Turkish organisation teaches Palestinians they own Israel - Israeli newspaper

A Turkish organisation in Israel is teaching Arab children from Jerusalem that Israel belongs to them, part of a broader effort to expand Turkey’s influence, news outlet Israel Hayom reported on Tuesday. 

"We teach the children in our Jerusalem [that] they are the legal owners of this country,” East Jerusalem-based pro-Turkey group Mirasımız (“Our Heritage) said on social media about its new summer camps, according to the pro-Israel news site.  

Established in 2008, Mirasımız aims to preserve Ottoman Heritage in Old Jerusalem by restoring mosques, homes, fountains, markets and more. Mirasımız also undertakes a variety of social initiatives, distributing food to the needy, hosting an Eid meal on the Temple Mount, and providing backpacks to children.

At the camp, children were led on a variety of activities, including a hike to Sataf Nature Reserve to the west of Jerusalem, Israel Hayom reported. 

David Weinberg, vice president and senior research fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies (JISS), says Turkey uses Mirasımız and the Turkish aid agency (TIKA) to preach hatred of Israel and support extremist groups like Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Hamas. 

A press officer for the foundation said last year that Mirasımız is independent and not funded by Turkey’s government, though its workers wear vests emblazoned with the Turkish flag.

"All the activities carried out by Mirasımız are in accordance with Israeli laws and regulations,” Halis Mutlu told Turkish pro-government outlet Daily Sabah. "None of our actions are carried out against or for any particular people." Mutlu also said the foundation's activities had "upset those hardline Israelis who want to eliminate the Muslim presence in the city".

Some Israeli officials believe the organisation acts as an arm of the Turkish government and aims to expand Turkish influence among Palestinians in Jerusalem and beyond. 

Last year, Shuli Mualem-Rafaeli, a member of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, called on the government to shut down Mirasımız. "The State of Israel cannot continue to allow extremist elements to operate unfettered in its territory," she said. 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s focus on Jerusalem is part of a broader ambition to establish Turkey as the world’s leading proponent of political Islam and resurrect its past influence in a troubled region, Bloomberg argued in September. 

“This is a very serious issue because it is state-sponsored subversion,” Knesset member Anat Berko said last year in reference to Mirasımız. “The person masterminding the activities is Erdoğan.”