According to an investigative journalist citing data from open sources, some companies known for their close ties to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and for receiving large government contracts continue to do business with Israel despite Ankara’s harsh anti-Israel rhetoric over the conflict in Gaza.
After Palestinian militant organization Hamas launched attacks on southern Israel from the Palestinian enclave of Gaza on Oct. 7 that killed 1,200 people and resulted in the taking of 240 hostages, Israel retaliated by pounding Gaza, leading to thousands of civilian casualties.
“From the gang of five: Limak Holding is lending its port out for shipments to Israel. MNG Holding is making daily shipments via cargo planes. Kolin Holding is providing shipyard services to an Israeli government tanker. All of this is happening while Gaza is being bombed,” journalist Metin Cihan posted on X, formerly Twitter, where he has shared details of his investigation into Turkey’s trade relations with Israel since the early days of the conflict.
Cengiz Holding Chair Mehmet Cengiz, Limak Holding CEO Nihat Özdemir, MNG Holding Chairman Mehmet Nazif Günal, Kolin Construction CEO Naci Koloğlu and Kalyon Construction Chair Cemal Kalyoncu are referred to by Turkish opposition parties as the “gang of five” for having won nearly all the large tenders during Erdoğan’s time in office.
These shipments sometimes use the Port of İskenderun, operated by Limak Holding, one of the businesses referred to by Cihan.
artık bu kadarına ne denir bilmiyorum. sevkiyatları araştırırken limanlarımızda israil devletine ait oil refineries petrol tankerini gördüm. bu tanker, gazze bombalanırken yalova sefine tersanesindeymiş. sefine kimin diye bakarken karşıma yine ak parti, erdoğan ve yıldırım çıktı+ pic.twitter.com/J3JPyqTI8m
— metin cihan (@metcihan) December 3, 2023
On Sunday, citing online maritime tracking data, he shared that the Malta-flagged oil tanker Chrysopigi, owned by Israeli government company BAZAN, formerly known as Oil Refineries Ltd, was docked at a Turkish shipyard owned by the Sefine Shipyard company, a business of Kolin CEO Koloğlu.
Cihan previously revealed that MNG cargo planes were making daily trips to and from Israel.
Israel’s harsh response to the Hamas attack on Oct. 7 drew criticism from around the globe, while backlash in the Islamic world was particularly pronounced. Turks took to the streets to protest Israel, while vigilante boycotts against pro-Israel companies degenerated into mobs attacking customers for choosing the wrong coffee shop to frequent.
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.”
The revelation that Erdoğan and his close circle continued trade with Israel drew the ire of critics, who pointed out the hypocrisy of condemning Israel at the government level while privately pursuing a lucrative trade with the country.
Cihan had previously uncovered the scale of Turkey’s trade with Israel, saying on Nov. 11 that 253 ships have sailed from Turkey to Israel since Oct. 7, carrying cargo such as crude oil, fuel, iron and steel. Cihan also shared a list of ships transporting the goods from Turkey to Israel, emphasizing that the shipments are still ongoing.
Cihan started the #israilesevkiyatıdurdur (Stop shipments to Israel) hashtag on X to raise awareness about Erdoğan and Turkey’s business transactions with Israel and called on Turks to pressure Ankara to back up harsh rhetoric against Israel with concrete actions.