Turkish strongman Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has repeatedly denounced Israel as a "terrorist state," met an unlikely admirer during his stroll through Manhattan over the weekend. Rabbi Rachel Goldenberg of Queens, N.Y., a prominent supporter of the liberal advocacy group J Street, had a "fangirl moment" upon encountering the notorious anti-Semitic dictator in Central Park.
"Oh my gosh," the starstruck rabbi said in a video recorded by Turkish propaganda operatives. "Really? Can I shake your hand?" Goldenberg's reaction was rather unusual, given that Erdogan has been widely condemned for his anti-Semitic rants. In 2021, for example, he denounced Jews as "murderers" who "kill children" and "only are satisfied by sucking their blood."
The House Anti-Semitism Task Force issued a statement blasting Erdogan's anti-Semitic remarks as "tantamount to blood libel against the Jewish people." The U.S. State Department called the comments "reprehensible." Several months after the Turkish leader's anti-Jewish tirade, a Turkish man who called Erdogan a "Jew" was sentenced to 10 months in prison for insulting the dictator's "honor, dignity, and reputation."
Erdogan was "warmly welcomed" during his stroll through Central Park, according to the Turkish propaganda outlet Daily Sabah. Alas, the fawning encounter with Goldenberg was not mentioned by the pro-government media apparatus, presumably for anti-Semitic reasons.
J Street, which claims to be a "pro-Israel" organization, has been criticized for attacking Israel and defending anti-Semites. The advocacy group has repeatedly lobbied to roll back sanctions on Iran and defended Rep. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) in 2019 after the Squad member made a series of anti-Semitic statements. J Street communications director Logan Bayroff said Omar's critics, which included Democrats as well as Republicans, were "reckless" and "politically motivated."
This year the group lent financial support to Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D., N.Y.), a Squad acolyte who abruptly withdrew his support for bipartisan legislation to strengthen the Abraham Accords, a Trump-era initiative to normalize relations between Israel and its Arab neighbors. Bowman has close ties to the Turkish American National Steering Committee, a pro-Erdogan advocacy group whose members were involved in the beating of peaceful protesters outside the Turkish ambassador's residence in Washington, D.C., in 2017.