Erdoğan asks US if he should 'applaud' Israel over Gaza violence in face of ‘anti-Semitism’ criticism

Turkish President Erdoğan has addressed the U.S. accusations that his criticism of Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip amounted to “anti-Semitism,” by asking if he should instead “applaud” Israel over its actions. “They tell us 'Erdoğan should not speak in this way.' What should I do, applaud?” Erdoğan said on May 19.

A Palestinian man walks past the remains of a tower building which was destroyed in Israeli airstrikes in Gaza on May 13.

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has responded to the U.S. criticism of his previous remarks on the Israel-Palestine conflict by saying that he will continue to “shout in the highest manner” in the face of oppression.

“They tell us 'Erdoğan should not speak in this way.' What should I do, applaud? When we see oppression, we will shout in the highest manner...We will continue to stand against the oppression going on in Palestine. We will continue to protect those who take refuge in us. If a price needs to be paid, we will not hesitate to pay it,” Erdoğan said on May 19.

Erdoğan made the remarks at a ceremony in the capital Ankara to mark the May 19 Youth and Sports Day.

The president's comments came after the United States strongly condemned him over his remarks on the Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip.

"We urge President Erdoğan and other Turkish leaders to refrain from incendiary remarks, which could incite further violence," U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement on May 18.

"Anti-Semitic language has no place anywhere," he said.

Price did not specify which Erdoğan remarks the United States considered anti-Semitic.

Erdoğan, a vocal defender of the Palestinians, has criticized Israel for conducting airstrikes on Gaza and called it a "terror state" after Israeli police fired rubber bullets at rock-throwing Palestinians in Jerusalem.

Meanwhile, the Turkish Jewish Community on May 19 released a statement in support of Erdoğan, saying he “has always been constructive, supportive and encouraging towards us.”

“While tragedies in the region are deeply saddening, and the global rise of anti-Semitism is unacceptable, it is unfair and reprehensible to imply that President Erdoğan is antisemitic,” the community said on Twitter.