Erdogan Compares Netanyahu to Hitler in Televised Remarks


President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel exchanged sharp words on Wednesday after Mr. Erdogan compared the Israeli leader to Adolf Hitler while discussing Israel’s war in Gaza.

‘‘Is what Netanyahu is doing any less than Hitler? It is not,’’ Mr. Erdogan said in televised remarks in Ankara, Turkey, at a science awards ceremony. The Turkish leader has frequently criticized Israel for its conduct in Gaza.

“They were talking ill of Hitler. What difference do you have from Hitler? They will make us miss Hitler,” Mr. Erdogan said.

Mr. Netanyahu fired back, slamming Mr. Erdogan’s treatment of Turkey’s large Kurdish minority, saying the Turkish leader “is the last person who can preach morality to us” and condemning his support for Hamas, the group that Israel is battling in Gaza after it led attacks on Oct. 7 that killed about 1,200 people in Israel.

The Israeli military, Mr. Netanyahu said, “is fighting to eliminate the most abhorrent and brutal terrorist organization in the world.”

The Anti-Defamation League, which has been defining and monitoring antisemitism since 1913, condemned Mr. Erdogan’s statement.

“Once again, Turkish President Erdogan uses false Nazi analogies to criticize the Israeli government as he did in 2014, 2018 and 2019, while again failing to condemn Hamas and the Oct. 7 attack,” the organization said in a post on the social media platform X. “Not only are such analogies incendiary, but they are deeply disrespectful to the memory of the millions who the Nazis murdered.”

Mr. Erdogan has lashed out at Israel previously during the war and said that Hamas is not a terrorist organization, a position contrary to that held by Western countries.

Mr. Netanyahu was not the only Israeli leader to criticize the Turkish president for his remarks on Wednesday. Benny Gantz, a member of Israel’s war cabinet, said Mr. Erdogan’s statements were “blatant distortions of reality and a desecration of the Holocaust’s memory.”

Israel’s president, Isaac Herzog, also condemned Mr. Erdogan’s invocation of the Holocaust in his remarks, saying “the Holocaust stands alone in its horror and enormity, and his words are deeply offensive to every Jew around the world, and to the memory of the millions of Jews who perished at the hands of the Nazis.”

Turkey was once Israel’s closest friend in the Muslim world and a significant trading partner, but it cut diplomatic ties with Israel after a deadly confrontation in 2010 between Israeli commandos and Turkish activists on a passenger vessel that tried to breach Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.

The countries restored full diplomatic ties in April 2022, after Mr. Herzog made a state visit to Turkey, the highest-level meeting of an Israeli leader in the country in 14 years.

Isabel Kershner contributed reporting.

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