Turkey's prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Reuters)

Turkey's prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has caused a backlash in Israeli media by calling Zionism "a crime against humanity" at a UN conference.

Erdoğan, who was speaking in Vienna before a forum at the Alliance of Civilizations, urged UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon to recognise Islamophobia as a crime against humanity "just like Zionism, anti-Semitism and fascism".

"We are facing a world in which racist attacks have gained momentum, terrorism has claimed more lives, and religions and sects treat each other with less understanding," Erdoğan said.

"In a similar fashion, I must state that rising racism in Europe is a serious problem for the Alliance of civilizations project. Just like Zionism, anti-Semitism and fascism, it becomes unavoidable that Islamophobia must be regarded as a crime against humanity,"

The remarks were immediately slammed as "Ahmadinejad-style pronouncements" by the Geneva-based UN watch, a non-governmental organisation that monitors the performance of the UN "by the yardstick of its own charter".

"We remind secretary-general Ban Ki-moon that his predecessor Kofi Annan recognised that the UN's 1975 Zionism-is-racism resolution was an expression of anti-Semitism, and he welcomed its repeal," UN Watch stated.

UN Watch criticised Ki-moon, who was present on the stage, because he stayed silent and did not speak out condemning the speech.