No violent antisemitic incident was recorded in Turkey in 2005. However, a wide range of subjects relating to Jews and Israel were treated with an
antisemitic slant by the Islamist and ultra-nationalist media. Three ongoing
cases in Turkish courts dealt with antisemitic statements published in the
The JewIsh CommunIty
community numbers approximately 20,000 out of a total population of 70 million.
Some 18,000 live in Istanbul, 1,500 in Izmir and the rest are scattered
throughout the country.
The Jewish community is represented by the Chief Rabbinate. There are 23
active synagogues in Turkey, more than half located in Istanbul, which also has
Jewish social clubs, a Jewish school, two homes for the elderly and a Jewish
hospital. The community publishes a weekly newspaper, Shalom, in Turkish
political ideologies and parties
View (or Milli Görüş, in Turkish) is an Islamist ideology
developed in 1970 by Necmettin Erbakan who established the National Order
(Milli Nizam) Party. This ideology was continued successively by the National
Salvation (Milli Selamet) Party, the Welfare (Refah) Party, the Virtue
(Fazilet) Party and finally the Felicity (Saadet) Party. All the parties preceding
the Felicity Party were closed by the Constitutional Court on the grounds that
they opposed secularism. The Felicity Party survives because it is more careful
to observe the country’s laws of secularity and because Turkey seeks to comply with EU regulations regarding political organization. The National
View promotes Islamic values and opposes Israel, Zionism, the EU, the western
world, the US and cosmopolitanism.
Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi – AKP) split
from the National View movement. While it defines itself as a conservative
democratic party its ideology is based in Islam.
The ultra-nationalist stream consists of: the traditional Nationalist
Action Party (Milliyetçi Hareket); left-wing
groups (such as the Workers Party − İşçi
Partisi), which are anti-EU, anti-US and anti-globalization; and various small
nationalist groups. Supporters of these groups do not have Islamist tendencies,
and oppose the Justice and Development Party since they disapprove of Prime
Minister Erdoğan’s pro-Israel and pro-US line. In 2005 a group of nationalists tried to interrupt an iftar dinner (the evening meal during
Ramadam) held by the mayor of Üsküdar for representatives of minority
groups when the vice president of the Jewish community began his speech. The Turkish
police immediately evicted them.
No violent antisemitic incident was recorded in Turkey in
2005. However, Turkish police are constantly on the alert and have stepped up
security at Jewish institutions whenever a potential threat is detected.
Most antisemitism in Turkey is manifested in publications − newspapers,
magazines and books. Many young educated Turks are heavily
influenced by this propaganda and consequently form a negative view of Jews and
Israel, although they may never have met either a Jew or an Israeli.
A wide range of
subjects relating to Jews and Israel are treated with an antisemitic slant by
the Islamist and ultra-nationalist media. Extremely antisemitic articles may be
found in the Islamist newspapers Anadoluda Vakit (Vakit) and Milli
Gazete (semi-official organ of the National View), and in the
ultra-nationalist publications Ortadoğu and Yeniçağ (Turkiye De Yeni Çağ).
These articles can be divided loosely into 1) commentaries which attack Jews or
Judaism directly, such as their alleged desecration of the Old Testament or which cite books such as The Protocols of the Elders
of Zion; and 2) criticism of Israeli policies, the Israeli prime minister
and Zionism. Vakit columnist Mustafa Kaplan, for example, who routinely
targets Jews, published an article in which he claimed: “Those who are not Jews
are seen as dogs,” in reference to the Talmud. Hasan Damir also attacks Jews in
Yeniçağ. On 1 January he
claimed that the Jews of Turkey are stabbing the Turkish people in the back despite
the help Jews have received from Turks over the years. On 19 September he
remarked that dollar, sterling or euro was all Jewish money. In the second category, slurs such as “Israel=Murderer of kids” appear
in publications such as Milli Gazete. On
31 October the latter published an article by Hakan Albayrak, accusing the
Israeli government of genocide and stating that Zionism represented genocide itself.
(For further examples, see Stephen Roth Institute Database.)
Conspiracy theories are used by both Islamists and ultra-nationalists to
demonize Jews and Israel. Turkish-Israeli
arms modernization projects; agricultural projects in southeast Turkey
connected to GAP (the South-East Anatolia Agricultural Irrigation Project),
which employ Israeli experts; mutual visits of Turkish and Israeli officials;
and the alleged role of the Mossad in northern Iraq (for example, “The Mossad
is the Boss in Northern Iraq”) have all nourished these theories. Another
common theory is that the Jews, the supposed chosen people, are trying to take
over the world by creating internal problems in the countries to which they
have spread, thereby destroying them.
The Donmes (Crypto-Jews, followers of Shabtai Zvi, 1626–76), who
converted to Islam, are frequently discussed in the Islamist media. The descendants
of the Donmes are accused by journalists such as Mehmet Sevket Eygi of Milli Gazete and
by leftist Yalçın
Küçük in several of his books of being undercover Jews who
have attained high office in the Turkish administration, which they misuse for
their own hidden agenda.
Another claim often raised by ultra-nationalist papers such as Ortadoğu
and Yeniçağ since the war
in Iraq is that most Kurds, including leaders Mustafa Barzani and Jalal Talabani,
are of Jewish origin, whose alleged aim is to set up another Israel in northern Iraq under the guise of a sovereign Kurdish state. Such a state, which will serve
the ultimate dream of a Greater Israel –
‘the Promised Land’ – from the Nile to the Euphrates, will include part of
southeast Turkey. This would explain, so the line of reasoning continues, why Israel is allegedly buying up land in southeast Turkey, inter alia, through the agency of
Turkish Jews. On 8 January, for example, the Islamist daily Yeni Şafak,
known as the unofficial mouthpiece of the Justice and Development Party, published
an article which alleged that Israel was attempting to set up farms in southeastern
Turkey and populating them with Russian and Ethiopian Jews whose integration
into Israel was problematic. It was also reported
during 2005, by journalists such as Ayhan Bilgin in Vakit, that the Mossad
and Israel were responsible for planting mines which killed Turkish soldiers
in southeast Turkey. Such claims created a very negative atmosphere against Israel and Jews in Turkey.
During a February 2005 interview with Das
Magazin, internationally acclaimed Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk
made statements implicating Turkey in massacres against Armenians and
persecution of the Kurds, declaring: “Thirty thousand Kurds and a million
Armenians were killed in these lands.” He was
labeled a traitor and condemned in many newspapers, especially in the
ultra-nationalist Yeniçağ. Moreover, their claims that he
was “a Jewish lover,” “best friend of the Jews” and “the servant of Jews,” fomented
an anti-Jewish atmosphere. Criminal charges of ‘insulting Turkishness’ were
brought against him, but were later dropped.
Following his claim in 2005 in the mainstream daily Akşam that Jews were behind all wickedness,
ultra-nationalist columnist Nihat Gençst was forced to leave the
It was reported in some main newspapers such as
the mainstream Milliyet that Eric Edelman, who served as US ambassador to Turkey, resigned his post in March because of attacks on his Jewish origins in
newspapers such as Yeniçağ, Milli Gazete and Vakit. Edelman’s
departure came against the background of ongoing Turkish-US tensions, exacerbated by Turkish
expressions of solidarity with Syria.
Islamist-oriented TV channels such as Mesaj and Kanal 7
take advantage of every news item concerning the Middle East to attack the Jews
with derogatory religious statements, sometimes including quotes from the Qur`an.
classic antisemitic tracts such as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and
Henry Ford’s International Jew are sold at well-known bookstores. Hitler’s
Mein Kampf, a bestseller printed by various publishing houses, is
apparently subsidized and sold very cheaply. When mainstream newspapers such as Akşam
headlined this fact, referring to it as a “dangerous development,” Turkish
Jewish community leaders received many phone calls, including from media representatives,
asking for their reaction. After the issue died down, the government served
prosecution orders against the publishers of the books, as owners of the
copyright. Mein Kampf is the only book which seems to have been
removed from bookstores.
Another book which aroused a lively discourse
in the media in 2005 was the popular futuristic anti-American novel Metal Fırtına (Metal Storm). According to the authors, Orkhun Uçar and Burak Turna,
who gave an interview to the mainstream publication Vatan, after reading
the book people would understand the realities behind Israel and the Jews and cease to regard them positively since they would see how the Jews betrayed Turkey and the Turkish people which had embraced them throughout history.
It should also be
noted that many books dealing with conspiracy theories relating to Israel and Jews are freely available in well-known bookstores.
AttItudes toward the Holocaust
events commemorating the Holocaust were organized by the Turkish Jewish community
in 2005: an exhibit from the Salonika Holocaust Museum at the Profilo Shopping Mall
Theater, Istanbul; a documentary, The Story of the Violins That Survived the
Holocaust, accompanied by a violin concert by Amnon Weinstein; and for the
first time, the participation of some 50 Turkish Jews in the March of the
Living on the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp in
There has been a significant increase of articles denying the
Holocaust in the radical Turkish press. Fatih
Sertyüz, in Milli Gazete, Hasan Karakaya, in Vakit
and Selçuk Düzgün, in Ortadoğu, all complain that
Hitler did not finish off the Jews. Common expressions include: “the Holocaust
tale,” “lies about genocide,” “rooms are not ‘gas chambers’ and have
never been used for such purposes,” “Are Jews completely innocent?” “the so-called Yad Vashem Genocide Museum,” and “the ‘legend’ called the liberation of Auschwitz.” After an article, accompanied
by a picture of Hitler and entitled “Hitler’s ‘Gas’ Is a Lie, As Is the ‘Jazz’
of the Zionists,” by Hasan
Karakaya, appeared (30 Nov. 2004) in Vakit, which is also published in Germany, it was discovered by a German parliamentarian and translated into German. As a result, German Interior Minister Otto Schilly closed down Yeni
Akit, headquarters of the publication of the European edition and demanded that
steps be taken against the newspaper in Turkey due to the continuous
publication of anti-Jewish and anti-Israel, as well as anti-western, articles.
Turkish Interior Minister Abdulkadir Aksu told Schilly on 12 April 2005 that no
action could be taken against the newspaper since there was no law permitting
prosecution of the owners. Vakit expressed
its anger at the ban in Germany by comparing Schilly to Hitler and declaring
German politicians to be at the beck and call of the “Jewish lobby.”
On the other hand, the well-known writer Engin Ardıç, whose articles appear in the mainstream newspaper Akşam, fights actively against Holocaust denial. He
has written many times and in great detail about the horror and uniqueness of
the Holocaust, after visiting Auschwitz and other camps. Further, columnists from mainstream
papers such as Ertuğrul Özkök and Hadi Uluengin from Hürriyet, Ayşe Hür and Türker Alkan from Radikal
and Şemsi Yücel from Takvim, as well as Ayşe Günaysu from the fringe, mainly Kurdish-directed paper Özgür Gündem, have all written articles condemning antisemitism.
Five court cases were ongoing in Istanbul. Two dealt
with the books Turkey under the Threat of Israel and Zionism,
by the Turkish nationalist Cemal Anadol, and The Wooden Sword of the Jew,
by Mustafa Akgün, a columnist with Milli Gazete (see ASW 2004).
Three cases concerned antisemitic statements published in the press.
Two of these were initiated by Minister
of Justice Cemil Çiçek, who for the first time ever ordered prosecution
proceedings concerning antisemitic remarks made during a newspaper interview
given in December 2003 by the son of a terrorist who blew himself up in the
bomb attack at HSBC Bank on 20 November 2003; another concerned the above-mentioned
article in Vakit.
Hearings were also continuing in the case of the murderers of the young
Jewish dentist Yasef Yahya, who was slain in August 2003, allegedly
because he was a Jew.
The trial of
the alleged perpetrators of the November 2003 bomb attacks was also continuing.
Some of the arrested were released after the court determined that the attack
was not an organized criminal act.
A book called
Fact or Fraud, by Goran Larsson, which refutes The Protocols of the
Elders of Zion, has been published in Turkish and sold in popular bookstores.
In January 2005, Turkish Foreign Affairs Minister Abdullah
Gül participated in the ceremonies commemorating the 60th anniversary of
Auschwitz, in Poland. He then visited Israel for the first time, and was
followed by Minister of Justice Cemil Çiçek and Prime Minister R.
Tayyip Erdoğan. The visits, including pictures from Yad Vashem and the
speeches made there, especially Cemil Çiçek’s statement that
“Antisemitism is a perversion,” were given wide media coverage in Turkey.
In December 2005 Turkey joined
104 other countries in signing the UN agreement denoting 27 October, the date
of the liberation of Auschwitz in 1945, as Holocaust Memorial Day.
As a member of the OSCE (Organization
for Cooperation and Security in Europe), Turkey also signed the agreement to educate
the Turkish people about the Holocaust. However, the subject was not included
in the 2005 curriculum.
European Culture day was held on 4 September, at which all synagogues were
opened to the public, Jewish song concerts were held and Jewish meals cooked
and served. The event received very positive media coverage. It should be noted that both the president of the republic
and the prime minister both sent greetings to the Jewish community on the
occasions of Chanukah and Passover.