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Alleged sale of Turkey-made thermal underwear to Israeli army sparks controversy

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A video posted on social media on Monday showing Israeli soldiers unloading a container that included boxes of Turkey-made thermal underwear has sparked controversy over whether Turkey is among the suppliers of the Israeli army despite the government’s anti-Israel rhetoric.

In the video, some Israeli soldiers are seen showing the “Turkey-made” label on the packages while others are heard saying ”Turkey.”

Anti-Israel sentiment is running high in Turkey since Israel began pounding Gaza after Hamas militants carried out an unprecedented surprise attack in Israel on Oct. 7 that claimed 1,200 lives.

Israeli air and ground attacks in Gaza have claimed at least 15,500 lives since October 7 in addition to causing massive destruction in the enclave and leading to the displacement of at least 1.8 million people.

Israel’s harsh response drew criticism from around the globe, while backlash in the Islamic world was particularly pronounced. Turks took to the streets to protest Israel, calls for boycotts were made against Israeli and US companies, with people sharing a long list of to-be-boycotted goods on social media.

As the video began to attract attention on social media, the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s communications directorate has denied the supply of the thermal underwear to the Israeli army by Turkey, saying that the video in question was not new, meaning it was shot before the latest Israel-Hamas conflict and was spread for purposes of manipulation.

As evidence, the directorate’s anti-disinformation center posted a circular issued by Erdoğan on Dec. 4, 2021 that made it obligatory for Turkey-made products to bear a label reading “Made in Türkiye” rather than “Made in Turkey” in line with a change in the country’s name from Turkey to Türkiye.

The move for the name change in 2021 was seen as part of a push by Ankara to rebrand the country and dissociate it from the bird of the same name and the negative connotations associated with it.

The packages of thermal underwear in the video had the “Made in Turkey” label.

However, some social media users contradicted the anti-disinformation center’s explanation, saying the government made a later arrangement for labels on exported goods and said labels that do not refer to Turkey as “Türkiye” would also be permitted until an unspecified time.

They also said the packages show the products were manufactured in 2023.

Reports last week indicated that Turkish companies with links to Erdoğan’s family and government continue trade with Israel, carrying cargo to Israeli ports at the height of the conflict, which led many people to question Erdoğan’s anti-Israel rhetoric.

Erdoğan, who long marketed himself in the Muslim world as the champion of Palestinian rights and a strong critic of Israel, was unusually moderate in his tone in the initial days of the conflict and even offered to mediate between the sides.

However, as public outrage grew over the death toll in Gaza, the Turkish president could not afford to remain silent and unleashed a harsh rhetoric that has shown no signs of abating, which has culminated in him repeatedly accusing Israel of being a “terrorist state” while praising Hamas as “liberators.”

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