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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Israel Behind Egypt’s Coup, Erdogan Says

Video of Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, blaming Israel for the coup in Egypt.

Citing evidence found on YouTube, Turkey’s Islamist prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, claimed on Tuesday that Israel was behind the military takeover in Egypt last month.

In remarks broadcast on Turkish television, Mr. Erdogan scolded Western democracies for failing to condemn the military coup that deposed Egypt’s elected, Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi, and blamed Israeli influence. “What do they say in Egypt? ‘Democracy is not the ballot box.’ Who is behind this? Israel,” the Turkish premier said.

Telling his listeners, “we have evidence,” Mr. Erdogan cited comments made two years ago by the Algerian-born French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy, who “is also Jewish,” as supposed proof of a longstanding Israeli plot to deny the Muslim Brotherhood power in Egypt, even if they won elections. Mr. Erdogan’s office later confirmed that he was referring to the YouTube video of Mr. Lévy’s remarks during a discussion of “Israel and the Arab Spring” with the Israeli politician Tzipi Livni at Tel Aviv University in 2011.

As can be seen in an edited copy of that video posted on YouTube last week with Turkish subtitles, Mr. Lévy did say in that forum, which was moderated by my colleague Ethan Bronner, that the Brotherhood should not be allowed to take power in Egypt.

Video with Turkish subtitles of remarks on the Muslim Brotherhood made by the French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy in Tel Aviv in 2011.

Responding to a question about how he would view an election victory by the Brotherhood, Mr. Lévy compared such a possibility to the kind of “democratic coup” that allowed Hamas to take power in Gaza in 2006 and Hitler to become Germany’s chancellor 1933. Decrying the “archaic, pre-fascist ideology” of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mr. Lévy said, “democracy again is not only elections, it is values.”

Asked directly, “if they were to win a legitimate election, you would urge the military not to allow them take power?” Mr. Lévy said:

I will urge the prevention of them coming to power by all sorts of means, yes…. I said that in Algeria and I don’t regret it. It opened a terrible period of disturbance, chaos, murders and so on, but I believe it would have been worse if we had let them come to power.

Although YouTube remains officially blocked in Turkey, Turks who followed their prime minister’s advice found it easy to access the clip on Tuesday.

Given that there are credible, recent reports that Israeli officials are waging a “diplomatic campaign urging Europe and the United States to support the military-backed government in Egypt despite its deadly crackdown on Islamist protesters,” it is not clear why Mr. Erdogan chose to put so much weight on dated comments from a French philosopher who holds no official position in his home country or in Israel.

The response to Mr. Erdogan’s remarks in Cairo was predictably testy. As the journalist Menna Alaa reported on Twitter, a spokesman for the interim president installed by the army replied that “Western agents shouldn’t be giving lessons in patriotism to Egyptians.”

The Cairene blogger who writes as Zeinobia noted that the use of the philosopher known as BHL as a Zionist bogeyman seemed to come straight from a Mubarak-era playbook.

The Turkish newspaper Hurriyet reported that Mr. Erdogan “also criticized Gulf countries that have provided financial aid to Egypt’s military government,” ostensibly to make up for threatened reductions in financial aid from the United States and Europe.

In a speech this week, Gen. Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi went out of his way to thank the monarchs of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Jordan and Bahrain for supporting his overthrow of Egypt’s democratically elected president.

On Tuesday, however, the activist filmmaker Aalam Wassef remixed video of General Sisi’s speech to show leading members of each of those royal families with senior Washington officials â€" highlighting what he called the irony of Egypt’s American-backed military rejecting criticism from the United States but welcoming support from five kingdoms that depend on the Pentagon for protection.

“Sisi, the Secret American?” by the Egyptian filmmaker Aalam Wassef.