Antisemitism is running rampant in Turkey
By Uzay Bulut
Kurdish-controlled city of Afrin in northern Syria fell to Turkey on March 18,
many Turkish Twitter users celebrated it, using antisemitic
epithets that referred to the Kurdish PKK fighters there as
“servants of Jews”, “bastards of Jews,” “underbred Armenians and Jews” and
“Crypto-Jews, -Armenians and -Pontian Greeks,” among others.
One asserted that “Striking hospitals is the work of Americans and
Jews”, while another declared: “Allah willing, Hans’, Georges, and Jewish and
Armenian dogs will be cleansed from the area.”
These antisemitic outbursts are not only peculiar to social media
users in Turkey. The rise in antisemitic expressions in the country has a
plethora of sources,
including the president,
several MPs, journalists, and members of political organizations, among others.
And these public figures set a terrible example to average Turks, many of whom
are already inclined to have Jew-hating sentiments due to the violent, antisemitic
teachings in Islamic theology.
A Turkish news website that reports on Jewish-related issues, Avlaremoz, conducted an online
survey in which readers were asked to choose “the most antisemitic incidents of
Here are the results:
against Istanbul’s Neve Şalom Synagogue
Dozens of Turkish nationalists attacked the
Neve Şalom Synagogue in Istanbul on July 20 of last year after Israel
temporarily implemented new security checks following the murder of two Druze
border guards by Palestinian gunmen on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The
demonstrators threw rocks at the synagogue, kicked its doors and tried to break
in. Kürşat Mican, the head of the Istanbul branch of the Islamist nationalist
Alperen movement, threatened the worshippers at the synagogue as well as
Israel: “One night we could place a siege on all of your places of worship and
no one will be able to worship there,” he said.
2. Turkish journalist mocking Holocaust victims on
When the Turkish and Ukrainian governments agreed in
February of last year to allow their citizens to travel to each other’s
countries without passports, the columnist, Aykut Işıklar, posted on
Twitter a photo of Holocaust victims in a concentration camp. He mockingly wrote:
“The first Turkish tourist convoy after Ukraine removed visas for Turkey
has set off. They will warm up in the touristy bakery shops on the roadsides.”
drama series inciting antisemitism through unreal events and Jewish characters
The Turkish drama series “Payitaht: Abdülhamid” (roughly,
“Sultan Abdulhamid”) on the state-owned TRT 1 television
channel depicts Jews as murderous and conspiratorial people who constantly
engage in scheming, deception and cruelty. For further details, please read the report by
the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).
statements against Jews on Twitter following the U.S. decision regarding
Following U.S. President Donald Trump’s December 6 recognition
of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, many radical Turks expressed
a seething Jew-hatred on Twitter. One asked “Where
will we bury millions of Jewish bodies?” while another asserted: “For
Jerusalem to belong to Muslims, not a single Jew should be left alive in
Palestinian lands.” Some Twitter users praised Hitler for killing Jews, while
others condemned him for not doing a sufficient job.
There were also those who suggested persecuting Turkish Jews.
Nazi salute interrupting a football match between Turkish and Austrian teams
A group of Hannover 96 football fans in the town of Velden in
Austria shouted “Heil
Hitler” while making the Nazi salute to the football players on the Turkish
team Kayserispor on July 27.
calling Gülen movement “a Jewish organization”
In an apparent attempt to further demonize the Fethullah Gülen
movement (FETÖ), which the Turkish government accuses of being behind the 2016
failed coup attempt, Hüsnü Aldemir, chief prosecutor in the city of
Çankırı, said at
meeting on June 15 that “FETÖ is very intricate and is totally
a Jewish organization. Everything they do is planned. That is why we’re going
over our investigations with a fine-tooth comb.”
MP spreading antisemitic misinformation about Jewish burial customs
Lütfü Türkkan, a former MP of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP)
and a member of the executive board of the recently established Good Party,
posted an untruthful tweet on November 8, promoting the false antisemitic
prejudice that Jews are rapacious and self-obsessed. He wrote: “Hebrews put a
piece of soil on the eyes of the dead before burying them. It means ‘let this
soil finally suffice to financially satisfy you.’”
Avlaremoz criticized the former MP
for spreading misinformation and clarified the
Jewish custom: “What we do is we put a handful of soil on the face of the dead
to symbolize the fact that we come from the soil and go back to the soil.”
banner targeting the referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan
Following the Kurdistan Regional Government’s independence
referendum on September 25 in Iraq, a banner was
hung in the Beşiktaş neighborhood of Istanbul. It read: “Jewish [Masoud]
Barzani, we know who you are. You aim to establish greater Israel, but not
Kurdistan. We’ll come to you suddenly one night.”
9. MP of the ruling
party blaming a Jewish bank for the assassination of Kennedy
Burhan Kuzu, an MP of the ruling Justice and Development Party
(AKP), associated the assassination of U.S. president John F. Kennedy with a
Jewish bank he did not name. On November 12, he wrote on
“Kennedy took the mandate for printing the U.S.
dollar from the Jewish bank and gave it to the state’s central bank and got
killed; the killer remains unidentified. The first act by Johnson, who replaced
him, was to give the mandate for printing the dollar back to the Jewish
bank. The fights for the throne in Saudi Arabia can end like this.”
president of the main opposition party targeting the “Jewish lobby”
Özgür Özel, deputy president of the Republican People’s Party
(CHP), accused Turkish
PM Binali Yıldırım of going to the United States to “ask for the support of the
Jewish lobby to promote the wealth fund” in November of last year.
By negatively using the phrase “the Jewish lobby,” Özel attempted
to create the false perception that “Jews are not people whose help could be
sought” while also promoting, as did some of those cited above, the
medieval antisemitic canard that “Jews rule the world”.
As the many examples in the survey once again makes clear,
Jew-haters in Turkey, a country that fancies itself as a candidate for EU, are
proudly revealing themselves through their words and deeds. And Turkey’s large
number of military and economic agreements with Israel does not seem to reduce
the level of antisemitism in Turkey.
The problem is clear. The question is what the government and
other politicians are doing about it.
In normal countries, when the government fails to bring the
perpetrators of evil to account, opposition parties are expected to call
out and condemn the perpetrators and those who enable them. But in Turkey, not
only the ruling AKP party, but also the major Turkish opposition parties,
commonly engage in antisemitism. And these antisemites are warmly tolerated by
their fellow party members.
Even when hatred of the Jews and other non-Muslims is commanded by
the scriptures of the dominant religion of a country, responsible leaders and
other officials are expected to educate their citizens, teaching them –
particularly through the curricula at schools – to reject hatred and embrace
some values such as dignity and humanity.
But how is murderous Jew-hatred to be tackled and reduced now
that making antisemitic statements in public – and with impunity
– has become a norm in Turkey?
Uzay Bulut is a
Turkish journalist and political analyst formerly based in Ankara. She now
lives in the United States.