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Turkish President Calls Jerusalem ‘Our City’

"In this city that we had to leave in tears during the First World War, it is still possible to come across traces of the Ottoman resistance."
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October 1, 2020
ISTANBUL, TURKEY – JULY 10: People pose for a photograph in front of a placard depicting Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II, also known as Mehmet the Conqueror, outside Istanbul’s famous Hagia Sophia on July 10, 2020 in Istanbul, Turkey. Turkey’s top administrative court ruled to annul a 1934 decree that turned the historic Hagia Sophia into a museum. The controversial ruling opens the way for the structure to be converted back into a mosque after 85 years. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan handed over the iconic structure’s control to the country’s Religious Affairs Directorate following a court ruling revoking its status as a museum. President Erdogan said that the government will open Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia for worship on July 24. (Photo by Burak Kara/Getty Images)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called Jerusalem “our city” during an Oct. 1 speech to Turkish lawmakers.

The Times of Israel reported that Erdogan said, “In this city that we had to leave in tears during the First World War, it is still possible to come across traces of the Ottoman resistance. So Jerusalem is our city, a city from us. Our first qibla [direction of prayer in Islam] al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem are the symbolic mosques of our faith. In addition, this city is home to the holy places of Christianity and Judaism.”

Erdogan lamented “the oppression of Israel against the Palestinians and the indifferent practices that disregard the privacy of Jerusalem” and vowed to support the Palestinians.

“We consider it an honor on behalf of our country and nation to express the rights of the oppressed Palestinian people on every platform, with whom we have lived for centuries,” the Turkish president said. “With this understanding, we will follow both the Palestinian cause, which is the bleeding wound of the global conscience, and the Jerusalem case to the end.”

Jewish groups denounced Erdogan’s remarks.

“So were Cairo, Athens, Budapest, Bucharest — and many more — at the height of the Ottoman Empire,” the American Jewish Committee tweeted. “But this is 2020, President Erdogan, and nostalgia isn’t a policy. Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.”

 

StandWithUs Israel executive director Michael Dickson tweeted, “Just like Iran’s Ayatollah, this other dictator plays politics with Jerusalem to act like a big man in the Middle East, when his influence is waning and his leadership dragging Turkey down the drain.”

He added in a subsequent tweet: “Meanwhile Jerusalem, the eternal Jewish capital, free and open to all since reunification, is experiencing a renaissance, the ancient city modernizing and bursting with life. And forward-thinking Arab countries are making peace with Israel for joint prosperity.”

In its long and complex history, Jerusalem has been attacked 52 times and recaptured 44 times. The Romans conquered the city in 63 B.C.E. Muslim caliphs and Christian Crusader forces also controlled the city during various ancient and medieval times.

Jerusalem was under the purview of the Ottoman Empire from 1517-1917; in 1880, the majority of Jerusalem’s population was Jewish, according to Jewish Virtual Library. Turkey has frequently accused Israel of “Judaizing” the city, according to The Times of Israel.

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