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Template:Antisemitism Antisemitism in Turkey (also spelled anti-Semitism) is act of hostility against Jews in Turkey, expressed in a hatred of Jewish ethnic background, culture, or religion.

At the end of 2009 Turkey was a home to one of the largest Jewish communities in the Islam world - 23,000 people,[1] which is slightly more than 0,03% of the total population of Turkey.[2] By September 2010 the Jewish population has dropped to 17,000 people, mostly due to emigration to Israel.[3] Most of Jews reside in Istanbul.[4] There are 23 active synagogues in Turkey, including 16 in Istanbul alone.[5]

Despite the tiny fraction of the Jewish population in Turkey, anti-Semitic sentiments are quite common in the Turkish society. A special surge of sentiments started after 2006 Lebanon War, Israel's operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip in December 2008 - January 2009 and the conflict over Gaza Freedom Flotilla in May - June 2010, when Turkish citizens were killed by Israeli commandos. One of the problems with criticism of Israeli policy in Turkey is that it sometimes turns into expression of hostility towards Jews in general.[6][7]


Jews have been living on the territory of the Ottoman Empire and modern Turkey for more than 2400 years. Initially they were called romaniots, later they were assimilated among the Sephardim. At the end of 15th century Ashkenazim in mass emigrated to the Ottoman Empire.[8]

The Ottoman Empire

The first case of blood libel in the Ottoman Empire was reported during the reign of Sultan Mehmed II in the 15th century (according to other sources - at the beginning of the 16th century[9]). Subsequently such cases, despite the mass migration of Jews from Spain in 1492, occurred rarely and usually were condemned by the Ottoman authorities. Some Jewish sources mention blood libel incidents during the reign of Sultan Murad IV.[10] Sultan Mehmet II issued firman, first of its kind in the Ottoman Empire, ordering that all cases related to the blood libel, should be considered by Divan in the central office in Istanbul.

In general, the migration of Jews from Western Europe to Ottoman Empire was greeted kindly by the authorities. In 1553, Sultan Suleiman I taking up the opinion of his personal doctor and adviser, Moses Hamon, reconfirmed the orders of Mehmed II, which prohibit local courts from adjudicating the cases connected with Jewish ritual murder.[11] He also successfully counter-measured the intention of Pope Paul IV to succumb the Jews of Ancona into the hands of the Inquisition.[12]

However, later the attitude of the authorities towards the Jews has deteriorated. In 1579 Sultan Murad III having learned that Jewish women wear silk clothes decorated with precious stones, has ordered to destroy all the Jews in the Empire.[13] Even though the decree was lifted, thanks to Shlomo Ashkenazi, the adviser to the Grand Vizier, a special clothing was ordered for Jews to wear, in particular, women were forbidden to wear silk, and men have been prescribed to wear a special form of hat.[14]

Jews in the Ottoman Empire had a status of dhimmi, which meant a subordinate position compared with Muslims, however, it guaranteed personal inviolability and freedom of religion.[14]

There were a number of known cases of blood libel in the 19th century on the territory of the Ottoman Empire: Aleppo (1810), Beirut (1824), Antakya (Antioch, 1826), Hama (1829), Tripoli (1834), Jerusalem (1838), Rhodes and Damascus (1840), Marmora (1843), Izmir (Smyrna, 1864), Corfu (1894). The most famous of them were the Rhodes and Damascus affaires in 1840, since both had major international repercussions.


Painting of a Jewish man from the Ottoman Empire, 1779.

Blood libel in Rhodes occurred in February 1840, when the Greek Orthodox community in the island of Rhodes, with the active participation of the consuls of several European states accused the Jews of kidnapping and murdering a Christian boy for ritual purposes. The Ottoman governor of Rhodes supported the accusation. Several Jews were arrested, some of whom have made self-incriminating confessions under duress (torture), the entire Jewish quarter was blocked for twelve days. In July 1840 the Jewish community of Rhodes was formally acquitted of accusations.[15]

The same year Damascus affair occurred, in which several Jews were accused of ritual murder of father Thomas, a Capuchin monk from the Island of Sardinia and his Greek servant, Ibrahim Amarah.[14][15]

Famous British politician Sir Moses Montefiore persuaded Sultan Abdulmecid I to issue a decree on November 6, 1840, declaring that blood libel accusations is a slander against Jews and to be prohibited throughout the Ottoman Empire.[14] The decree read:

"We cannot permit the Jewish nation... to be vexed and tormented upon accusations, which have not the least foundation in truth..."

In 1866, with the resumption of cases of blood libel, the Sultan Abdul-Aziz issued a firman, according to which the Jews were declared to be under his protection. This prompted the Orthodox clergy in the Ottoman Empire to abandon the spreading of such accusations.[12]

Another accusation was raised against the Jews in 1875 in Aleppo, but the alleged victim of the murder - the Armenian boy - was soon found alive and healthy.

Most of the conflicts and persecutions of Jews in the Empire was initiated by Christians, and specially by Greeks and Armenians. The motive for persecution was often rooted in a commercial rivalry among the ethnic communities.[16]

However, there were conflicts with Muslims too. For instance, in March 1908 there was a major pogrom in Jaffa. The Arab population participated in it, 13 people were seriously injured, several of them died. The local government later was sacked.[17][18]

In the second half of the XIX century (from 1839 until 1870) Ottoman Empire initiated Tanzimat (state reforms) aimed at aligning the rights among its subjects regardless of ethnic origin and religion. These transformations positively affected the Jews, who finally acquired equal rights.[14] In the beginning of 20th century, the Jewish population in the Empire has reached 400-500 thousand people, in 1887 there were five Jewish members in the Ottoman Parliament.[16][19] The real equality has been achieved by the Jews much later. At the end of the XIX century, in parallel with the massive population of Muslims of Palestine, a law was passed forbidding Jews to settle in Palestine or live in Jerusalem, regardless of whether they were subjects of the Empire or the foreigners.[20][21]

During the Greco-Turkish War of 1919-1921 the Jewish communities in Western Anatolia and Eastern Thrace were persecuted by the Greeks, a Corlu pogrom occurred.[14]

In the Republic of Turkey

In 1923 when the creation of Turkish Republic was proclaimed, at that time there were 200,000 Jews living on its territory, including 100,000 in Istanbul alone.[14] Jews were granted civil equality, however the subsequent pogroms and persecution triggered a mass Jewish emigration, that reduced the Jewish community by 10 times.[19]

In 1920 the opponents of the regime of Kemal Ataturk launched an anti-Semitic campaign, using standard anti-Semitic cliches, as well as other charges, for instance, that the Jews during the Turkish War of Independence ostensibly supported the Greeks and illegally appropriated the abandoned property including the property of Armenians. The campaign did not find a wide support and entirely seized with the stabilization of political regime. In the same period the government forced the Jewish community to abandon the cultural autonomy granted to ethnic minorities in violation of the Lausanne Treaty.[14]

On July 2, 1934 pro-Nazi group headed by James R. Atilhanom (Cevat Rifat Atilhan) organized pogroms against Jews in several cities in eastern Thrace. Authorities decisively stopped the anti-Jewish riots, announced a state of emergency in Eastern Thrace and brought looters to justice.[14] At the same time, some sources mention there was a forcible eviction of Jews from Eastern Thrace, based on the Law on Resettlement »(№ 2510).[22] Under this law, the Interior Minister had the right to relocate national minorities to other parts of the country depending on the level of their "adapted to Turkish culture". In particular, the Jews were expelled by Turkish authorities of the city of Edirne.[23]

In 1939-1942 the Turkey again saw anti-Semitic propaganda spreading that had seen a support from the Nazi Germany, in which the Turkish government did not intervene. In July 1942 the power in Turkey was taken by the right-wing political parties. On 11 November 1942 a law on tax on property (Varlik Vergisi) was ratified by Turkish Parliament. The amount of tax for the Jews and Christians were 5 times greater than for Muslims. As a result about 1,500 Jews were sent to labor camps for nonpayment of heavy taxes. The Act was repealed on 15 March 1944.[14][24][25] However, in the period of 1933 to 1945, Turkey has accepted many Jewish refugees, and Turkish diplomats in Europe helped them to escape the Holocaust.[26]

From 1948 to 1955, approximately 37,000 Turkish Jews emigrated to Israel. One of the reasons for emigration was the pressure from authorities that demanded the use of Turkish language, even at home.[4]

In 1950 Atilhan and other right-wing Turkish politicians were used to publish anti-Semitic article in the media and books, some of which had been later confiscated by the authorities.[27] Attacks on Jews and anti-Semitic incidents were recorded in 1955, 1964 and 1967. Authorities take steps to protect the Jewish population.[14]

In the 1970s - 1980's anti-Semitic sentiments in Turkey have increased. Anti-Jewish thesises were included even in the programs of some political parties.[14]

In modern Turkey

Sources of anti-Semitism

The main ideological sources of anti-Semitism in Turkey are Islamism, left-wing Zionism and nationalism. Turkish intellectuals have always been pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel in their stance. Discussions of Middle East conflict in Turkey often turns into an anti-Semitic propaganda.[28]

Islamist anti-Semitism

A Turkish specialist on inter-ethnic and inter-religious relations,[29] Rifat Bali (born Rifat N. Bali) and other sources said that the Jews who converted to Islam are portrayed by the Turkish Islamists as an alien group and their loyalty is questioned. The Islamists used to call "Shabbethaians" not only the Jews who converted to Islam, but also used it to name liberals, democrats, anti-clericals and socialists.[28][30][31][32] For instance, the Great Eastern Islamic Raiders' Front (Turkish Islami Buyukdogu Akincilar Cephesi), a radical Islamist terrorist organization established in 1984, that advocates the expulsion from the Turkish political life of every Jewish and Christian presence.[33]

According to researchers at the Tel Aviv University, the Islamic Welfare Party was a major source of anti-Semitism in Turkey until 1997. According to the researchers, the leaders, including former Prime Minister Erbakan have shown a very negative attitude towards Israel, and used anti-Semitic expressions. In February 1997, the Turkish Embassy in Washington was protested against the anti-Semitic statements made by Turkish officials in the media, especially in connection with an article published in the Welfare Party's Milli Gazete. The article cited:[34]

"... a snake was created to express its poison, just as a Jew was created to make mischief."

In 1997, the secular parties came to the power in Turkey and the influence of the Welfare Party has decreased significantly.[34]

However, in 2003 when Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a leader of the Justice and Development Party, become Prime Minister of Turkey, it marked the rapid Islamisation of Turkey together with the strengthening of anti-Israeli rhetoric.[1][35] After the Israeli operation Cast lead in the Gaza Strip and with the appointment of new Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in 2009, the same policy has been adapted by the Turkish foreign policy-makers.[36][37]

Several sources point that the conflict over Freedom Flotilla on 31 May 2010 was deliberately instigated by Turkish politicians in order to aggravate the relations with Israel for the sake of domestic and foreign policy gains.[38][39][40]

Anti-Israel and anti-Zionist sentiments among left-wing

Left-wing representatives of the Turkish intellectuals tend to view Israel as an instrument of U.S. expansion in the Middle East. The Middle East conflict viewed through the prism of their support for those "oppressed by imperialism", namely the Palestinians. This tradition has remained since the 1970s, when some of the extreme left-wing Turks joined Palestine Liberation Organization or received military training at their camps, some of them were killed in a confrontation with Israel as members of the organization, others later returned to Turkey.

Turkish-Jewish scholar, Rifat Bali, assessing the Turkish left-wing, say that for them Zionism - is an aggressive ideology that promotes anti-Semitism. In a special issue of left-wing magazine «Birikim» in 2004, it has been asserted that anti-Semitism and Zionism - are two sides of one coin, "Jewish conscience was captured by Israel" and all efforts should be made for the destruction of Israel in its present form.[28]

The nationalist anti-Semitism and neo-Nazism

At the end of March 2005 the attention of Western media towards Turkey has been drawn due to the fact that the book of Adolf Hitler "Mein Kampf" (Kavgam), as reported by the network of D&R, for the first two months of 2005 has taken the 4th place as the best-selling book in Turkey. Its low price (4.5 US dollars) made it affordable and hit for high sales, from 50 to 100 thousand copies of the book were sold. The Turkish authorities withdrawn the book from sales.[41][42][43][44] Political scientist Dogu Ergil (Dogu Ergil) said on that occasion that "Nazism, buried in Europe, is being renaissanced in Turkey."[45]

Columnist of the Istanbul newspaper Hurriyet Hadi Ulengin (Hadi Uluengin) wrote in February 2009 about the "new nationalist" (not religious) anti-Semitism.)[46]

Turkish nationalists subjected to fierce criticism the government's plan to provide to a Israeli company a long-term lease of section of the Turkish land on the border with Syria in return for an expensive operation on de-mining of that section (which, after joining to the Mine Ban Treaty, Turkey was obliged to undertake until 2014). Opposition arguments on the inadmissibility of investment of the "Jewish finance" were commented by Prime Minister Erdogan as "fascist" and as a "phobia towards minorities and foreigners."[47]

In June 2010, during one of the anti-Israel demonstrations, protestors have used Nazi symbols and slogans which glorified Adolf Hitler.[48]

Anti-Semitic propaganda

Anti-Semitism in books and print media

Before the Israeli operation Cast Lead in Gaza in winter 2008-2009, most of the anti-Semitic manifestations in Turkey were in the print media and books. The researchers at Tel Aviv University noted that many young and educated Turks under the influence of this propaganda were forming a negative attitude towards Jews and Israel, although they have never came across with them.[49]

Some sources say that many anti-Semitic sentiments are being published in Islamist publications such as «Vakit» and «Milli Gazete» as well as in ultra «Ortadogu» and «Yenicag». For example, a famous Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk, who is prosecuted for public recognition of the Armenian Genocide in Turkey, has been named by the newspaper «Yenicag» "a lover of Jews", "the best friend of the Jews" and "servant of the Jews." Also «Ortadogu» and «Yenicag» argued that well-known Kurdish leaders Mustafa Barzani and Jalal Talabani are Jews by birth and intend to create a "Greater Israel" under the guise of a Kurdish state. Magazine «Vakit» wrote that the Mossad and Israel are responsible for laying mines in southeastern Turkey, that is killing Turkish soldiers.[50] «Vakit» and «Milli Gazete» published articles that praised Hitler and denied the Holocaust.[31][44][51]

«Vakit» wrote that the Chief rabbi of Turkey must leave the country because he did not condemn the Israeli operation "Cast Lead". The publications in the media compare Israel to Nazi Germany, and the operation in Gaza to the Holocaust, media puts an equal mark between the words "Jew" and "terrorist". Milli Gazete columnist expressed his desire never to see Jews on the streets of Turkish cities.[31][52]

In Turkey, the anti-Semitic books are published and freely distributed such as "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion", "International Jewry" by Henry Ford and many others, including Turkish authors, who argue in their books that Jews and Israel want to seize power all over the world.[31][53] [54]

Anti-Semitism in the film and television

In 2006, the film "Valley of the Wolves" episode "Iraq" was screened in Turkey. Many critics regarded it as anti-American and anti-Semitic.[55][56][57] The latter charge is based on the fact that the film has a scene where a Jewish doctor, an employee in the U.S. Army, trades bodies of prisoners of the of Abu Ghraib detention centre.[56][58]

Footage from the Turkish TV show "Ayrilik" ("Farewell") tells a story of love with operation Cast Lead in the background. The footage prompted the Israeli Foreign Ministry in October 2009 to summon the charge d'affaires of Turkey in Israel, D. Ozen[59] to give explanations. Discontents were made as to the scene where the actors depicting Israeli soldiers shoot Palestinian "soldiers" and kill Palestinian girl, as well as to a number of other scenes. The officials of the Israeli Foreign Ministry stated that "the scene, does not have even a remote connection to the reality and depicts the Israeli army as the murderers of innocent children."[1] In Israel, note that this is not a private initiative, since the series was shown on state channel.[60]

In January 2010, after new TV series "Valley of the Wolves: Ambush" was aired in Turkey, the Turkish ambassador to Israel Oguz Chellikol was summoned to the Foreign Ministry of Israel for explanations. The Israel dissatisfaction was a scene where the agents of the Mossad, as performed by the Turkish actors, kidnapped Turkish children and took the Turkish ambassador and his family as hostages.[58][61][62] The Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Israel, Danny Ayalon, in a conversation with the Turkish ambassador expressed his opinion that "the scene, similar to the one shown in the series, make life of Jews in Turkey unsafe."[63][64] At that meeting, Ayalon defiantly violated several rules of [[Protocol (diplomacy) |diplomatic etiquette]], that eventually led to diplomatic scandal.[65][66][67] Oguz Chellikol himself condemned the resumption of the said Turkish TV show series.[68]

Attacks on Jews also heard on Turkish television.[44][50] Representatives of the Jewish community in Turkey in early 2009, expressed concern about the anti-Semitic statements that were expressed in a number of television programs.[69]

Flyers, posters and vandalism

Anti-Jewish incidents after January 2009:[52]

The banners at the press conference of the anti-Israeli Federation Association of Culture Osman Gazi in Eskisehir read: "Dogs allowed, for Jews and Armenians the entrance is closed".[70] In Istanbul the leaflets were posted calling "not to buy at Jewish stores and not serve Jews."[71]

Some billboards in Istanbul had the following text: "You can not be the son of Moses" and "Not in your book", with quotations from the Torah condemning the killing and with pictures of bloody children's footwear.[31] In Izmir and Istanbul some synagogues have been desecrated by insulting and threatening graffiti.[72][73] The lists with names of famous Jewish physicians were distributed with the call to kill them in retaliation for an operation in Gaza.[52] Lists was compiled and distributed with names of Jewish companies, both local and international to boycott.[52] In June 2010 several Turkish shops put signs reading "We do not accept dogs and Israelis".[74]

Violence against Jews


Neve Shalom Synagogue is a main synagogue in Istanbul. Constructed in 1951 in the Galata district of Istanbul, Turkey.

In the late 20th - early 21st centuries in Turkey, there were three anti-Jewish terrorist attacks. In all three cases, the militants attacked the main synagogue of Istanbul, Neve Shalom.[75][76]

On 6 September 1986 a terrorist from the Palestinian organization of Abu Nidal shot with a machine gun visitors at Istanbul synagogue Neve Shalom during Sabbath prayers. 22 Jews were killed and 6 were injured.[75][77][78]

On 1 March 1992 the Lebanese terrorist organization Hezbollah threw a hand grenade into the synagogue Neve Shalom. There were no fatalities, by one passer-by was wounded.

On 15 November 2003, suicide bombers using cars exploded near two synagogues in Istanbul in which 25 people were killed and 300 were wounded.[79][80] Islamists have justified their actions by stating that there were "Israeli agents working" in the synagogues. Responsibility for the attacks were claimed by Al-Qaeda and Turkish Islamist organization, the Great Eastern Islamic Raiders' Front. For these attackes the Turkish courts had convicted 48 people who were linked to Al-Qaeda.[81][82][83]

On 21 August 2003, Joseph Yahya, a 35-year-old dentist from Istanbul, was found dead in his clinic. The murderer was arrested in March 2004 and admitted that he killed Yahya out of anti-Semitic motives.[84]

On 6 January 2009 a basketball match at the European Cup between Israeli FC Bnei Hasharon and Turkish Turk Telecom was abrupted by Turkish fans. The fans chanted insulting slogans and tried to throw objects at hand at Israeli athletes. Police defended the Israelis from the attack.[85][86]

Also in January 2009 an attack on Jewish soldier in the Turkish army was reported. The assailant was immediately punished by the commander of the military base. In the same period a number of Jewish students suffered a verbal abuse and physical attacks.[52]

In June 2010, Islamists threatened with violence against Turkish Jews in connection with the Turkish-Israeli conflict over the "Freedom Flotilla".[87]

Opposition to Anti-Semitism

Direct anti-Semitic actions in Turkey are persecuted by the government. In 2009, the store owner, who posted on its door a banner reading "Entrance for Jews and Armenians Forbiden!" was sentenced to five months in prison.[88] However, the report of the World Jewish Congress, noted that during the operation in Gaza, the Turkish justice system did not pursue anti-Semitic actions of participants and dis not interfere with anti-Semitic incitement.[52]

In October 2004, the socialist Turkish magazine Birikim published a statement entitled "No tolerance for anti-Semitism!" It was signed by 113 well-known Turkish Muslim and non-Muslim intellectuals.[89]

A particularly hostile attitude towards Israel and Jews was reported during Israeli military operation Cast Lead, the Turkish police had to take measures to protect Jewish institutions in Turkey.[52] Many liberal journalists in the newspaper Hurriyet, Milliyet and Vatan published weighted statements, noting that criticism of Israeli policies should not go into hostility towards the Jews.[31] Protection of Jewish institutions in Turkey was reinforced in June 2010 after the incident with the "Freedom Flotilla". Interior Minister Besir Atalay said that the authorities will not allow that Turkish Jews suffer from anti-Israel speeches.[90][91]

Addressing criticism of Israel in connection with the operation in Gaza, Prime Minister Erdogan said at the same time that "anti-Semitism is a crime against humanity".[69][92] On 27 January 2010 at the International Holocaust Remembrance Day Turkish Foreign Ministry announced that Turkey would continue its policy aimed against anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobia and discrimination.[93]

The mood in Turkish society

According to opinion polls conducted in 2007-2009, the Turkish society has a high level of xenophobia. 64% of Turks do not want to see Jews as their neighbors, 76% has a negative attutude towards Jews, and only 7% is positive.[28]

A reviewer of the left-liberal Turkish daily Radikal, Murat Arman, in 2005 wrote that the situation in Turkey reminds him of 1930 in Germany, where the media often discussed the dominance of Jews in the economy, the assumption about their clandestine activities directed against Germany, and a harmful effect on German society. He believes that this is an extremely dangerous trend, and that such a massive agitation against non-Muslims in Turkey has not been recorded for many years.[44]

In January 2010, Israeli Haaretz published a report prepared by the International Centre for Political Studies at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel, which argued that anti-Israeli statements by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan contributed to the growth of anti-Semitism in Turkish society.[94][95]

Turkish Jews are concerned about anti-Semitic sentiments in Turkey, for example, some private shops posted tablets with the inscription "Jews are not allowed".[96] A similar concern is rasied also by American Jewish organizations.[52][55][71][97]

Some experts believe that the growth of anti-Semitism in Turkey is not taking place,[98] but most afree that a number of hazards exist, in particular, the emergence of anti-Semitic posters and attempts to conduct anti-Semitic propaganda in the Turkish schools.[3][19][31][36][52][71][99] IDC Professor Barry Rubin believes that an open advocacy of anti-Semitism in Turkey "is far superior to anything that happens in Europe."[73]

After the raid of Israel on "Freedom Flotilla" off the coast of Gaza, on 31 May 2010, which resulted in the death of 9 Turkish citizens, the Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan said that "Israel must put an end to speculation on Semitism around the world",[100] and Islamist(generally Arab people in Turkey) demonstrators on the anti-Israeli rallies have used anti-Semitic slogans, including frase "Death to the Jews".[101][102]

The head of the Jewish community in Turkey Silvio Ovadia said that "any anti-Israeli statements can easily turn into a condemnation of Jews in general. Whenever a war breaks out in the Middle East, the anti-Semitism grows throughout the world. He believes that many people are not able to distinguish between Israelis and Jews and transfer the criticism of Israeli policies onto the Turkish citizens of Jewish origin.[8] Rifat Bali, believes that any attempt to resist the growth of anti-Semitic sentiments would lead to the deterioration of the situation, Turkish Jews must either leave, or be prepared to live in a massive anti-Semitic environment.[28]

See also

  • History of the Jews in Turkey
  • Israel–Turkey relations


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