The Israeli government dubbed controversial comments made by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan "absurd" and "nonsense" in a statement provided Thursday to the Washington Free Beacon.
Erdogan referred to Zionism as a "crime against humanity" Wednesday during an address at a United Nations event on tolerance.
"We should be striving to better understand the culture and beliefs of others, but instead we see that people act based on prejudice and exclude others and despise them," Erdogan was quoted as saying. "And that is why it is necessary that we must consider—just like Zionism or anti-Semitism or fascism—Islamophobia as a crime against humanity."
Erdogan’s remarks drew a sharp response from Israeli officials.
"We have seen the remarks on Zionism attributed to PM Erdogan in the Turkish media," a spokesman in the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs told the Free Beacon. "These are hollow words that only reflect ignorance. Zionism is the national movement of the Jewish people, and to deny any people their right to self-determination and to their national movement is absurd."
"We will not dignify such nonsense with any further comment," the spokesperson added.
Turkey’s relationship with Israel, once a close regional ally, has grown increasingly chilly in recent years.
The watchdog group UN Watch also criticized Erdogan.
"Erdogan’s misuse of this global podium to incite hatred, and his resort to Ahmadinejad-style pronouncements appealing to the lowest common denominator in the Muslim world, will only strengthen the belief that his government is hewing to a confrontational stance and fundamentally unwilling to end its four-year-old feud with Israel," UN Watch said in a statement on its website.
The pro-Israel Christian United for Israel (CUFI) labelled Erdogan's remarks as "hate speech" and demanded that President Obama condemn this publicly.
"Erdogan's statement is dangerous hate speech," David Brog, CUFI executive director, told the Free Beacon in a statement." He did not criticize any particular Israeli policy. Instead he called the national liberation of the Jewish people a crime against humanity."
"Denying to the Jews what is valid for the rest of humanity is blatant anti-Semitism," Brog said. "President Obama must condemn such bigotry in the strongest possible terms."
The White House has not yet commented on Erdogan's remarks.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu publicly reprimanded Erdogan Thursday afternoon. "This is a dark and mendacious saying the likes of which we thought had died away," Netanyahu said in a statement.