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Anti-Semitism Roars in Turkey

Of all the countries caught up in the current wave of antisemitism, Turkey is arguably the greatest worry. While Turkey has traditionally been a reliable diplomatic ally and an even closer military partner of Israel, that hasn’t prevented a rash of antisemitic statements and demonstrations in the short period since the Gaza conflict began.

A number of people received the following email this morning. The writer, a Turkish Jew, has requested anonymity:

The Prime Minister in Turkey has encouraged hatred against Israel in his speeches which has become obvious anti-Semitic propaganda among the general public.

There are people around the clock besieging the Israeli consulate in Istanbul shouting their hatred against Israel and Jewish people. All around Istanbul billboards are full of propaganda posters against Israel like; “Moses, even this is not written in your book” and “Israel Stop this Crime.” On the streets the people are writing such graffiti as: “Kill Jews,” “Kill Israel,” “Israel should no longer exist in the Middle East,” and “Stop Israeli Massacre.”

The week-end before, some people wrote, “We will kill you” on the door of one of the biggest synagogues in Izmir resulted in the closing down of synagogues. Near Istanbul University, a group put a huge poster on the door of a shop owned by a Jew: “Do not buy from here, since this shop is owned by a Jew.” A group put posters on his wall saying that: “Jews and Armenians are not allowed but dogs are allowed.” Some young people are even threatening others with violence if they are seen as pro-Israel in social networking websites such as Facebook and Hi5.

The document attached is the official statement by the minister of education stating that tomorrow [January 13] at 11am in all the high schools and primary schools the students will pay homage to the women and children dead during the war and furthermore, the teachers of art will organize the session of painting and writing on the subject: “Humanity Drama in Palestine” and the winners will receive awards.

That astounding manipulation of children did take place this morning. The Turkish daily Hurriyet reports: “Turkish school students stood for a minute of silence at 11:00 a.m. (0900 GMT) in accordance with a direction issued by Education Minister Huseyin Celik. ‘This show of respect damns not only the cruelty in the Palestine, but also shows solidarity with the Palestinian people,’ the directive said.”

One has to wonder how that directive squares with this directive from the European Commission, the executive branch of the very same European Union in which Turkey seeks status as an ‘honorable member’: “Education should promote intercultural skills, democratic values, the respect of fundamental rights and the fight against discrimination, equipping all young people to interact positively with their peers from diverse backgrounds.”

The email continues:

The Jewish community can do nothing in response to what has been going on for the last few weeks, except giving vague statements that the Turkish Jewish Community does not want the war to be continued any more.

We have previously faced some strong reaction regarding previous operations in Gaza and the West Bank but this time is really different from former ones. I feel open anti-Semitism and hatred from all these people. Nobody understood, Even some widely read columnists in Turkey are writing things that lead all these groups toward this hatred becoming much more dangerous day by day.

But I know one thing: that the world should know about the widespread and openly anti-Semitic propaganda which far exceeds anything happening in Europe.

Ironically, as Yigal Schleifer reports, there is skepticism about the long-term impact of the Gaza crisis on Turkish-Israeli relations: “Experts say that mutual interests – particularly over regional security issues – will likely keep Turkey-Israel relations from rupturing. On the eve of the Gaza operation, which began Dec. 27, the two countries signed a $141 million deal in which Israel will provide the Turkish air force with airborne space imagery intelligence systems over the next four years.”

The real fear, as Schleifer says, concerns the well-being of the Jewish community which, as the above email indicates, feels directly targeted by the Gaza protests. Schleifer points out that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s shrill condemnations of Israel are partially fired by domestic concerns and he quotes respected columnist Sami Kohen thus:

“This is the first time that the public reaction has been so widespread. It’s very intensive this time. There haven’t been such widespread and spontaneous anti-Israel sentiments before. It’s not just the Islamic circles. It’s also the secularists and the nationalists. The protests have been representative of the whole of Turkish society.”

Indeed, if this Reuters report is accurate, Prime Minister Erdogan is now forgetting to substitute the word “Jewish” with “Zionist” or “Israeli”:

Erdogan said some media, which he did not name, were spreading false information about the Gaza offensive. “Excuses are found for mass killings of children at schools, hospitals and mosques, especially by Jewish-backed media,” Erdogan said.

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