Bilal Erdoğan, son of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, called for a boycott against Israel at a rally in Istanbul on Monday. The appeal coincided with accusations of the Erdoğan family’s continued commercial interactions with Israel. Journalist Metin Cihan recently revealed that ships associated with Burak Erdoğan, Bilal’s brother, have been trading with Israel, even during attacks on Gaza.
The rally, held on Galata Bridge and organised by the pro-government National Will Platform, included anti-Semitic, anti-Kurdish, and pro-war messages. Bilal Erdoğan linked his father’s transformation of Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia into a mosque – originally an Eastern Orthodox church of major historical significance – to the “liberation of Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque”. He claimed that the “killers of 12 martyrs [referring to Turkish soldiers killed in cross-border operations against Kurdish guerrillas] and those in Palestine are the same entities”. He called for a boycott against Israel, even threatening businesses engaging in trade with Israel.
However, Bilal Erdoğan did not address the allegations regarding his family’s business dealings with Israel. These allegations, brought to light by Metin Cihan, suggest that companies linked to Turkish government circles, including those involving Burak Erdoğan, have not ceased trading with Israel.
Opposition parties in Turkey, including the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Equality and Democracy Party (DEM Party), have criticised the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government’s stance on Gaza, labelling it as insincere due to the continuation of trade and military relations with Israel, and describing Monday’s rally as a façade to obscure government complicity in Israeli trade relations.
Highlighting that the Turkish government continues its military, economic and commercial agreements with Israel despite harsh condemnations of Israel’s actions in Gaza, the DEM Party called for a parliamentary investigation to uncover the fundamental reasons behind these ongoing relationships.
In a televised debate, Mustafa Adıgüzel of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and former AKP deputy Mehmet Metiner discussed these claims, with Adıgüzel questioning the feasibility of exporting to Gaza without Israeli permission, citing official data from the Turkish Statistical Institute.
Adıgüzel highlighted the substantial increase in arms exports to Israel from Turkey, with figures reaching $823 thousand in the first ten months of 2023, potentially doubling by year-end. He also pointed out significant iron and steel exports, commonly used in weapon manufacturing, primarily involving firms close to the Turkish government. These revelations have raised questions about the sincerity of the AKP’s stance on Palestine and the ethical implications of their continued trade relations with Israel amidst calls for boycotts.