Sunday, January 25, 2009

President Gul reassures anxious Turkish Jews

The Turkish president is trying to to reassure Turkish Jews, scared and anxious at resurgent antisemitism coinciding with the Gaza war. Hurriyet reports that he telephoned a Jewish psychologist writing in Radikal to assure her of his 'empathy'. But what she and other Turkish Jews resent is to be reminded of how the Ottomans welcomed Jews fleeing the Spanish Inquisition. After 500 years, isn't it time to treat Jews as sons and daughters of the soil?

The psychologist Leyla Navaro’s article "Being a Jew in Turkey: Loneliness of 500 years," drew reference to the statement by (Prime minister) Erdoğan that 500 years ago Ottomans opened their arms to embrace Jews who migrated from Spain. "Is it still a debt of mine that 500 years ago my ancestors were accepted by the Ottoman Sultan? Am I still regarded as a guest in this land that I was born and grew up in, in which I fulfill my responsibilities as a citizen and have actually contributed to its development? Shall I walk with my head down? Am I a candidate for being threatened? And should I accept this situation?" wrote Navaro in her article Thursday.

President Gül then telephoned Navaro, an academic at the prominent Boğaziçi University, the editor in chief of Radikal yesterday wrote in his column. "The president was really impressed by the article. He spoke sincerely and spoke of his sensitivity toward the issue and highlighted his messages criticising the threat of enmity against Jews in statements he made in meetings in Iran and Malaysia," Navaro told Berkan about the dialogue between herself and the president. "I felt that I had been heard at the end of our talk. Both the president and the prime minister, however, should frequently and openly say no to an attitude that spreads hatred. I also said this to the president.

"Erdoğan’s former statement about Ottoman’s embracing Jews, however, has been subjected to serious criticism. "The prime minister consciously or unconsciously lit the flame. While he was trying to criticize the Israeli operation in the Gaza Strip that wrenched the heart out of anyone who has a conscience, he raised the issue of wars of religion, to Judaism," Berkan wrote.

Read article in full

Hurriyet: Jewish community reassured

Reuters report: Turkish Jews fearful of antisemitism after Gaza


Anonymous said...

I have a question of information. Not being a Turkish Jew, not knowing any Turks (Muslim OR Jewish), and never having been to Turkey. Why is this resurgence of anti-Semitism happening NOW, as opposed to 2 1/2 years ago during the Israel-Hezbollah war, or earlier during the intifada? Have Islamists made further inroads in Turkey over the past 2 years or so, and if so, is this also a question of tension between secularists and Islamists within Turkish society?

bataween said...

I'm no expert either but I think you are right that Islamists have made further inroads in Turkey over the past two years, and secularists as well as Jews feel threatened. In addition, Erdogan the Prime Minister took a particularly provocative stance, demanding a minute's silence for Palestinians killed in Gaza. The government has used the Gaza war as a useful distraction from the degenerating economic situation. The last factor has been imminent local elections: Islamists have been electioneering by exploiting traditional bigotry against Jews and Armenians.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Bataween. Incidentally, it's indeed galling and bitterly ironic that Turks express such outrage over Gaza when they have never acknowledged their own genocidal crimes against the Armenians, the first holocaust of the 20th century.

bataween said...

Very true,Victor