkish PM has constructed his own theory of the ongoing events. At first he comprised a long lists of supposed suspects behind the protests – opposition supporters, hooligans, foreign governments – but recently the government's narrative is taking a more stable shape and accusations are mostly directed at business men and large-scale investors Erdogan has been terming "the interests lobby."


Protestors in tents, Gezi Park (Photo: AFP) 


According to him, these want to hamper Turkey's economy for short-term profits. Though the specific guilty partners were not explicitly named, it appears Erdogan is hinting at investors such as Jewish-American tycoon George Soros and other Jewish and Western businessmen.


Also unexplained is why should these investors want to see Turkey's dynamic economy fail, and in what way do they influence protestors across the country.


But Erdogan is not interested in answering these questions. The enemy has been identified, and the fight is on.


In Israel, and in the West in general, Erdogan's story sounds like a zany conspiracy theory, the sort of which abounds in the Middle East. But Erdogan's version was carefully crafted.


Long before the present protest, a significant decrease in the Turkish economy's growth has been marked. The country's bane is its large foreign debt: Turkey owes tens of billions of dollars to debtors, especially in Europe and the US, and the interest it is required to pay is debilitating its economic base thus hampering its growth.


The large – some would say megalomaniac – investments in state projects are also emptying the state's coffers.


Erdogan and his team are naturally aware of the imminent economic setbacks, and therefore the choice of financial speculators as the evil behind the protests is not random.


When the unpleasant information about the economic status will be revealed next year before the elections, the PM could shirk the responsibility, having warned beforehand that foreign investors schemed to foil the economy.


Choosing the investors is also meant to dull the economic edge of the protests.


Nonetheless, Erdogan's strategy to blame the international financial establishment echoes with the sounds of the old Turkey, xenophobic and suspicious of the world.


Today, even in Turkey there are not many who would buy into that.


Prof. Dror Zeevi lectures in the Middle East Studies department in Ben Gurion University, Beersheba


פרסום ראשון: 06.14.13, 20:41
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