Serkan Kayalar, president of the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) (TIKA)
Serkan Kayalar

“TIKA has [now] apparently resumed its activities in a direct manner, via the Turkish Consulate in Jerusalem,” warns NGO Keep Jerusalem.

By Beth Stern

A Turkish government aid agency that was banned two years ago from acting in Jerusalem due to its ties to terrorist bodies and goal of undermining Israeli sovereignty in the capital is working openly there again, as per reports in the Arab press.

According to the Alquds news site, Serkan Kayalar, president of the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA), held a meeting Monday with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Muhammad Shteyeh in Ramallah during which they discussed ongoing restoration projects of homes and stores that the agency is currently overseeing in Hebron, Jenin – and in eastern Jerusalem and the Old City.

TIKA is formally part of Turkey’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism, and its mandate is to assist in the development of less-advanced countries in order to promote Ankara’s influence and presence in strategic regions.

It has worked in the Arab areas of Jerusalem for years, spending millions of dollars in economic, communal, religious, and social assistance with the goal of weakening Israel’s hold on its capital, according to a 2020 Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs report.

One of its special projects has been restoration work in the Temple Mount compound, building pro-Turkish sentiment and inciting against Israel simultaneously, with one of its formal goals being “preventing the Judaization of Jerusalem.” The PA often charges Israel with this alleged “crime,” willfully ignoring the 3,000-year-old Jewish ties to the city.

Moreover, one of its partner organizations is the IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation, a Turkish NGO that has links to Hamas, al-Qaeda and other Jihadist groups, according to Israeli intelligence.

IHH was the group behind the Mavi Marmara flotilla that in 2010 tried to run Israel’s legal maritime blockade on the Gaza Strip, ostensibly to bring medicine and other humanitarian aid to the coastal enclave. When Israeli forces boarded the Marmara after it refused to stop, IHH terrorists attacked them with guns, iron bars and knives. Nine were killed while wounding several IDF soldiers. No aid was found on the ship.

After the Israeli government finally banned TIKA from the capital, the group simply moved its coordination activities to Ramallah and continued building its influence in Jerusalem, the Im Eshkachech (Keep Jerusalem) organization that works to keep Jerusalem united under Israeli sovereignty revealed in a report this week.

The NGO said that “TIKA has [now] apparently resumed its activities in a direct manner, via the Turkish Consulate in Jerusalem, whose activities Israel does not officially monitor.”

TIKA’s own website boasts of two of its most recent projects in the eastern half of the capital, renovating a cultural center and providing technical equipment for a music conservatory some three months ago. It also announced that it would be giving out daily hot meals to 40,000 people in Jerusalem and Gaza together over the course of Ramadan, which ends Friday.

TIKA’s anti-Israel stance has not changed at all, as could be seen by Kayalar’s visit to the Mt. of Olives home of Sheikh Ekrima Sa’id Sabri, the PA’s former Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and “Palestine.” He applauded Sabri as “the most precious friend of Turkey who acts on behalf of Jerusalem,” according to Keep Jerusalem.

Israel’s attorney general announced in February that her office would be investigating Sabri for incitement to terrorism after he visited the home of the Palestinian terrorist who murdered Sgt. Noa Lazar at a Jerusalem security checkpoint last October and was shot dead a week later by Israeli security forces when he attempted another attack. Sabri, whose mosque speeches laud suicide bombers, told those present that other young Palestinians should aspire to join “the family of martyrs.”

Considering its unchanged attitude, one could ask why the Israeli government is allowing TIKA to openly disobey its ban. The answer could very well be that the government is ignoring the group’s defiance so as not to shake its recently restored relationship with Ankara, in spite of the fact that TIKA is a government-run organization.