Why is Jerusalem so important to Turkey?
Turkey, which supports Hamas, has a growing presence in east Jerusalem, as seen by the Turkish flags flying there. Its influence can even be seen in local restaurants and clothing stores.
Turkish support for Hamas also explains the appearance of Turkish flags among Palestinian protesters in the Gaza fence confrontation.
Turkey is using Muslim “tourism” to gain a foothold on the Temple Mount and other holy sites, possibly aiming to take control of them.
Turkey, under the charismatic leadership of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is intervening in many places throughout the Middle East. In each locale, it takes care to unfurl the Turkish flag literally.
However, Turkey’s public involvement in Jerusalem appears to be more public and striking because Jerusalem is more important to Turkey than other places in the region.
Turkey has shown great interest in both Gaza and Jerusalem. It is interested in Gaza because Gaza is ruled by the Muslim Brotherhood affiliate, Hamas, which Turkey wishes to bring under its wing, and it is interested in Jerusalem to facilitate the “saving of al-Aqsa.”
Erdogan often uses the slogan, “Break through the siege on Gaza,” to spread hatred of Israel and gain more popularity.
Turkey is active in east Jerusalem in several ways, the most dangerous of which is its support for the terror organization Hamas. The most visible sign of its activity is the Turkish flag flying publicly around east Jerusalem. Many of the alleyways of the Old City and in the streets outside the Old City Wall have at times been festooned with Turkish flags flying on every corner, including at the entrances to the Temple Mount, while pro-Turkish demonstrations take place on the Mount itself.
One striking feature of Turkish influence in east Jerusalem is the number of restaurants that have become Turkish shawarma places, with signs commemorating Islamization and the Islamic conquests. Note the horse figure, a prominent Islamic motif, on the picture of the “Istanbul” restaurant.
One restaurant on Zah’ra Street that once had an “Israeli menu” called “Jerusalem mix” has now become a Turkish restaurant. All of this expresses Turkey’s intention to put a stop to the “Israelization” of Arabs in the eastern part of the city.
However, recently, after Erdogan sent the Israeli ambassador back to Israel, Israel expelled the Turkish consul in Jerusalem and the West Bank back to Turkey. As a result, some of the shawarma restaurants removed their Turkish signs. Palestinian sources explained that the owners began to worry in case Israeli measures against Turkish influence could harm them.
Arab fashion stores have also changed and now sell modest Islamic clothing for women in Turkish style. A modern Turkish fashion store closed down after a short while.
A Turkish cultural center has opened, offering courses in Turkish, Turkish musical concerts, and cultural speakers, who are building up the connection between the residents of east Jerusalem and Turkish culture.
A large amount of property has been purchased in east Jerusalem, most of which has a Turkish historical background.
Two Turkish institutions in east Jerusalem were involved in the property purchases – Kanadil and TIKA. Kanadil was closed down by Israel recently because of its involvement in funding terror.1
Turkey has also infiltrated the city’s Muslim establishment, primarily the Supreme Muslim Council, led by council leader Sheikh Ikrimah Sabri. There has also been an attempt to take control of the east Jerusalem “street” with the help of the Islamic Movement in Israel, which is led by Israeli Muslim leader Sheikh Raed Salah.
Meanwhile, Turkey is gaining control of the mosques on the Temple Mount via extensive Turkish religious tourism.
Recently, Turkish “tourists” confronted Orthodox Jews who pray and study in Samuel’s Tomb in Nebi Samuel located on the Jerusalem outskirts.2