Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on a visit to Germany Friday that he saw all faiths as equal and rejected suggestions that his attacks on Israel had anti-Semitic undertones.
The Turkish leader was making a sensitive visit to Berlin for talks with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz that have been overshadowed by the soaring civilian toll of Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza.
Erdogan came under fire in Germany for his criticism of Israel’s conduct in the war, which was triggered by unprecedented Hamas attacks on October 7 that Israel said killed around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and saw 239 taken hostage.
The death toll in Gaza has hit 11,500 people, most of them civilians and including thousands of children, according to Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry.
Erdogan redoubled his criticism of Israel on Friday, arguing that “shooting hospitals or killing children does not exist in the Torah”.
He also defended himself against charges of anti-Semitism.
“For us, there should be no discrimination between Jews, Christians and Muslims in the region. I have fought against anti-Semitism,” Erdogan said during a joint media appearance with Scholz.
“I am a leader who is leading this fight.”
But he also appeared to suggest that Germany — a country where anti-Semitism is illegal because of Berlin’s historic responsibilities over the Holocaust — was limited in its ability to speak freely about the Israel-Hamas war.
“I speak freely because we do not owe Israel anything. We did not go through the Holocaust,” Erdogan said, suggesting Germany carried a “psychological debt”.
“If we were in debt, we could not talk so freely. But those who are in debt cannot talk freely,” he said.
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