FIRST PER­SON

The Jewish Chronicle - - WORLD NEWS - BY BU­RAK BEKDIL

IT WAS a beau­ti­ful, sunny day in De­cem­ber 2006 when I met Shi­mon Peres at his Tel Aviv of­fice. At one point in our con­ver­sa­tion, he be­gan to talk about how things were be­gin­ning to go wrong in Turkey. He said: “Do not for­get … when ho­li­ness be­gins, rea­son ends.” I knew he was right.

In 2006, the then Prime Min­is­ter, Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan, was widely viewed as a Mus­lim demo­crat, a proEU re­formist, a pro-busi­ness lib­eral; or, at worst, a post­mod­ern Is­lamist — not just an Is­lamist.

In re­al­ity, I ar­gued in my Hur­riyet col­umn, he was just an­other Is­lamist zigzag­ging be­tween his ide­o­log­i­cal and prag­matic selves. He was suc­cess­fully de­ceiv­ing much of the Western world.

Less than a decade later, hav­ing con­sol­i­dated his power us­ing a blend of na­tion­al­ist, Sunni-Is­lamist rhetoric, pop­ulist sound bites and nods to Ot­toman grandeur, he has been la­belled “ar­guably the most vir­u­lent anti-Is­rael leader in the world.”

At the end of the 15th cen­tury, Sul­tan Bayazid II em­braced 250,000 Jews who had fled Span­ish King Fer­di­nand’s In­qui­si­tion. In his wisdom, the Sul­tan re­alised the Al­ham­bra De­cree of 1492 had merely im­pov­er­ished Spain and en­riched Turkey.

Count­less wars, the Holo­caust and over five cen­turies later, in Mr Er­do­gan’s Turkey, one can be­come a bête noire just for writ­ing that Ha­mas’s char­ter and acts should qual­ify it as a ter­ror­ist or­gan­i­sa­tion; that Jews do not be­long to Alaska but to what is to­day Is­rael; that a sui­cide

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