Turkey’s efforts to deepen its foothold in east Jerusalem are persisting unabated, Israel Hayom has learned.
The Turkish nongovernmental organization Mirasimiz (“Our Heritage”) has recently been renovating homes in east Jerusalem and distributing food to Arab residents of the capital who are in need, with the aim of expanding Turkish influence in the city.
Based on a thorough investigation, and following previous reports in Israel Hayom on the topic, it appears that Mirasimiz and other Turkish-backed NGOs are actively intervening in many aspects of east Jerusalem’s daily life.
Currently, for example, the NGO is investing significant resources into renovating homes in the Old City’s Muslim Quarter. The laborers it hires even wear vests emblazoned with the Turkish flag. This is while Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has reverted to publicly denigrating Israel at every turn.
In social media ads, Mirasimiz describes itself as a “task-oriented NGO, which specializes in … deepening the Ottoman Empire’s historical cultural heritage in Jerusalem.” Its self-described goal is “to preserve Ottoman history and the spiritual and cultural heritage in Jerusalem for future generations.”
Additionally, Mirasimiz operates the Association for the Preservation of Ottoman Heritage in Jerusalem and undertakes a variety of social initiatives in east Jerusalem, including the distribution of food to the needy, providing school backpacks to children and supplying heaters in the winter.
The organization also hosts an Eid al-Fitr feast on the Temple Mount marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, raises funds for Turkish delegations to visit the Temple Mount, holds composition contests with large monetary prizes on the topic of Muslims in Jerusalem, hosts fundraising events in Turkey for Jerusalem residents, and brings teenagers and volunteers from east Jerusalem to conferences in Turkey.
In May, Israel Hayom reported that the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency handed out about $420,000 in $500 checks to east Jerusalem merchants and residents as a gift for Ramadan, with the goal of drumming up support for Turkish policies among the Muslim public there. The burgeoning presence of Turkish NGOs in the area, particularly Mirasimiz, clearly illustrates Turkey’s success in further strengthening its influence and grip among east Jerusalem residents.
The NGO and its activities have sparked considerable consternation in Israel.
“This is a very serious issue because it is state-sponsored subversion,” said MK Anat Berko (Likud), a member of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
“The person masterminding the activities is Erdogan, who thinks of himself as a sultan. Even during his election campaign, he relied on hatred for Israel. This subversion has to be blocked and prevented before we lose control,” she said.
“They are fanning the flames on the Temple Mount as well. Turkey today resembles the days leading up to the Khomeini revolution in Iran. [In Turkey] we see a revolution by the Muslim Brotherhood, spearheaded by Erdogan, with the aim Islamizing Turkey.”
Maor Zemach, head of the Lach Yerushalayim (“For You, Jerusalem”) advocacy group, said: “Turkish intervention in Jerusalem must be stopped. Israel’s sovereignty is being attacked as funds are being funneled through various Turkish organizations and this needs to end immediately. This activity aims to convince the residents of east Jerusalem to support Turkey, which is waging a war against the Jewish presence in [east] Jerusalem and calls for maintaining [east] Jerusalem’s status as Muslim.”