(JTA) – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Israel of “massacres” against the Palestinians and chided the international community for its silence.
Erdogan made his comments on Monday at the Al-Quds Forum in Istanbul, a two-day international event that brings together representatives of foundations, experts, academics, ministers and high-ranking officials from around the world to discuss the state of Muslim heritage in Jerusalem.
Speaking of Israel, the Turkish leader was quoted as saying in the Istanbul-based Daily Sabah newspaper, “They feel they are immune to any punishment for their crimes, but the international community needs to stand up against them. It is impossible to establish peace in the region if the international law remains indifferent to massacres and cruelty.”
Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded to Erdogan’s comments in a statement issued on Monday night.
“Those who systematically violate human rights in their own country should not preach to the only true democracy in the region,” the statement said. “Israel consistently protects total freedom of worship for Jews, Muslims and Christians – and will continue to do so despite the baseless slander launched against it.”
Also at the forum, Erdogan called on Turks to visit the Al-Aqsa mosque often to protect its Muslim identity.
“Turkey attaches great importance to the justified resistance of the Palestinians and will not yield to Israeli attempts to change the status quo in the Al-Aqsa mosque,” Erdogan said. “We as Muslims should visit the Al-Aqsa mosque more often; every day that Jerusalem is under occupation is an insult to us.”
The mosque, under the control of the Muslim Waqf, is located in Jerusalem on what Jews call the Temple Mount.
Erdogan also criticized a bill being considered in Israel that would limit the volume of the Muslim call to prayer.
“It is disgraceful for those who lecture us about the freedom of religion to turn a blind eye to this attempt. Turkey will not let these attempts against freedom of belief [prevail],” Erdogan said. “Why are they afraid of the call to prayer? Are they unsure of their own fate? We do not and will not treat our Jewish citizens like that.”