Far-right rabbi breaks bread with Turkish Muslim preacher
In early July, US-born Israeli settler Rabbi Yehuda Glick was invited to Turkey on an interfaith trip, where he also attended a cordial Ramadan iftar meal.
Pictures of the far-right rabbi posing with other attendants of the iftar meal, including headscarf-wearing women, sport figures and politicians, were quickly circulated on social media.
The visit was received with much annoyance by Palestinians, pointing out the inconsistency between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s public anti-Israel rhetoric and actions that - despite diplomatic fluctuations - confirm his country's ties with Israel, such as continued military cooperation.
However, it soon emerged that Glick’s invitation was by Adnan Oktar, a self-professed Islamic scholar and a controversial figure in Turkey.
Oktar, who owns the TV channel A9TV, is well known for advocating Creationist teachings, and has a penchant for providing free flights to journalists and others who want to meet with him.
He has been labelled as the “messianic leader of an apocalyptic Islamic sex cult” that resembles a “sexed-up Disney version of Islam,” for hosting his own religious programme that feature five peroxide blonde women in heavy makeup and skin-tight clothing, who are invited to engage in hours-long discussions on debasing evolution, presenting the “correct” image of Islam, and fervent gushing over Erdogan.
Oktar, also known as Harun Yahya, has been dismissed by social scientists as a charlatan, and neither his show nor he are not taken seriously in Turkish society, many of whom view him as an eccentric crackpot.
The Turkish ambassador in the Palestinian territories Mustafa Sarnıc clarified that Glick was not invited officially by Turkey, but by a civil organisation. He explained that the Turkish government cannot block any invitations to the country.
“Turkey is a democratic country that allows individuals or organisations to invite whoever they want to visit,” Sarnıc said. “The state does not interfere with these kinds of invitations.”
Glick told Middle East Eye that he travelled as “a man of faith and not as a political man,” and accepted the invitation as he had done on other previous occasions “to participate in dialogue between believers in God”.
“I have been in touch with Mr Oktar for more than five years,” Glick said. “I have read several of his books including Islam Denounces Terrorism, A Call for Unity and others. As a religious leader he has pointed out many times that the source of terror is definitely not from a divine religion.
“He is a faithful Muslim and utterly condemns all terrorist attacks and has done so at least since 2001,” he added.
Glick is considered to be a highly provocative figure amongst Palestinians. A member of the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party, he is also the director of the Temple Mount Heritage Foundation, a group that uses human rights discourse to actively advocate for better access for Jews to the al-Aqsa compound, referred to by Jewish people as the Temple Mount.
The site is considered to be the third holiest in Islam, and Glick’s presence inside the compound is seen as incitement against the Muslim worshippers, who consider him a threat for wanting to demolish the al-Aqsa mosque in favour of building the Third Temple. In June, a Jerusalem district court banned Glick from entering the compound until further notice, with the judge warning of a “risk in violence” should Glick return to the compound.
Israeli writer Anshel Pfeffer has referred to the Temple Mount Movement as being “full of political charlatans and racist fundamentalists,” noting that in the face of increased provocation from the group’s forays into the compound, “a downward spiral of bloodshed” will inevitably be the outcome.
Translation: The ugly face of Turkey in pictures: Turkey hosts Yehuda Glick, Israel's most extremist rabbi, for iftar
In October last year, Glick, who lives in the Otniel settlement in the southern West Bank, survived an assassination attempt in Jerusalem by a Palestinian man affiliated with the Islamic Jihad group. The man, Mutaz Hijazi, was later killed by Israeli security forces on the rooftop of his home, and Glick was left to recuperate from four bullets, fractured ribs and a punctured lung.
During Oktar’s programme, Glick reflected on his experience.
“They tried to kill me because I represent the people of Israel coming to Israel,” he said. “And this they tried to harm. And the situation today is, I am alive and he [Hijazi] is dead. So we have to thank God for this.”
Oktar responded by condemning the assassination attempt.
“It is the most despicable, lowest, outrageous thing to shoot a person who works for God’s pleasure all the time,” he said.
The Ramadan iftar meal, which took place on 2 July, was titled “Muslims Against Violence” and attended by almost 1,000 people.
When asked by MEE whether he received a hostile reception from some of the attendees, Glick insisted everyone was very accepting of him.
“I went to every single table and [shook] hands with almost every one of the participants,” he said. “They all knew who I was and I was warmly welcomed. I didn’t [face] any objection from anyone.”
Glick is adamant that his visit to Turkey will not affect relations with Israel, insisting that he travelled representing only himself.
“I have no interest in dealing with politics,” he stated. “I hope Israel will live in peace with all its neighbours.”