Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Turks treat Jews as eternally indebted guests

This Armenian Weekly review of a new book on Turkey's Jews by Rifat Bali, Model citizens (not yet available in English), should be read in the context of Armenian frustrations that Turkey has still not recognised the World War One genocide of over one million Armenians. Nevertheless it contains interesting insights into how Turkey has treated its Jews as eternally indebted guests:

"From what Bali brings to our attention, we can see that there has always been a frantic, extremely vulgar anti-Semitism freely expressed by Islamic fundamentalists and racists, and openly tolerated by the government and judiciary. Such anti-Semitism—escalating at times with the rising tension between Israel and the Muslim countries of the Middle East—often went as far as warmly praising Hitler for doing the right thing and exterminating the Jews; declaring Jews the enemies of the entire human race; listing characteristics attributed to Jews as the worst that can be found in human beings; in one instance, putting up advertisements on walls in Jewish-populated neighborhoods in Istanbul; and in another case, sending letters to prominent members of the Jewish community threatening that if they didn’t “get the hell out of Turkey” within one month, no one would be responsible for what happened to them.

"Whenever Jewish community leaders have approached the authorities for a determined stance against such open anti-Semitism, the answer has been the same: These are marginal voices that have no significant effect on the general public; and there is freedom of expression in Turkey.

The eternal indebtedness of Jews to Turks: An important fact about such violent anti-Semitism is that it goes hand in hand with the widespread official and public conception of the Jews as guests who are indebted to their hosts; it is a debt that cannot be paid no matter how hard the debtors tried. This view isn’t only shared by extremist elements in Turkey, but by the entire society—from the elites to the average person. It is a conviction purposefully designed and maintained by the establishment. And it enables the perpetual, unending, and unrestricted generation and regeneration of the relations of domination in Turkey between the establishment and non-Muslims in general, and Jews in particular, manifested in the treatment of the latter as hostages.

"There are regular manifestations of this relationship. The most unbearable is the shameless, extremely offensive repetition by both top-ranking government officials and the mainstream media of how Turkey generously offered shelter to the Jews in 1492, when they were expelled from Spain, and how the Turkish people have always been so “kind” to treat the Jews with “tolerance” throughout history. This theme is repeated on every occasion but is voiced more loudly and more authoritatively whenever pressure on Turkey regarding the Armenian Genocide increases abroad. Another theme has been the obligation of the Jews to show material evidence of their gratitude to Turkey on account of the latter’s welcoming of German Jewish scientists right after the Nazis’ ascension to power. (Readers of Bali’s first volume instantly will remember how Turkey declined thousands of asylum requests by German Jews; how 600 Czeckoslavakian Jews on board the vessel “Parita” were turned down; and how 768 passengers on the Romanian vessel “Struma,” after being kept waiting off Istanbul for weeks in poverty and hunger, were sent to death in the Black Sea by Turkish authorities, with only one survivor in the winter of 1942.)

"An illustrative example is the story of the fury that broke out in Turkey in 1987 when the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum Council in Washington, D.C. decided to include the Armenian Genocide—as the first genocide of the 20th century— in the Memorial Museum that was going to be built.

"The mainstream media, and not only the ultra-nationalist extremists, started a campaign that would last for years. Melih Asik from Milliyet (which has always positioned itself as a liberal and democratic newspaper), in his article on Dec. 20, 1987, accused “Jews” for being “ungrateful.” After observing the regular ritual of reminding the Jews of the Turks’ generosity in 1492 and during World War II, he wrote: “We treated them with utmost kindness for many years and now these same Jews are preparing to present us to the world in the Holocaust museum as genociders. Before everything else this behavior should be exhibited in the museum of ‘historical displays of ingratitude and disgrace.’”

Read article in full

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"We treated them with utmost kindness for many years"

This questionable remark to say the least, remided me of a recent article on Gates of Vienna, where an example the opposite of Turkish kindness towards Jews was mentioned, the devastating Varlik tax, imposed in WWII -amongst others- on Jewish citizens:

"After an agreement with Nazi Germany in 1941, the Turks rounded up Jewish, Armenian and Greek males between the ages of 18 and 35. They were sent to labor camps. But to displace later fears onto the minorities, the Turkish government placed the blame for he financial crisis on the non-Muslim businessmen and implemented the “Varlik” tax (1942). A wealth tax of sometimes far over 100% of the total value of property and savings. Those who were unable to pay within two weeks lost everything to the State and were sent to labor camps. This included family members and even children. (...) Category G for instance (Greek Christians and Jews), was taxed from 50%-100%+. This led not only to a horrible persecution of non-Muslims but also a continuing crisis in the economy till long after the war."

The article Gates of Vienna linked to is here

Quote: "Consider the case of the Banzilar and Benjamen Company, a shipping company owned by two Jews that was forced to turn over all of its five ships to the state-owned Maritime Lines in lieu of taxes totaling TRL 1.6 million."

I thought to just mention it here, this Varlik tax still seems an issue that has not had much coverage.