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Sunday, June 25, 2017

Turkish Islamist gov under dictator Erdogan has been pouring money into east Jerusalem in an attempt to reclaim Ottoman rule.


Turkish Islamist gov under dictator Erdogan has been pouring money into east Jerusalem in an attempt to gain influence. HT: therussophile.

Four years after the Ottoman Empire faded away and withdrew from the land of Israel, the man who wrote the words to Turkey’s national anthem — Mehmet Akif Ersoy — tried to hoist his country’s flag. He slipped a line into the anthem to which the Turks still cling. Arusi describes the flag “waving like the shining sky” and praises it: “Oh coy crescent do not frown, for I am ready to sacrifice myself for you! … If you frown, our blood shed for you will not be worthy.”
But it’s doubtful whether back in 1921 even Ersoy believed that less than 100 years later, flags bearing Turkey’s moon and star would once again wave over the Old City of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount — and under the rule of a Jewish state, no less.
Turkey once again wants to gain a foothold and influence in Jerusalem. It is investing a lot of money to gain its objective. The Turkish national and cultural awakening in the Israeli capital, which is keenly felt by the residents of east Jerusalem, has the backing of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who sees himself as the patron of the Muslim Brotherhood and the man who will reinstate the Ottoman Empire and become the father of the Ottoman caliphate that will one day return — even to Jerusalem.
Turkey is scattering vast sums around east Jerusalem and on the Temple Mount to acquire a foothold and influence here. Erdogan’s loyal partners in this “holy” act are the members of the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement, led by Sheikh Raed Salah, which rejects the legitimacy of Israel and which has now been outlawed; and Sheikh Ekrima Sabri, the former mufti of Jerusalem, one of the most extreme figures in Islam who has decreed suicide bombings legitimate and expressed hope that the U.S. and Britain be destroyed. Sabri is currently the head preacher at Al-Aqsa mosque.
Some of the figures are coming to light now thanks Pinhas Inbari, a senior researcher at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, who compiled a comprehensive list of Palestinian organizations currently operating in east Jerusalem for the JCPA.
It turns out that the Turkish money is flowing into Jerusalem via a number of entities, the most important of which is TIKA, an aid organization funded mostly by the Turkish government that sends enormous amounts of money to some 140 countries.
Since 2011, TIKA has been headed by Dr. Serder Cam, who formerly served as chief of Erdogan’s parliamentary staff.
Members of the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center recently discovered that between 2004, when TIKA first established a branch office in Ramallah, and 2014, it invested millions of dollars in no fewer than 63 projects in Jerusalem.
The crescent rises
A quick glance at TIKA’s website, as well as a visit in person, show us that TIKA is investing a great deal of money in rebuilding the Nabi Musa site, which lies between Jerusalem and Jericho and is believed to be the location of Moses’ tomb. Nabi Musa is also where the 1929 riots against the Jewish community in pre-state Israel started.
At the request of the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Youth and Sport, TIKA has also invested in the construction of a sports stadium in the A-Tur neighborhood on the way to the Mount of Olives; in refurbishing the archive of Ottoman and Muslim documents on the Temple Mount; in acquiring a water tank for the benefit of worshippers on the Mount; in rebuilding the Muslim cemetery at the foot of the eastern wall of the Temple Mount, near the Golden Gate; in funding archaeological salvage excavations on the Street of the Chain in the Old City; and plenty of other community and religious projects.
Turkey’s trusted allies in Jerusalem — mainly the Muslim Brotherhood, who maintain ties to the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement — frequently fly Turkish flags on the Temple Mount and along the way to it. TIKA has also printed hundreds of thousands of copies of an informational booklet in three languages (Turkish, Arabic and English) about the 76 Muslim historical sites and buildings in the Al-Aqsa compound. The booklet launch was a festive ceremony attended by members of the Muslim Waqf and representatives of the Turks and the Palestinians.
The crown jewel of Turkey’s activity in Jerusalem was replacing the faded old crescent on top of the Dome of the Rock with a shiny new golden crescent donated by the government of Turkey. It was a Turkish association that provided part of the funding for the buses that in recent years have picked up operatives from the Murabitun and Murabitat fundamentalist groups from Palestinian villages in the Triangle region and shuttled them to the Temple Mount, where they spent years instigating riots and unrest until their organizations were outlawed and banned from the Mount.
The Turkish obsession with Al-Aqsa and the Temple Mount is both consistent and methodical. Dr. Hay Eytan Cohen Yanarocak, a researcher on Turkey from the Dayan Center at Tel Aviv University, mentions that for years, the Turks sent regular delegations to inspect events involving the archaeological excavations around Mughrabi Bridge and the Western Wall tunnels.
“Mehmet Gormez, chairman of the Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate, is the one who two years ago on Al-Qadr Eve directed the prayer on the Temple Mount, and under Gormez, Jerusalem became a station on the Hajj route [the holy journey to Mecca]. In other words, on the way to Mecca, [Muslims] pray at Al-Aqsa, and only then proceed to Jordan, and from there to Saudi Arabia,” Yanarocak explains.
The researcher also notes that the backdrop of the official TV station of Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate now includes an image of Al-Aqsa mosque alongside the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.
Turkish schoolbooks are including Al-Aqsa and Jerusalem more and more, too,” Yanarocak observes.
A reminder: Only a few weeks ago, despite the reconciliation agreement between Israel and Turkey and the supposed end to the Mavi Marmara crisis Erdogan spoke at an international forum of Waqf charities for Al-Quds, the Muslim name for Jerusalem. He called Israeli rule over Jerusalem “an insult” and called on his people and on Muslims worldwide “to protect Jerusalem’s Muslim identity” and ascend the Temple Mount.
Erdogan took that same opportunity to attack Israel’s muezzin bill, which was intended to limit noise from Muslim calls to prayer, and threatened: “We will not allow the muezzin on Al-Aqsa to be silenced. … Any stone that is moved in the city could be significant.”
He also complained that “only” 26,000 Turks visit Jerusalem each year and added that “although that is a larger number than any other Muslim state, it’s much lower than the hundreds of thousands of Americans, Russians and French [who visit].”
Indeed, thanks to Erdogan, Muslim tourism to Jerusalem is changing. Today, it is mainly religious groups who visit Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, then leave.
Yanarocak explains that Erdogan “believes he is the leader of the moderate Sunni world, and he takes every opportunity to stress that he is the descendant of the Ottoman Empire, which ruled Jerusalem for hundreds of years, the heir to Salah a-Din and Suleiman the Magnificent. He defines the Turks as the grandchildren of those two and aspires to restore Islamic rule and the [Turkish] empire to Jerusalem.”
Another Turkish body operating in Jerusalem is the Our Heritage Foundation, which has its headquarters in Istanbul. The heads of the association were among those who welcomed Raed Salah when he arrived in Turkey a few years ago. The organization’s goal is to preserve and renew the Ottoman legacy in Al-Quds. Last May, the head of the foundation revealed the extent of its activity in an interview: In 10 years, the group had invested $40 million in refurbishing 46 mosques and 70 apartments, as well as furnishing hundreds more apartments near the Al-Aqsa compound.
Our Heritage Foundation, which enjoys funding from TIKA, also cares for orphans and renovates schools. This Ramadan [which ends today], it committed to distributing 150,000 meals at the Al-Aqsa compound, and plans to put another $10 million into the same project next year.
“Unprecedented admiration”
For now, Israel is ignoring Turkey’s activity in Jerusalem, other than responses to Erdogan’s wild attacks on Israel, and is doing nothing. The Jordanians are biting their lips, too. The peace treaty between Israel and Jordan obligates Israel to recognize Jordanian precedence regarding Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem.
For years, Israel has been upping Jordan’s status on the Temple Mount through gestures and giving up various matters of authority. Israel is also very considerate of the Jordanians’ feelings about the Temple Mount. Historically, Jordan lost two important battles for places holy to Muslims.
The Hashemite dynasty lost its status as guardian of the Islamic holy sites in Mecca and Medina to Saudi Arabia after World War I, and comforted itself with the second-tier guardianship over Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem.
When Israel united east and west Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War, Jordan lost those sites, as well. For Jordan, the peace treaty with Israel corrected an error, but now the Turks are threatening to steal their supremacy yet again.
Armenian historian Dr. Georgette Avakian, a resident of the Armenian Quarter of the Old City, is worried about the Turkish activity in the city.
We see Turkish flags all over the Temple Mount, and on the roads leading there, too. At Damascus Gate, along Hagai Street, there are many shops that fly the Turkish flag. Traditional Turkish foods, Turkish seeds and nuts and Turkish moussaka, have become popular.
“It bothers me sometimes. First, because it’s planned. This isn’t spontaneous, being purchased and is a thought-out move. Turkey is moving into a higher gear in the city. Second, it disturbs me and enrages me as an Armenian, the daughter of a people who were mostly killed in a genocide by the Turks. The Turks are trying to restore something of the prestige and influence they lost here 100 years ago, when their empire collapsed,” Avakian says.
“When I heard a little while ago that the Turks want to put up a monument near the Temple Mount to their soldiers who were killed in World War I, I was angry. I sent a letter to the east Jerusalem newspaper that reported that [story] and asked whether the monument would be to the soldiers who killed my people. They didn’t run my letter,” Avakian continues.
A few weeks ago, Dr. David Koren and Ben Avrahami, advisers to the Jerusalem Municipality on matters of east Jerusalem, published an article in Hashiloah journal covering the changes to east Jerusalem over the years that Israel has governed there. Both Koren and Avrahami discussed the millions of dollars the Turks are sending to associations and establishments in the eastern half of the city to strengthen their own position there at the expense of Israel and Jordan.
The two observed that “the growing involvement of the Erdogan regime, which currently serves as the chief patron of the Muslim Brotherhood movement worldwide, shows that what is happening in Jerusalem is part of a broader gambit of creating regional Turkish hegemony at other players’ expense.”
Koren and Avrahami also wrote that “the biggest loser from Turkey’s growing presence [in Jerusalem] is Jordan, which for years enjoyed the status of guardian of the holy sites as well as the patron of the residents of east Jerusalem.”
The researchers point out that in recent years, Jordan’s status in the city has been “nibbled away, and has now been whittled down to guardianship over 144 dunams [36 acres] of the Temple Mount, as King Abdullah himself has announced. … And even on the Temple Mount, this status is shrinking, and Turkey is entering the vacuum being created, both in the streets of the city and on the Temple Mount.”
Koren and Avrahami have the impression that “Erdogan’s Turkey currently enjoys unprecedented admiration among the residents of east Jerusalem. Its flags are flown on rooftops and even at the Temple Mount plaza, and Turkish culture is being embraced, as we see in Turkish language classes and the presence of Turkish food and music. Their involvement is made possible thanks to their cooperation with Muslim Brotherhood officials in the city, who often function as their allies and executors.
“According to sources in east Jerusalem with whom we speak frequently, the Turks fund a large part of the Dawa [preaching] in the city: charitable organizations, women’s organizations, cultural and leisure events, youth activities, and more. Sheikh Ekrima, who is the patron of many of these groups, has de facto become the main figure identified with Turkish activity in the city.
“Turkey carries out the wealth of activities and investment in east Jerusalem through … its government aid agency, the Turkish Consulate in the city, and a variety of Turkish organizations that have branches in Israel or in Judea and Samaria,” Koren and Avrahami wrote.
Preventing the ‘Judaization’ of Jerusalem
Indeed, at least some Palestinians in Jerusalem find it difficult to hide their admiration for the Turks and their leader, Erdogan, who frequently attacks Israel, mainly on the issues of the Temple Mount and Al-Aqsa. This admiration, coupled with reservations about Jordan, came to a head in two visits by VIPs to the city.
The first was Gormez, head of Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate, who was given a royal welcome and even spoke before a crowd of worshippers. A few days later, head of the Jordanian Qadis, Dr. Ahmed al-Huleil, visited the Mount, and the audience interrupted his speech repeatedly. In the end, he was turned out of the mosque in disgrace.
As mentioned above, Turkey’s most loyal allies in Jerusalem are Salah, who spent last Ramadan at the home of the Turkish ambassador to Israel, and Sabri. Salah has already spent time in prison for incitement and rioting, and his Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement has been outlawed after instigating countless provocations on the Temple Mount.
Sabri, like Salah, rejects the Jews’ historic right to Israel and Jerusalem. They are both former members of a coalition of charities led by Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, which transferred money to Hamas. Only a month ago, Erdogan met with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, and according to a report from the Palestinian Maan news agency, called on him to work together to prevent the “Judaization” of Jerusalem. The Minister of Religious Affairs in the Palestinian Authority, Yusuf Idais, was also in that meeting, along with PA Minister of Jerusalem Affairs Adnan al-Husseini.
About a month ago, Erdogan met with Sabri during a conference on holy sites in Jerusalem held in Istanbul and received a medal of honor. Judging by his “achievements” in Jerusalem, he deserves it.

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