Remarks (translated to English) by
H.E. Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Prime Minister of the Republic of Turkey
At the Courage to Care Award Ceremony
Of the Anti-Defamation League
June 10, 2005, New York City
The human history throughout millennia has been witness to the endless struggle by courageous men and women against unspeakable crimes. To their determination and courage in the face of evil, that we owe our progress, our peace and sometimes our very existence.
We are emboldened by the ability of humanity to produce these distinguished persons who despite their own suffering do not fail the human civilization by standing up against the wrongful, however powerful the wrongful may be.
It is our common duty to remember the sacrifices and achievements of these men and women of courage and be inspired by their stories in our efforts to preserve the goodness of the values they uphold.
The Holocaust is the most inconceivable crime against humanity throughout history.
Its immediate victims may have been the millions of Jews. But with every Jew murdered the humanity in its collective has lost an irreplaceable piece of its conscience. It is incumbent on us all to ensure that it is not forgotten, and that humanity should never again have to face such a crime.
Anti-Semitism is a manifestation of a criminal disease of mind. It is a perversion that kills. It cannot be tolerated, justified nor left unchallenged. It is not the only manifestation of the same disease of despising or dehumanizing any religion or people. Genocide, ethnic cleansing, racism, Islamo-phobia, Christiana-phobia, xenophobia, terrorism are all facets of the same historical yet also contemporary evils. If we understand the danger and the threat these evils pose and fight effectively against them, our children will certainly live in a better world.
The ADL has been a flagship in this noble effort. I should like to thank the ADL and its National Director, Abe Foxman and its Chairwoman, Barbara Balser, for their work in combating prejudice, racism and anti-Semitism around the world.
Anti-Semitism has no place in Turkey. It is alien to our culture. Islam is a religion of tolerance which recognizes people, be they Jews, Christians or Muslims as equal. The Prophet Mohammed lived among Jews and instructed his followers to protect them. The Turkish public has condemned anti-Semitic diatribes to the extreme fringes and has and would never allow it to gain ground. It is the task of leaders around the world to join me in condemning the spread of hatred, whether through publications or otherwise. Our consistent policy towards anti-Semitic diatribes can be nothing short of zero tolerance.
The Turkish nation has been living for centuries with the Jewish people and will continue its close and friendly relations with them in the future and will struggle together with them against any racism with determination.
Turkey has half a millennium long record of providing refuge to Jews. In 1492, when Spain was expelling its Jews, Sultan Bayazid II ordered his navy to save Jews from the Iberian Peninsula. One the fateful night of August 2, 1492 the most celebrated explorer was setting sail towards Deep Ocean from a relatively unknown port, because the sea lanes from Cadiz and Seville were clogged by ships carrying the threatened Sephardic Jews. These ships were destined towards the Ottoman lands for refuge.
Our friendship with the Jews was established then and has endured ever since. Today, there may be relatively few Jews still living in Turkey. They are cherished and prized elements of the Turkish society. But even those that settled in Israel, the United States and elsewhere have maintained our friendship. They have been on our side when things got rough for Turkey. We continue to value and rely on your friendship and support, as you must on ours.
I am greatly honored to accept today the ADL's Courage to Care Award to honor Turkish diplomats for the role they played in saving Jews during World War II.
As we should not forget our victims, we should also not forget our courageous men and women who stood against evil.
The world recognized the brave actions taken by Mr. Selahattin Ulkumen, the Righteous Gentile who saved Jews on the island of Rhodes, and who paid a terrible personal price, the death of his wife and mother-in-law. Indeed, Ulkumen was the symbol of many brave Turkish diplomats the tales of some of which is recounted in the documentary the Desperate Hours.
Inspiration must be taken from the brave Turkish diplomats and translate our belief in tolerance into action.
The Turkish nation and the Turkish diplomatic corps of today are the moral heirs of this heritage. The Turkish diplomacy of today is the vanguard of the same moral virtuousness.
As Abe Foxman has observed in a recent article, Turkey "has been and continues to be under the current government, a country that respects the Islamic faith of its citizens but rules by secular, democratic principles."
We are proud of our democratic achievements at home and our relentless efforts to promote peace in our region and the world. Our generation owes it to our ancestors and our children a world at peace, with justice for all.
Turkey is determined to join the European Union, the very peace project that has buried old hatred in the Old Continent.
We are committed to further deepening our alliance and partnership with the United States. This partnership is an indispensable joint venture that stands tall as a force for good. Based on shared values and common objectives Turkey and the United States are avid for undertaking mutually complementary efforts to promote democratic peace in the region and beyond.
In my recent visit to Israel, I have underscored our determination to uphold our friendship.
Turkey's neighborhood is witnessing fresh new Turkey diplomatic and economic efforts.
In accepting this award, I pledge on behalf of my countrymen to continue our efforts to defeat hatred and tyranny, and sow the seeds of perpetual peace and justice.
The Turkish diplomats while selflessly defending the innocent have been upholding our national and indeed universal values. They have earned this award. We can only be inspired and encouraged by their righteousness. They have shown the courage to care. I salute them in appreciation and pride.
Thank you for this award and your attention.