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Sandro Rosell
FC Barcelona President
Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Turkey now has handily outstripped China as the world’s biggest jailer of journalists, according to figures compiled by the Committee to Protect Journalists.Erdogan said that all Muslims must go up to the al Aqsa Mosque, which is located on the southern end of the Temple Mount. He said that that going to the Mosque would be the ultimate show of support from the Muslim world to the Palestinian ArabsWhile delivering an address at the opening ceremony of the International Forum on al-Quds Waqf in Istanbul on Monday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan launched into a scathing anti-Israel diatribe; lambasting the Jewish State regarding its settlement policies in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem. 

He called on Muslims the world over to “flood” the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism, in order to 'resist the Israeli occupation,' according to an INN report.

INN also reported that Erdogan said that all Muslims must go up to the al Aqsa Mosque, which is located on the southern end of the Temple Mount. He said that that going to the Mosque would be the ultimate show of support from the Muslim world to the Palestinian Arabs. “Both in terms of our religion and historical responsibility, Al-Quds and the fight of our Palestinian brothers for rights and justice is of great importance to us. We will keep making efforts for Quds to turn into a city of peace,” he said.

He condemned Israel for the proposed Muezzin Bill, which would limit the decibel level of the loudspeakers of houses of worship during the night and early morning. “The fact that such an issue is even coming to the agenda is shameful. The fact that those who talk about freedom of thought and faith at every opportunity actually approve this step by remaining silent is noteworthy. We will not allow the silencing of prayers from the heavens of Jerusalem,” he added.

Erdogan also called on the US to cease all discussions on the possibility of moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. “The debates over the possibility of US moving its Israel embassy to Jerusalem are extremely wrong and should certainly drop from the agenda,” Erdogan said.

According to an IBT report, as many as 26,000 Turks visited the Temple Mount in 2016. However, Erdogan emphasized "hundreds of thousands" should be visiting the site, which is considered holy by Muslims. "It would be the greatest support to our brothers there. Al-Quds is holy for all three divine religions. It is the heart and summary of all human history,” he said.

Erdogan also said that permanent peace in the region would only be possible with a "fair solution to the Palestinian issue".

Drawing a comparison of Israel to the racist practices employed in the past by the South African government, Erdogan declared, "What's the difference between the present acts of the Israeli administration and the racist and discriminatory politics that were practiced against black people in the past in America – and up until a short time ago in South Africa."

"Here is the only solution. The establishment of a fully sovereign and independent Palestinian state, with East Jerusalem as its capital along the lines of 1967," Erdogan said.

On Monday evening, Erdogan drew swift Israeli rebuke for his anti-Semitic speech. “Anyone who systemically violates human rights in their own country should not preach about morality to the only democracy in the region,” the Israeli Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

According to an official statement issued by the Palestinian Ma’an News Agency, only hours after spewing forth his controversial remarks, Erdogan engaged in discussions with  Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah about devising modalities to curtail what he perceives to be the “judaization” of Jerusalem. Hamdallah was in Istanbul to attend the Palestinian conference. 

Hamdallah’s office issued a statement saying that during the meeting the two discussed “ways to support Jerusalem,” and the Palestinian leader updated Erdogan on the latest “Israeli violations” and an ongoing hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners.

The Ma’an news agency indicated that Erdogan said Muslim Turkey had a “historical responsibility” and was paying “huge attention to Jerusalem and to the struggle of Palestinians for justice,” ramping up efforts to make it a city of “security, independence and peace again.”

The Times of Israel has reported that Israel has categorically denied accusations that it is making attempts to judaize holy sites in Jerusalem. The Israeli government has repeatedly proclaimed that Jerusalem remains open to all religions. It currently maintains a fragile status quo on the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism.

Jerusalem’s mayor Nir Barkat, rebuked Erdogan’s claims on Tuesday, saying there are “Jewish roots” in “every corner of the city,” according to a Newsweek report.

Barkat offered Erdogan the chance to see the city for himself. “I invite Erdogan to visit our city and to be amazed by the reality on the ground—a reality that has changed only for the better since the Turks ruled here,” he said in a statement.

Erdogan’s mendacious claims against Israel as well as his bellicose remarks come at a sensitive time as the Turkish strongman is slated to meet with President Trump. Trump is scheduled to depart on a trip to the Middle East in the next two weeks in a gambit to restart the moribund Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. 

Reports indicate that the crux of the talks between Erdogan and Trump will center around tensions surrounding Syrian fighting, but Erdogan wants to shift the focus on to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Times of Israel reported that the Turkish president strongly criticized Israel, saying that “no country should be allowed to act above the law.” He said that any efforts at brokering a peace deal are doomed to fail “unless Israel is held accountable for its crimes.”

“Israel keeps getting away from punishment, which leads it to escalated aggression against Palestinians,” he said.

On May 2nd an i24 News report indicated that Erdogan rejoined the Turkish ruling party after a nearly three-year absence, in the first major change to come into effect following the referendum victory on expanding his powers.

Erdogan signed a membership document to rejoin the Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) that he co-founded, at a ceremony at its headquarters, an AFP photographer said. Party officials then burst into thunderous applause and sang the national anthem.

The president will likely be reinstalled as party chairman on May 21 at an extraordinary AKP congress and replace Yildirim, who is set to stay on as premier.

After Erdogan signed the document, Yildirim told the president he had come back "home", adding: "Welcome, you have honored us."

On March 18th of this year, Erdogan said that he expects parliament to move to allow capital punishment - a change that could officially end Turkey's bid to join the European Union.

The EU has long said that reinstating capital punishment in Turkey, which was outlawed there in 2004, would be the end of Turkey's decades-long bid to join the bloc.

Moreover, a New York Times report said that 120 journalists have been jailed in Turkey’s crackdown on the news media since a failed coup attempt in July of 2016.  Turkey now has handily outstripped China as the world’s biggest jailer of journalists, according to figures compiled by the Committee to Protect Journalists.

The Times also reported that the Turkish government and its supporters are behind a wave of demands to Twitter to remove offending posts, more than all other countries in the world put together, according to Twitter’s Transparency Report. (Of 20,000 Twitter accounts affected worldwide this year, 15,000 were Turkish.)

By:  Fern Sidman