Monday, November 23, 2020

  • Monday, November 23, 2020
  • Elder of Ziyon
David Lepeska writes about Turkish Jewry in The National. Excerpts:

 The plight of Turkey’s Jewish community underscores the deeply rooted, extremist Islamist nature of Turkey’s leader.

Jews have a long history in Anatolia and Eastern Thrace. When Sephardic Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492, the Ottoman Empire welcomed thousands of them. By 1500, Istanbul, the Ottoman capital, was more than 10 per cent Jewish.

Extremist terrorists killed 22 Jews in an Istanbul synagogue in 1986, unsettling the community. Yet by 2000, the 23,000 Jews who remained in Turkey felt largely at home. Many even identified as Turkish first, according to Dr Hay Eytan Cohen Yanarocak, a Turkish-Jewish researcher at Tel Aviv University.

Things changed after Mr Erdogan took power. His political mentor was Necmettin Erbakan, head of the Islamist movement Milli Gorus, or National Vision. Erbakan drew from the Muslim Brotherhood, which has been anti-western and anti-Semitic since its founding nearly a century ago in Egypt. Mr Erdogan left to launch the AKP in 2001 and became prime minister two years later. In those early days, he served as the West’s poster child for Islamic democracy, pointing toward a “Turkish model” as he strengthened the rule of law to prepare for Turkey’s bid for accession to the EU.

Slowly, Mr Erdogan returned to his Islamist roots, highlighted by a series of political confrontations with Israel. During Israel’s 2006 war with Lebanon, Mr Erdogan began to criticise Israel heavily. In 2009, Mr Erdogan frequently clashed with Israel’s then president, Shimon Peres, and stormed out of that year’s World Economic Forum in Davos. Then, in 2010, came the Mavi Marmara affair: Israeli commandos boarded a humanitarian ship that sought to break Israel’s blockade over Gaza, and killed nine Turkish nationals as well as a Turkish-American.

Thousands of Turkish protesters attempted to overrun the Israeli consulate in Istanbul.

Jewish shops were boycotted. Turkey’s predominantly pro-government newspapers filled with anti-Semitic vitriol, and Turkish Jews started streaming for the exits. By 2012, just 17,000 of them remained.

“For Turkish Jews it was like a slap in their face,” Dr Yanarocak says.

Turkish Jews might have also seen it coming. Back in the 1970s, when Mr Erdogan was head of a National Vision youth group, he wrote and played the lead role in a theatre production about Islamists facing an evil, Jewish-led conspiracy.

Spain and Portugal have offered to grant citizenship to any proven descendants of Jews expelled in 1492. Dr Yanarocak says many of his Jewish friends in Turkey have applied for that programme so they have an escape hatch should the situation deteriorate further. Three years ago, his parents finally picked up and left Istanbul for Israel – one more step toward Turkey’s Jewish community acknowledging that its days are numbered.

In former US President Barack Obama’s hot-selling new memoir, he warns of Mr Erdogan’s “vocal sympathy for both the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas…[which] made Washington and Tel Aviv nervous”. Former Turkish parliamentarian Aykan Erdemir told an Israeli newspaper earlier this year that Mr Erdogan’s anti-Semitism would haunt Turkey at home and abroad long after he leaves office. “The hate and prejudice inculcated in the Turkish people for almost two decades will have lasting effects,” Mr Erdemir said.

It already has.
Earlier this month, Turkey's Miswak magazine published this antisemitic cartoon:

Two Jews, symbolized by the menorah on the mantel as well as the Masonic pyramid symbol, are discussing the US elections; the man on the left asks who will win and the one on the right responds "of course we will."

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