The new Virtue Party, founded in 1998 by prominent members of the
outlawed Welfare Party, appears more cautious and moderate than its
predecessor. In 1998 the number of anti-Semitic incidents, publications and
statements was much lower than in previous years. Articles defending the
French Holocaust denier Roger Garaudy were published in the English-language
mainstream newspaper Sabah.
THE JEWISH COMMUNITY
Some 20,000 Jews live in Turkey out of a total population of over 60 million.
The great majority of Jews live in Istanbul, but there are also communities in
Izmir and in several other cities, including Ankara. More than 95 percent of
the Jews are Sephardim.
The Jewish community is represented by its Chief Rabbinate, which is
headed by the Haham Bashi. There are about 30 synagogues in Turkey,
more than half of them in Istanbul, where there are also Jewish schools. The
community publishes a weekly newspaper in Turkish and Ladino, Shalom,
and a monthly journal, Tiryaki.
POLITICAL ORGANIZATIONS AND ANTI-SEMITIC ACTIVITIES
The Virtue (Fazilet) Party was founded in 1998 by prominent members of
the Welfare (Refah) Party, which was outlawed by the Constitutional Court
because of its anti-secular activities. Previously, the Welfare Party and its
hard-core followers, together with its media organs and youth organizations,
had been a primary source of anti-Semitism. Its leader, former Prime Minister
Necmittin Erbakan, was forced to resign in 1998 under pressure by the
military, and his close party officials were suspended from political activity
by court order. So far the Virtue Party has been acting more cautiously and
moderately than its predecessor. No anti-Semitic statements or actions by its
politicians were reported. In fact, at the 50th anniversary reception held at
the Israeli embassy, Virtue Party leader Recin Kutan stated: "We are not anti-Semites,
but we criticize some of the wrongdoing of the Israeli authorities
and we are against Zionism. Still, we continue to improve our relations with
In 1998, the number of anti-Semitic incidents, publications and statements
was substantially lower than in previous years, perhaps reflecting the
continuing development of Turkish-Israeli relations. According to the
mainstream Turkish media, Israel was the only country which viewed the
area seriously. On the other hand, the newspapers Akit, Yeni Mesaj and the
weekly Selam continued, in 1998, to publish anti-Semitic/ anti-Israel propaganda,
including themes such as the Masonic-Jewish conspiracy, the influence
of Jewish bankers and Jewish aspirations to world domination. For
example, Akit carried articles entitled "The Nation That Is Exploiting the
World -- The Jews" (21 Sept.) and "Israel as the Fruit of Organized Jewish
Terror" (15 May). On 10 November, it described Turkey as a "paradise for
Jews," alleging that Jews controlled Turkish economic and political life.
Besides repeatedly accusing the Jews of corrupting the societies in which
they live, Akit frequently accompanies such articles with an illustration of a
snake embracing the Star of David.
These same newspapers condemned the Israeli government 's interest in
the Southeast Anatolian Development Project (GAP) (see previous reports),
describing it as a plot to colonize a land considered by Jews as part of the
"great Israeli dream."
The case of Nissim Malki (the Jewish businessman slain in 1995 in Bursa,
apparently by his business competitors) was revived in the media after the
arrest of alleged members of a criminal gang. Both the liberal and the
fundamentalist media repeatedly referred to his Jewish roots and hinted at
his "traditionally Jewish" business methods. Similar comments appeared after
the death of Avram Sunjon, murdered by a gang following a business
ATTITUDES TOWARD THE HOLOCAUST AND THE NAZI ERA
Gulay Gokturk, a Turkish citizen known for her liberal views, published two
articles in the mainstream English-language newspaper Sabah, following the
French court's conviction of Holocaust denier Roger Garaudy (see France).
She defended Garaudy for having committed "a crime of thought" by daring
to question the number of Jews exterminated in the Holocaust and the
existence of the gas chambers, and attacked the French court for attempting
to restrict freedom of speech. The Jewish daily Shalom immediately
condemned the article in a front-page editorial, and printed letters of protest
sent by Jewish readers to the publishers of Sabah and to Gokturk. In
addition, community leaders visited the owner and publisher of Sabah.
Sabah replied by publishing a detailed and factual account of the Holocaust,
implicitly discrediting Gokturk's allegations.
The Nazi gold issue received widespread coverage in the media in 1998.
Many columnists urged the Turkish authorities to open the state archives and
publish documents relevant to this period. In fact, an extensive Turkish
delegation participated in the Nazi gold conference held in late November
in Washington. Statements and press releases issued by US Under-Secretary
of State Stuart Eizenstat virtually cleared the Turkish government of previous
accusations of collaboration with the Nazis.
RESPONSES TO ANTI-SEMITISM
Sedat Sertoglu, a well-known columnist with Sabah, published an article
suggesting that the Turkish authorities should seriously consider formulating
a law condemning anti-Semitism. He believes that this move would be in line
with various international charters and resolutions already signed, and even
initiated by various Turkish governments.
The trial of members of the terrorist organization IBDA-C (Islamic Raiders
of the Great Islamic East) resulted in a commuted death sentence for the
slaying of Jak Kamhi, a prominent Jewish figure and businessman, in 1993.