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Will Sharp Rhetoric Against Israel From Muslim, Arab Nations Turn Into Action?


We are going to turn now to Turkey, where the Organization of Islamic Cooperation met this week. The summit followed the killings in Gaza, and the U.S. Embassy moved to Jerusalem. NPR's Peter Kenyon reports. Turkey's president launched a blistering tirade against the U.S. and Israel on Friday, as he hosted the gathering of Islamic leaders in Istanbul.

PETER KENYON, BYLINE: Before convening an emergency summit with heads of state and top diplomats from the OIC, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan staged a campaign-style rally with an audience of thousands of supporters. Next month, Erdogan will seek another five years in office. He slammed what he called the crimes of Israel against the people of Gaza. While he said he was attacking Zionism and not the Jewish people, he fixed the beginning of what he referred to as Zionist tyranny as the birth of the state of Israel. He's heard through an interpreter.


PRESIDENT RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN: (Through an interpreter) Since 1947, Israel is free in this region, and they are tactless, and they are ruthless.

KENYON: The state of Israel was proclaimed 70 years ago this month in May of 1948. But Israel was not Erdogan's only target. Much of his speech showed frustration with what he considers a weak reaction by Arab and Muslim leaders. He castigated them for their failure to stand up to Israel in Washington. Jerusalem is a test, he said, and the Islamic world is failing.


ERDOGAN: (Through an interpreter) I will be honest with you. The Muslims are so busy with the fights and conflicts and disputes among themselves. But as intolerant they are towards themselves, they are shy against their enemies. This is what I have found out about Islamic worlds.

KENYON: Turkey's been involved in some of that infighting but has seen its own relations with Israel grow increasingly strained. Erdogan's popularity at home has risen as he stepped up his criticism of Israel. Israel defends its decision earlier this week to open fire on the Gaza protesters as necessary to protect Israel's borders. In a video statement posted to Facebook, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu used quotes from leaders of Hamas, which controls Gaza, to make his case.


PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Mahmoud al-Zahar, a co-founder of Hamas, said that calling the actions of palestinians on the Gaza border peaceful, is a clear deception, his words. This is not peaceful resistance, he said. I agree. I agree that Israel targets terrorists and you do exactly the same.

ERDOGAN: Erdogan has said Hamas is not a terrorist organization. When he chaired a meeting with Muslim leaders, he urged them to take a strong stand. But the final communique calling for international peacekeepers to protect Palestinians and an investigation into the Gaza killings, contain no dramatic new initiatives. The statement accused the Israelis of wilful murder and promised political and economic measures against Israel. Erdogan used his opening remarks to again lash out at Israel comparing the treatment of the Gaza protesters, some of whom were armed, with the Nazi Holocaust against the Jews during World War II.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: The children, the grandchildren of the persons who endured the genocide of Jews, 75 years ago, are doing the same thing on their children of Palestine.

KENYON: But beyond harsh and polarizing rhetoric, its not clear what critics of the U.S. embassy move or the killing of Palestinians are willing or able to do about it. Peter Kenyon, NPR News, Istanbul. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Peter Kenyon is NPR's international correspondent based in Istanbul, Turkey.