It was surely only a matter of time before someone blamed Israel for orchestrating the recent chaos in Egypt. The world is, after all, full of crazed conspiracy theorists, for whom there is no evil act on earth where the manipulating hand of Zionism cannot be detected.
Even so, until now, I would have hoped that the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was not among them. This, after all, is the man whose party styles itself as the moderate, progressive face of modern political Islam. Under his rule, Turkey has boomed economically, and today, it’s a regional powerhouse in a way that it hasn’t been since Ottoman times.
Yes, he’s had his own Turkish Spring to deal with recently, but, as I’ve written before, he’s hardly in the league of the Zionist-hating theocrats in neighbouring Iran.
Yet there he was on Tuesday, telling his supporters that the military coup which removed President Mohammed Morsi last month was in fact Israel’s work. And, yes, he has “evidence” to prove it.
What evidence is that then? Hordes of Mossad agents secretly infiltrating Tahrir Square, perhaps? A new, updated copy of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion?
No, apparently it’s a conversation that his justice minister had with a Jewish intellectual in France a couple of years ago, who told him that Mr Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood party would not be allowed to rule even if it won an election.
So that’s settled. The coup was all down to those meddling Jews sgain. Or so a Jew in France says, anyway. Nothing to do with whatsoever with those hundreds of thousands of people who took to the streets to demand Mr Morsi’s overthrow. Or those army officers who put Mr Morsi and his cohorts under house arrest. The whole lot, demonstrators, army and all, must have been in the pay of the Zionists. Must have cost them a few bob.
In other words, God help anyone naive enough to think that the people of Egypt might actually have been acting on their own initiative. Or that by suggesting otherwise, Mr Erdogan is belittling his fellow Muslims’ ability to be masters of their own fate, for better or worse.
Make no mistake, there are plenty of things Mr Erdogan can say in criticism of the coup. He has, after all, every right to be upset about it. His own Justice and Development Party was one of the models for which the Muslim Brotherhood hoped to rule by, and its removal by the army has scary echoes of the Turkish military’s past interference in Turkish politics.
Equally, he could focus his ire on the West’s own muted response to the coup, which gets more hypocritical by the day as Egypt’s new government first massacres Muslim Brotherhood demonstrators, then talks about banning the party altogether.
But no. Offered an open goal to make some perfectly justified criticism, he can’t resist the old chestnut of blaming Israel, pandering to those old hatreds that generations of Middle Eastern leaders have used to distract people from their own shortcomings.
Mr Erdogan is one of the Middle East’s most powerful politicians these days. He has a proactive foreign policy that sees Turkey playing a leading role in solving the region’s many ills, sometimes to good effect. All the more shame, then, that he can still spout drivel like this.