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AKP mayoral candidates working with Israeli company for campaign advertising

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A number of mayoral candidates from Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), including those for major cities such as İstanbul and Ankara, are working with an Israeli media company to promote their political campaigns online, according to Turkish media reports.

AKP candidate for mayor of İstanbul Murat Kurum and Ankara candidate Turgut Altınok along with many others are using the services of the Tel Aviv-based Total Media Solutions for digital advertising.

Turkey will hold local elections on March 31. President and AKP leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan hopes to win back big cities his party lost to the opposition in the 2019 local elections. İstanbul is witnessing a fierce contest between Kurum and the city’s incumbent mayor, Ekrem İmamoğlu, from the main opposition party.

Kurum is trying to appeal to the voters with a digital political campaign in addition to holding election rallies in different parts of Turkey’s economic powerhouse.

Short videos about his election promises for the city are featured on his YouTube channel in addition to videos of his election rallies.

A look at Kurum’s ad center on YouTube shows Total Media as the advertiser.

The Turkish Trade Registry Gazette shows that the Israeli company was registered in Turkey in April 2021 and has its offices in İstanbul’s Şişli district. Israeli citizen Sivan Tafla appears as the company’s representative who, according to her LinkedIn account, is a product manager and head of Google Publishers Products at Total Media Ltd.

AKP mayoral candidates’ decision to work with an Israeli media company for their political campaigns online contrasts with their party and leader’s strong anti-Israeli rhetoric.

Erdoğan, who long marketed himself in the Muslim world as the champion of Palestinian rights and a strong critic of Israel, repeatedly accuses Israel of being a “terrorist state” and committing a “genocide” in Gaza due to Israel’s ongoing attacks on the Palestinian enclave.

Israel began pounding Gaza in the aftermath of an unprecedented attack by Hamas militants on October 7, which left around 1,200 people dead in Israel. The death toll in Gaza, in the meantime, has exceeded 30,000, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.

AKP mayoral candidates’ picking an Israeli media company to conduct their digital campaigns has led to claims of hypocrisy in the AKP’s anti-Israeli discourse, given the fact that pro-government circles promote vigilante boycotts against pro-Israel companies, which have even degenerated into mobs attacking customers for choosing the wrong coffee shop to frequent.

Recent revelations by investigative journalist Metin Cihan based on data from open sources show that some companies known for their close ties to Erdoğan and his family continue to do business with Israel despite Ankara’s harsh anti-Israel rhetoric over the conflict in Gaza.

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.

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