JERUSALEM, Israel -- Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has made many disparaging remarks about Israel over the years, but his latest accusations brought condemnation not only from Israel, but also from the White House, the United Nations and the U.N. Watch.
Speaking on Islamophobia at a conference sponsored by the U.N. Alliance of Civilizations, Erdogan compared Zionism to fascism, calling it a crime against humanity.
"Just like Zionism, anti-Semitism and fascism, it becomes unavoidable that Islamophobia must be regarded as a crime against humanity," the Turkish leader told participants.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who attended the conference, called Erdogan's remarks "hurtful" and "divisive."
"The secretary-general believes it is unfortunate that such hurtful and divisive comments were uttered at a meeting being held under the theme of responsible leadership," a statement by his spokesman read.
The U.N. Watch, a group that tracks human rights abuses, said his "Ahmadinejad-style pronouncements" appealed to the "lowest common denominator in the Muslim world."
"Erdogan's misuse of this global podium to incite hatred and his resort to Ahmadinejad-style pronouncements appealing to the lowest common denominator in the Muslim world will only strengthen the believe that his government is hewing to a confrontational stance and fundamentally unwilling to end its four-year-feud with Israel," the group said, adding that Ban should have immediately condemned the remarks.
"We remind Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that his predecessor, Kofi Annan, recognized that the U.N.'s 1975 Zionism-is-racism resolution was an expression of anti-Semitism and he welcomed its repeal," the group said in a statement. It called on Erdogan to apologize.
The White House added its rejection of Erdogan's remarks.
"We reject Prime Minister Erdogan's characterization of Zionism as a crime against, humanity, which is offensive and wrong," White House spokesman Tommy Victor said.
In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it "a sinister and mendacious statement the likes of which we thought had disappeared from the world."
Israeli Foreign Minister spokesman Yigal Palmor said Erdogan's "hollow words…only reflect ignorance."
"Zionism is the national movement of the Jewish people and to deny any people their right to self-determination and to their national movement is absurd," Palmor said. "We will not dignify such nonsense with any further comment."
The Jerusalem Post and Times of Israel contributed to this report.