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Under Turkish Rule, Part II By: Andrew G. Bostom
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, August 03, 2007


Frontpagemag.com presents the conclusion of a two-part series.  To return to part one, click here.

Jews in Modern (Republican) Turkey

Kemal Atatürk (1881-1938) forged the modern Turkish nation and its political institutions in the disastrous aftermath of World War I, and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Endeavoring to realize his vision of a modern secular state, and its new Turkish citizenry, Atatürk, 117

 

…closed religious schools, undermined the dervish orders, Latinized the alphabet to isolate Turks from their rich Ottoman heritage, and invented a new history and “new” language for the new Turkish citizen. Alongside the hat law (outlawing the fez and compelling the wearing of Western hats), legislation stipulated the Turkification of names, spoken language, and education of the ostensibly new citizen.

 

But the “Turkification” process—an enforced homogeneity—has helped render Turkey incapable of upholding one of the cardinal provisions of the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne. This treaty re-established Turkish sovereignty over almost all the territory comprising the contemporary Turkish Republic, and abolished the so-called “capitulations” which allowed European powers to intervene on behalf of non-Muslim (almost exclusively Christian) religious minorities in the former Ottoman Empire. 118  In return, Turkey was required to guarantee minority (and overall citizens’) rights consistent with modern, progressive standards. 119         

 

Turkification combined European models of state and nationalism, Ziya Gökalp’s theories of inherent racial-cultural qualities, 120 and other components, into a rather bizarre amalgam of Turcocentric historical and linguistic doctrines. Vryonis provides this apt characterization: 121

 

The Türk Tarih Tezi [Turkish Historical Thesis] thus appropriated the creation of all civilizations (it was taken by other Turkish scholars, in their application, as far as Africa, western Europe, North and South America), for the civilizational genius of the Turks. The key to the whole theory is twofold: the assumption that all brachycephalic or alpine types were and are Turks, and that only brachycephalic types had/have the genius for creation of civilizations. The grotesqueness of the theory is amazing to historian and scholar. Nevertheless, we must remember that it was pretty much a state doctrine for the period of the 1930s when Atatürk was, in effect, the state. Second, it was disseminated through the Turkish educational institutions that were inculcating literacy in a population for the first time on a mass scale, and among which the overwhelming preponderance was illiterate…Thus cultural and political creativity are inherent in the Turkish genius alone. This is a Turkification of de Gobineau’s theory of the racial, and therefore civilizational, superiority of the Aryans…The doctrine is an almost pure form of racism.

 

The Güneş Dil Teorisi [the Sun Theory of Language]…emphasized the antiquity of the Turkish language and made the bold assertion that it was the source for other languages…This theory made of such other languages as Sumerian, Hittiite, Arabic, Persian, Latin, and French, Turkish languages. The Güneş Dil Teorisi had a double aspect: linguistic and historical, and the linguistic would have been meaningless to Atatürk and his collaborators without the historical dimension. They were not interested primarily in the linguistic merits of the theory, whatever it might be argued they were, but in what they felt were the historical implications for the Turkish people. Thus, the Güneş Dil Teorisi must be understood with the Türk Tarih Tezi.

 

Apologetic rationalizations for these doctrines have even appeared in the West. For example, Bernard Lewis justified such racially-based distortions of Turkish and world history on two grounds: the need to develop a national Turkish identity to combat pan-Turanism, a popular Turcocentric imperialistic movement 122 which sought the creation of a new Empire uniting Turkish and Tatar peoples from the Aegean Sea to the Far East; and, to bolster the spirits of the Turks, whose image had been tarnished so scandalously (according to Lewis) in Western (European) writings. Lewis went so far as to draw a moral equivalence between the negative portrayal of Jews and Turks in Western literature, ignoring the rather profound difference between demonizing a small, powerless minority, i.e., Jews, on purely theological and racial grounds, and expressing fear and loathing of the denizens of a large, invading foreign civilization whose self-proclaimed holy warriors (ghazis) had brutally conquered, enslaved, colonized, and ruled the Balkans and much of Eastern Europe, for half a millennium. 123

 

It would be a grave error to deride all this as the whim of an autocrat. Atatürk was too great a man to organize an elaborate campaign of this sort out of mere caprice, or out of simple desire for national self-glorification. One of the reasons for the campaign was the need to provide some comfort for Turkish national self-respect, which had been sadly undermined during the last century or two. First, there was the demoralizing effect of a long period of almost uninterrupted defeat and withdrawal by the Imperial Ottoman forces. Then there was the inevitable reaction to Western prejudice. It is difficult not to sympathize with the frustration of the young Turk, eager for enlightenment, who applied himself to the study of Western languages, to find that in most of them his name is an insult. In the English dictionaory the Turk shares with the Jew (and the Welshman) the distinction of having given his name to a term of abuse.

 

The legacy of Ottoman dhimmitude—including the convulsive jihad violence directed at non-Muslim minorities during the final Young Turk regime—was ingrained in the bigoted ideology of Kemalist nationalism. David Brown describes how these attitudes negated the principles embodied by the minority protection clauses in the Lausanne Treaty. 124

 

During the Lausanne Peace negotiations (1922-23), the Turkish delegation had wholeheartedly subscribed to the freedom of non-Muslims in Turkey to maintain their distinct religions and cultures. These rights were enshrined in the minority clauses of the Treaty of Lausanne (articles 37-44). The principle of religious and ethnic toleration, however, went counter to the drive for Turkification and secularization so eagerly pursued by the Governments of Kemal Atatürk and later on by his successor Ismet Inönü. The urge of Turkish nationalism and the cultural and institutional metamorphosis of the Turkish majority left little room for the religious, ethnic, and linguistic self-assertion of the non-Muslims in Turkey. This was also partly the outcome of Ottoman/Kemalist ideology which drew a clear line between Muslim Turks and the non-Muslim minorities.

           

Thus on October 19, 1923, less than three months after the signing of the Lausanne Treaty (July 24, 1923), Fevzi Bey, the Turkish minister of public works, declared during a press conference,124a

 

According to the arrangements concluded with the foreign companies, the latter must engage Turkish employees only. This does not mean that they can employ all subjects of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey indiscriminately. They must employ Muslim Turks only. If the foreign companies do not shortly dismiss their Greek, Armenian, and Jewish servants, I shall be compelled to cancel the privileges under which they are authorized to function in Turkey. This decision is irrevocable.

 

But that decision clearly contradicted article 39 of the Lausanne treaty which guaranteed equal treatment and opportunities for non-Muslim minorities. Neville Henderson, who served as a British High Commissioner in Istanbul, noted in an October 23, 1923 memorandum, 125

 

…the persistent unofficial pressure brought to bear on foreign companies and institutions to employ Muslims at the expense of non-Muslim Turkish nationals is in flagrant contradiction with the minority clauses of the Lausanne Treaty.

 

Formal anti-Greek legislation passed by the Turkish parliament beginning in 1932 (law # 2007), and subsequently, observes Vryonis, 126

 

…barred entry to a large number of professions and trades to the so-called établis (“established ones” or “settlers,” a euphemism for Greek citizens of Istanbul who were allowed to remain in the city following the treaty of Lausanne in 1923). A series of some thirty-one laws during the period between the two world wars severely crippled and finally, paralyzed the community as a result of these efforts to reduce its political, legal, economic, and cultural presence. The laws against the établis, for example, forbade them from some thirty trades, including those of tailor, itinerant merchant, photographer, carpenter, and doorman, as well as from professions of more “elevated” social and economic status such as medicine, law, insurance, and real estate. Some 10,000 Greek établis were thus deprived of their livelihoods and forced to abandon their homes and businesses in Istanbul and emigrate, penniless, to Greece (at the expense of the Greek state).

 

During the summer of 1934 a paroxysm of antisemitic violence took place within this general atmosphere of Turkish Muslim xenophobia. Hatіce Bayraktar summarizes the events which ravaged the Jewish community of Eastern Thrace: 127

 

The persecutions, euphemistically referred to as the “Thracian events” (Trakya Olaylari), started at the end of June 1934 in the district of Çanakkale, a region in northwestern Asia Minor that also included the Gallipoli peninsula and the Dardanelles.[ i.e., in the Çanakkale Province on the southern (Asiatic) coast of the Dardanelles (or Hellespont). Çanakkale, is also a town and seaport in Turkey. Çanakkale Province is the second province (the first one is Istanbul) in Turkey that has lands on two different continents (Europe and Asia)] Menacing letters were received, Jews were physically beaten and their shops were boycotted. The wave of antisemitic attacks rapidly spread northward and, within a couple of days, almost all of Turkish Thrace was in an uproar. In the small town of Kriklareli, located close to the Bulgarian frontier, that attacks escalated into a pogrom: during the night of July 3—4, the homes of Jewish inhabitants were raided and their properties looted. Thousands of panic-stricken Jews fled to Istanbul. An official statement spoke of 3000 refugess, comprising about a quarter of the 13,000 Jews in Eastern Thrace and the adjacent Çanakkale district, though the real number may have been even higher. After a delay of several days the Turkish government finally reacted and issued orders to the local authorities to quell the riots and sent military units to the sites of unrest.

 

According to Bayraktar, the Turkish Inspector General of Thrace, Ibrahim Tali Öngören—known as a prominent “Ittihadist” 128 during World War I, who had helped organize terrorist squadrons in eastern Anatolia, comprised of “brigands” 129—played a pivotal role in orchestrating the 1934 pogrom. Tali composed a 90-page report dated June 16, 1934 based on his extensive tour of Thracian towns and villages between May 6 and June 7 of that year. Bayraktar maintains that Tali’s report includes repeated references to the Jewish communities he claims to have encountered, casting them in the most negative light. 130

 

Tali explained that Thracian Jewry ruled over the economy of the province, either directly or indirectly by extorting funds from local landowners by means of loans, credit or partnerships. In the section entitled “The Jewish Problem in Thrace”, Tali complained about the huge economic losses caused by corrupt officials acting on behalf of Jews.

 

Tali’s descriptions are surely exaggerated and, moreover, conform to the most common antisemitic stereotypes. He did not hesitate to attribute negative behaviors and characteristics to the Jews, such as betrayal, hiding one’s real intentions, worshipping gold, being obtrusive, hungry for power, and last but not least, disloyal to Turkey…

 

Tali also asserted (quoting directly from his report): 131

 

In Thrace it is absolutely necessary and of crucial importance for Turkish life, the Turkish economy, Turkish security, the Turkish regime and the revolution to abolish Jewry, which comprises a hidden danger for us and wants to lay the groundwork for communism in our country, in collaboration with labor organizations, in the most radical manner.

 

Bayraktar proposes that these three major factors contributed to the pogrom: 132 concerns about a possible Italian attack, via Thrace or the Dardanelles, which justified (forced) evacuation of “non-Turkish elements” from strategically-sensitive zones; negative stereotypes of Jews held by Turkish Muslims in Thrace (from both traditional Islamic sources, and “folklore” 133); and Tali’s own virulent antisemitism. She concludes that Tali may simply have carried out Turkish governmental policy on an accelerated time scale.

 

There can be no doubt that Tali was determined to root out the local “Jewish problem”, and the sooner the better. Since he was the highest-ranking representative of the Turkish government in Thrace, equipped with wide-ranging powers over military and civilian forces and experienced in organizing terrorist bands, one is minded to conclude that he himself initiated the expulsion of Jewish inhabitants. This theory fits well with the circumstances already mentioned, such as the fact that rumors about the government’s intention to get rid of the Jews only started circulating in mid-June, after Tali’s return to Edirne, and that the police, gendarmes and the military ignored criminal acts perpetrated in front of their eyes throughout the whole province and only intervened when orders to do so arrived from the government in Ankara…It is very likely that Tali, being a leading member of the CHF [Cumhuriyet Halk Firkasi, People’s Republican Party], at that time the ruling, and sole, political party in Turkey] himself, used local party functionaries to carry out his plans by applying unofficial pressure. Accordingly, both the Greek ambassador and the German embassy attributed the pogrom to the CHF. Furthermore, the Greek consul in Edirne reported a direct link between the incidents and the local People’s House, one of hundreds of similar institutions (Halk Evleri) throughout Turkey that were used by the CHF for cultural propaganda.

 

Given its claims of equality for all Turkish citizens—granted, in any case, by the Turkish constitution—and its willingness to punish severely those responsible for the violence, one cannot help wondering why the Turkish government did not dismiss Tali immediately. Irrespective of his role in the pogrom, how could a man like Tali, after having given written evidence of attitudes that clearly contradicted the official line, be left in a powerful position? Surprisingly—or perhaps not—Tali remained in office at least until the beginning of 1935 when he was replaced by a military officer, General Kazim Dirik…It is not only that Tali was not dismissed but also that the return of the Jewish refugees was not really fully supported by the government that strongly argue for the theory that Tali had actually done no more than what the Turkish government expected of him, namely, the removal of non-Turkish elements, regarded as potentially dangerous, from the regions bordering Turkey’s European neighbors and also from the Straits; in other words, from those regions seen to be most sensitive from a strategic point of view.

 

…it must have been decided at some point to use unofficial means to get rid of unwanted non-Muslim elements. In Thrace the majority of these were Jews; hence, the expulsion was almost bound to take on the character of an antisemitic pogrom. Because of his own dislike of Jews, Tali almost certainly would have approved of this plan. Traditional and negative stereotypes of Jews held by Muslim Turks in Thrace may also have been contributing factors…Probably at some point, the process of applying unofficial pressure on the Jews, intended to be a slow one, ran out of control and took the form of widespread antisemitic violence. The Turkish government then felt obliged to deny its actual intentions, and to stop the persecutions accordingly.

 

Frank Weber has summarized Turkey’s unenviable record of treatment of its small Jewish minority during the years leading up to World War II, following the 1934 pogrom against Thracian Jewry: 134

 

Ataturk… would not permit the immigration into Turkey of central European Jews whose futures were endangered by the rising tide of Hitler’s own antisemitism. In some cases, his government contemplated deporting Jews back to central Europe, even though they had been domiciled in Turkey for years. The Turks never carried out these expulsions, but Inonu, when he came to power, absolutely refused to alter Ataturk’s restrictions on Jewish immigration. Even when Chaim Weizmann, the Zionist leader, promised that each Jewish immigrant would bring a capital of three thousand pounds sterling, the new president would not change his mind. Instead, he allowed the Turkish press to circulate wild rumors about the Jews, who were accused, among other things, of selling olive oil adulterated with machine oil to simple Turkish consumers. Inonu cited Hitler’s antisemitism in support of his own, and announced that one of the goals of his new government would be the elimination of the Jewish middlemen from the Turkish economy

 

Turkey’s World War II flirtation with Nazi Germany included the signing of a Turco-German “friendship and non-aggression pact” on June 18, 1941. 135 At about the same time, the Turkish government began conscripting all Christian and Jewish males between the ages of 18 and 45 into heavy labor battalions (amele tabulart). Alexandris notes the hardships incurred, and fears aroused among the minority communities by those discriminatory mobilizations, which were disbanded for unclear reasons by mid-1942: 136

 

…these men were sent to special camps in Anatolia each containing about 5000 men. There, the men were instructed to engage themselves in non-combative capacities such as road building. The concentration of all non-Muslim males in such camps aroused great apprehension in minority circles in Istanbul. Their fears were intensified when reports of harsh conditions and high mortality rate reputed to have prevailed in the camps reached Istanbul. On December 8, 1941, however, those men between ages 38 and 45 were allowed to return to their homes. The rest spent another six months before they were eventually released. It is reasonable to assume that the whole operation was a device engineered to get the minorities out of the strategically sensitive area of Istanbul and the Straits. There is also some evidence to suggest that the Turkish government suspected a number of non-Muslims, almost all Armenians, to be involved in “fifth column” activities against Turkey.

 

Bernard Wasserstein recounted the horrible fate of 767 Jewish refugees from Romania escaping the Holocaust aboard The Struma—a rotting, 75 year-old yacht whose desperate human cargo was denied refuge by Turkey, when the vessel stalled at Istanbul: 137

 

It was a rough night in the Black Sea on February 24, 1942. Ten kilometers or so from the shore, a 75 year-old, 240-ton converted yacht, carrying 767 Jewish refugees from Romania, exploded, probably after being hit by a torpedo, fired in error by a Soviet submarine. The vessel sank with the loss of all except one of the passengers. The Struma had left Constanza [Romania] on December 12, 1941, bound for Palestine. But on arrival at Istanbul three days later, her engine broke down and she was unable to proceed. While engineers tried unsuccessfully to restore the ship to seaworthiness, the Turkish and British governments wrangled about the onward passage of the refugees. The Turks refused to allow them to land unless they had guarantees of admission to some other country. The British refused to grant them certificates to enter Palestine. The failure of the two governments to agree culminated in the boat being towed out to sea and abandoned to the waves…The truth, in this instance was at least as discreditable to the Turks, who were in fact, informed of the British concession [whereby teenage children aboard the ship would, after all, be allowed to enter Palestine], but adamantly refused to allow the children to travel overland across Turkey to Palestine. No ship was available to take them, and in the end they drowned with their families when the Struma foundered…the only force used in the episode was that applied by between one and two hundred Turkish policemen who overpowered resistance from the debilitated refugees and supervised the towing of the rotten, still engine-less hulk out beyond territorial waters. They then abandoned the passengers to near-certain death.

 

Wasserstein’s broader discussion of Turkey’s wartime policies towards Jews concludes “…there is little in the Turkish record to boast about.”, and suggests the “nadir” was reached with the enactment (November, 1942) of the capital tax—a brutally discriminatory levy which targeted Jews, Dönmes, and the Christian minorities (Greeks and Armenians) in Turkey. 138

 

The government of Şükrü Saraçoğlu on November 12, 1942 passed legislation (Law # 4305) known as the varlik vergisi, or capital tax. 139 On January 12, 1943 an additional regulation (Regulation # 21/19288) 140 was passed which decreed forced labor for non-payment of the varlik vergisi. Our fundamental source for the conception and implementation of this discriminatory legislation is the memoir of Faik Ökte,141 who, serving as Istanbul's defterdar (director of finances), became the primary administrator of the capital tax. Ökte’s memoir is quite candid about the guiding principle of this legislation—conceived initially as “general directions” from Saraçoğlu and the ruling CHF party [Cumhuriyet Halk Firkasi, People’s Republican Party] elites: the taxation was to be applied in an entirely discriminatory and punitive manner against the non-Muslim minorities.

 

Despite admittedly lacking the data to arrive at accurate assessments, Ökte and his colleagues proceeded based on “rough estimates…of taxable wealth.” 142 Their most concerted efforts—consistent with the spirit and philosophy of the varlik vergisi—were directed at segregating the pool of taxpayers along confessional lines. Thus Ökte's thinking and actions—even more so those of his superiors—reflect the persistent legacy of the system of Ottoman dhimmitude, energetically reinforced by a modern nationalistic bias, linked, indelibly to its historical past. Excerpts from Ökte's memoir reveal the development of his taxation assessment and collection scheme, which was felt to be too accommodating by the Ankara regime. Ankara's subsequent decision to levy discriminatory taxes on the descendants of the late 17th century Sabbatian Jewish converts to Islam (i.e., the Dönmes)—an action Bernard Lewis characterizes as “the misbegotten offspring of German racialism on Ottoman fanaticism” 143—elicited Ökte's harshest criticism. 144

 

I had asked every single local board for lists of all those liable to wealth tax stressing that there should separate lists for the Muslim Turks and the non-Muslim Greeks, Armenians, and Jews [emphasis added]…The assessment was especially careful to separate the Turkish from the Greek, Armenian, and Jewish taxpayers.

 

While the finance inspectors were busy classifying the tax lists forwarded by the local assessment boards, [Şevket] Adalan [Ökte's colleague] and I searched for a formula to tax those who had hitherto been liable to profits tax and who constituted 80% of the entire taxable population. We finally agreed to divide them into two categories—the Muslim Turks and the non-Muslim Greeks, Armenians, and Jews. Relying on Article 34 of the Profits Tax Law No. 2395, we managed, while remaining within the letter of the law, to impose a token tax on Muslims and [to] tax minorities at a rate two or three times over that of their Turkish co-citizens. [emphasis added]

 

But Ankara thought differently. When Şevket Adalan took the tax assessment lists for Istanbul to the capital, the Turkish government, while approving our proposed system of classification (Muslims/non-Muslims) set new tax rates for the Greeks, Armenians, and Jews. Instead of being two or three times more, as we suggested, non-Muslim taxes were to be five to ten times the amounts levied on Muslim Turks with corresponding estimated wealth [emphasis added]…What appeared so glaring in the new assessment lists was the difference between the tax rates imposed on Muslim Turks on the one hand and the Greek, Armenian, and Jewish minorities on the other. But the greatest surprise that Adalan brought from Ankara was the order to include private salary earners and peddlers in the Capital Tax. Both my colleagues and I [had] envisaged the Varlik tax as a tax on capital…Such a tax could not have been collected from salary earners who were themselves victims of the inflationary conditions and had already witnessed a dramatic drop in their standard of living. According to instructions from Ankara, we had the power to exempt sections of the salary-earning group from the tax. As a result Adalan and I agreed to exempt all the Muslim Turkish salary earners and concentrate solely on the non-Muslims. Our suggestion met with the approval of Ankara. [emphasis added]

 

…on the verbal instructions of Ankara, a new class of taxpayers, the Dönme class (D) (of Jewish converts to Islam) was instituted, which was taxed at rates double those for Muslims (M). After a thorough examination of the available data some Dönme Turks were taken out of the lists and placed in the class of extraordinary taxpayers. At a stroke our system began to be permeated by Hitler’s hysterical racist attitudes.

 

The manner of taxing the Dönmes, and also the foreign residents, further emphasize the anti-Jewish and anti-Greek animus of the varlik vergisi. 145 Discriminatory taxation of foreign residents based upon their religious affiliation was barred by pre-existing legislation. Moreover, consulates and embassies could intervene (albeit with limited success) on behalf of their citizens. These consular interventions were precluded for non-Turkish Jews, and Greeks, who were subjected to the full range of discriminatory taxes, especially as Greece was then under Axis occupation. 146 Indeed, the varlik vergisi was met with “expressions of fatherly approval” from Nazi Germany. 147 Alexandris highlights the influence of Nazi racist ideology on a Turkish regime desirous of “currying favor” with Germany. 148

 

The influence of racist ideology in Ankara may be illustrated by the imposition of discriminatory taxes on the Dönme Turks. Faik Ökte reveals that past family records were investigated in order to determine which Turks were of Jewish origin. Encouraged by the government’s attitude a bitter anti-Dönme campaign was inaugurated in the large urban centers. These Muslims of Oriental Jewish origin were bitterly denounced in the press for “being worse than Jews, because they pretended to be Turks and wanted to have the best of both worlds”. [emphasis added] This campaign presented a radical break with past Turkish attitudes. While playing a prominent part in the Young Turk revolution, the Dönme Turks continued to be active in the Kemalist movement. The American educated journalist Ahmet Emin Yalman, a Dönme Turk, was a leading Turkish publicist. So was the author of Le Kemalisme, Tekin Alp (Moise Cohen). Apart from their contribution in the intellectual and professional spheres of Turkish life, the Dönme Turks also distinguished themselves in commerce, filling the vacuum created by the departure of Greek and Armenian businessmen in 1922-23. Again the official inclusion of Jews from the Axis countries in the non-Muslim category indicated Turkish desire to curry favor with the Germans by following antisemitic policies. In turn the Nazis wholeheartedly approved of the varlik episode.

 

Financial analyses by Clark 149 and Alexandris 150 demonstrate the grossly discriminatory financial impact of the varlik vergisi collections on the non-Muslim minorities. Alexandris summarizes the findings: 151

 

…the non-Muslim element was assessed at 233,000,000 TL [Turkish lira] (or nearly 52 per cent) while the Muslim share was 122,500,000 (or 29 per cent) and that of the foreigners 79,500,000 (or 19 per cent). The extent that the Turkish government expected the minorities to contribute to the varlik is better illustrated when Turkish population statistics are considered. From a total population of 16,188,767 in 1935, the non-Muslim population of Turkey did not exceed 300,000 persons. Beside Ökte’s account, reports from the British Embassy in Turkey provide further conclusive evidence of the harsh and often prohibitive rates of taxation imposed on the minorities. Thus, a survey by British businessmen of some 100 of the largest profit-making enterprises in Istanbul showed that in the case of the Armenian firms the assessments were 232 per cent of the capital, of the Jewish 184 per cent, of the Greek 159 per cent and of the Muslim Turkish 4.9 per cent.

 

An editorial in the New York Times dated September 17, 1943 (p.20), 152 based upon reports by C.L. Sulzberger from Turkey, quoted nearly identical confiscatory taxation ratios: Greek Orthodox at 156% of annual income, 179% for Jews, and 232% for Armenians—compared to 4.96% of annual income for Muslim Turks.

 

Moreover, the 4000 to 5000 non-Muslims deported to the camps at Aşkale for “defaulting” on this punitive taxation scheme, experienced harassment (especially during transport), cramped, filthy living conditions, poor nutrition, and limited access to medical care, as characterized by Alexandris: 153

 

…there is conclusive evidence to suggest that the varlik vergesi victims suffered considerable harassment particularly during their transportation to the internment camps. After visiting an internment camp in the middle of February 1943, the British Colonel Binns described the treatment which was meted out to defaulting taxpayers. “This morning I visted the barn at Demikarpi where some forty merchants, lawyers, and others have been imprisoned for the last ten days and are being dispatched this evening to Aşkale to join the 32 already there. The room in which they are imprisoned is some fifteen yards in length by eight yards in width…There was not a stick of furniture of any kind with the exception of one stove. The room was full of weeping men, women, and children who had come to say goodbye and to bring deportees odd parcels of food and clothing. A most depressing and wretched picture.”

 

The original upper age-limit of 55 was not respected as fourteen out of the thirty-two deportees sent to Aşkale January 27, 1943 were over the age of 55. Nor were the sick and ailing spared. Amongst those defaulting taxpayers dispatched to the internment camp there was a 70 year old partly paralyzed Jew, Shaban, while another, Behar, aged 65, was handicapped. According to a Greek report, dated May 19, 1943 and based on information smuggled out periodically by the internees, the level of nutrition and cleanliness in the camp was extremely low, while medical assistance was very difficult to obtain and had to be paid for. Conditions in these camps, it was maintained in the report, were responsible for several deaths among the deportees. Thus, a Jewish businessman named Romano died on March 28, after a short illness suffered lying on some straw in a stable at Aşkale. On May 1, Basil Konstantinidis, a Constantinopolitan Greek died at Erzurum from a heart attack after his return from compulsory labor. He, the account concluded, was refused any medical attention. Overall, the human casualties of this sad affair were twenty-one, of which eleven were Greeks. Reflecting on the hardships caused by the varlik affair, Sir Knatchbull-Hugessen asserted that “the treatment and handling of the deportees has been characterized by roughness and inconsiderateness”. He then went on to conclude that “…there is unfortunately every reason to believe that the conditions under which these unfortunate people have to pass their days and nights are unworthy of a modern civilized country.

 

Vryonis sees the varlik vergisi as a predictable successor to the 1941 labor battalion corvées for minorities, and stresses the harsh, lasting consequences of this discriminatory legislation: 154

 

…the varlik vergesi succeeded the discriminatory legal regime of labor battalions and once more placed the minorities under dire threat of imposed, harsh labor, this time in an even less fortunate geographical and climactic region—Aşkale, in northeastern Turkey, known as the Turkish Siberia—but added to this punishment a destructive financial component.

 

Ökte not only administered the property evaluation required by the new law, but (despite his feeble claims to the contrary) also enforced the resulting taxation and sanctions with a savage ferocity that sent off thousands to the snowbound camps of Aşkale for default. He further exempted lower-income Muslims from paying their assessments in contrast to his actions regarding their very numerous minority co-citizens, who were shipped off to camps under stringent conditions.

 

The varlik vergesi’s levies were to be paid within fifteen days of the law’s promulgation, with a grace period of another fifteen days (to be paid off with interest). Those who defaulted were to be sent to Aşkale’s camps, where they were to labor for two liras a day (one lira to be applied to the tax debt), with responsibility for their own food, clothing, and medical care (to the degree that it was available). It has been estimated that, at this rate of compensation, many defaulters would have had to work for 250 years to pay off the exorbitant taxes levied. Furthermore, defaulters’ property, as well as that of all ascending and descending, was then to be sold off at public auction as necessary to pay off the tax liability. In other words, according to Ökte’s memoirs, despite being sent to a labor camp—and thus ostensibly beginning the process of paying off ones “debt”—one still lost one’s property (in addition to one’s freedom). Servitude was therefore, not a compensation for default but an additional, and particularly egregious, punishment. There was to be no appeal against assessments of property value or tax payments. If a defaulter was serving in the Turkish armed forces, he was to finish his military service and then be dispatched to a labor camp.

 

The recent book by Turkish journalist Ridvan Akar, Varlik Vergisi Kanunu, [1992] raises the figures of those sent off to the camps to some 4,000-5,000, and places them in the tax bracket of TL 40,000. He attributes the primary motivations for the varlik vergisi to both the Turkish state’s desire to destroy the non-Muslim minorities and the influence of Nazi antisemitism.

 

Lira for lira, the inequity of the law was monstrous and had as its goal the economic and social destruction of Turkey’s minorities and their communities.

 

Writing just prior to World War II (November, 1938), D.E. Webster, an unabashed enthusiast for Kemalism, acknowledged some of the more mundane failures of Atatürk’s regime to accord “equal and civil rights” to non-Muslim minorities: 155

 

Only Muslim Turkish girls are accepted for training in the Red Crescent Nursing School, and only Muslim Turks achieve any standing  in the army. Although Christian and Jewish citizens must perform the same service as others, they are assigned to menial tasks. Even young men of the greatest ability fail to pass the examinations for advancement into the officers training school if they be not of the [Islamic] Faith.

 

This chronic background discrimination was compounded during the World War II years by bitter experiences for the minorities—scapegoating escalated to frank persecution: their conscription in corvées, and then punitive, ruinous taxation leading to their expropriation and deportation to “Turkish Siberia.” A memorandum from March 1946 composed by the Jewish Agency for Palestine offered the following somber assessment of Turkey’s Jews in the aftermath of World War II, and predicted significant numbers of the community would emigrate given the opportunity: 156

 

The Jews—like other minorities—have no share in political life. They are not admitted into the People’s [Republican] Party [CHF/CHP], which was till the end of 1945 the only party in Turkey. There is hardly a Jew in the civil service or in the numerous economic institutions established by the State (banks, industrial enterprises, etc.). When, for example, several years ago the Government acquired the electric corporation of Istanbul from its Belgian owners, it dismissed all Jewish employees with the exception of one or two indispensable experts.

 

As a result of the operation of the present regime, Jewish communal life is almost completely stifled. The local Jewish communities are allowed to deal only with religious and welfare matters, and administer the few Jewish schools and hospitals left, under the strict supervision of the State. Zionism has been outlawed, not because of any specific opposition to it, but as a result of the all-around ban on independent political activity and on any form of association involving international affiliations. In the latter respect, the Zionist movement has shared the fate of Freemasonry.

 

In response to current international developments, a tendency towards some measure of democracy set in in recent months. It has found expression in the extension of freedom of the press, the establishment of an “opposition party”, and other measures. In this connection, for the first time in the history of the Turkish Republic, two young Jews were admitted to the military (Harhiye), while several Jewish clerks were engaged by the State banks. Undue importance should not be attached to these innovations. [emphasis added] In January, 1946, a British newspaper published in Egypt summed up the plight of the minorities in Turkey as follows: “Reports by Greeks, Armenians, and Jews all agree in one respect. These minorities prefer emigration to economic ruin or social humiliation as outcasts.” [“The Minority Policy in Turkey”, Egyptian Gazette, Cairo, January 4, 1946]. Indeed it is hardly surprising that during the war demand for immigration permits from Turkey grew steadily and that the Jewish youth of the country, of whom many are already in Palestine, is imbued with a strong Zionist feeling and determination to settle in Palestine.

 

Ensuing demographic data confirmed the prediction of this March 1946 memorandum: from 1948 to 1950, almost 31,000 of Turkey’s roughly 77,000 Jews—i.e., 40 per cent—emigrated to the newly created State of Israel. Turkey’s Jewish population continued to decline in the 1950s, particularly after the 1955 Istanbul pogrom (discussed below), reaching approximately 32,000 in 1964. 157 At present, it is believed only 20,000 Jews remain in Turkey. 158

 

Already by 1952, Bernard Lewis warned, presciently, about the open re-emergence of Islam in Turkey with the 1950 ascent of MenderesDemokrat Parti, just twelve years after Atatürk’s death.159

 

…the deepest Islamic roots of Turkish life and culture are still alive, and the ultimate identity of Turk and Muslim in Turkey is still unchallenged. The resurgence of Islam after a long interval responds to a profound national need. The occasional outburst of the tarikas [Sufi orders], far more than the limited restoration of official Islam, show how powerful are the forces stirring beneath the surface. The path that the revival will take is still not clear. If simple reaction has its way, much of the work of the last century will be undone, and Turkey will slip back into the darkness from which she painfully emerged.

 

M. Hakun Yavuz, whose alternative view is that of a champion of Turkey’s re-Islamization, 160 traces the origins of this process to the “ironic ambivalence” of Kemalism’s secular ideologues. The Kemalists harsh suppression of most public manifestations, and all political aspirations of Islam, promoted a clandestine Islamic identity, which has also reacquired its traditional politicization. 161

 

Even for the secular intellectuals, there always had been an ironic ambivalence surrounding the Islamic component of Turkish identity. For example, one “author” of secular Turkish nationalism, Ali Haydar, viewed Islam as a sine qua non for being a Turk; a non-Muslim, even one whose mother language was Turkish, could not be a real Turk. He categorically said: “It is impossible to make non-Muslims sincere Turkish citizens. But at least we can make them respect Turks” [emphasis added] Haydar’s ideas were not exceptional and indicate that, at a fundamental level, Turkish identity, even during the most doctrinaire Republican period, could not elude religion as an important component of its supposedly secular, national identity…Ironically, despite its fierce hostility to religion, Kemalist secular nationalism never was able to disengage itself or its putative nation from is Islamic heritage.

 

By removing Islam from the public domain, the Kemalist revolutionaries were seeking to cut off the populace from their own shared language of imagination. This policy succeeded in large urban centers but failed to transform the majority of the populace in the rural areas of Turkey…By seeking to suppress virtually all manifestations of Islam in what was a deeply religious society, the Kemalist elite actually promoted the politicization of a furtive Islamic identity and ensured a struggle between the secular and Muslim groups’ control of the state…Ismet Özel, an ex-Marxist convert and the most prominent Islamist intellectual, argued that it was Atatürk’s reforms that, ironically Islamicized Turkey by forcing people to internalize and value their religious identity and not simply take it for granted as in the past.

 

In addition to the Sufi orders, textually based communities that evolved from them, such as the Nurcus, also helped to internalize and externalize Islamic political identity by redefining the function of the state. Said Nursi called on believers to shield their inner self from the oppressive “reforms” of the Republic. Mehmet Kirkinci, a prominent Nurcu leader of Erzurum, has referred to this process as an internal hijra or migration of Muslims. He argues that “the sun of Islam set down in 1925 and dawned in 1950 with the writings of Said, which enlighten the darkness of Kemalism with its light [nur].”

 

Returning to the Menderes decade (1950-1960), Vryonis summarizes the practical, and less salutary effects of this “re-awakening” of Turkish Islam, which the Demokrat Party (DP) exploited, 162

 

..not only electorally, but also through support of religious schools and the building of mosques. The dervish orders reappeared, and many of their followers actively supported DP candidates in elections. There was also a noticeable increase at prayers in mosques, with the equally noticeable opposition of secularists. US diplomatic reports from Turkey describe the rising sociopolitical importance of Islam at the time. In fact, the reports of American, British, and Greek diplomats all agreed that the violence of September 6-7 [1955; i.e., the Istanbul pogrom] was also indicative of religious fanaticism: even some Turkish commentators referred to the fact that the Menderes government had exploited this fanaticism in the course of the violence. [emphasis added] Patriarch Athênagoras in his sorrowful letter to Menderes, referred to the pogrom as “a persecution of the Church and its Christians…”

 

Vryonis’ comprehensive reassessment of the 1955 Istanbul pogrom catalogues in painstaking detail the plight of the Greek Orthdox community, who bore the brunt of the savage, devastating violence, and the further ruinous policies put in place in its aftermath. 163 He also notes that “…some 500 Jewish stores were destroyed in the 1955 pogrom, and conditions for Istanbul’s Jews…[became] oppressive.” 164 During the decade following the pogrom, Sephardic Jews were forbidden to speak Ladino [Judeo-Spanish], openly antisemitic Turkish newspapers appeared, 165 and a story published on  April 5, 1964 in the large German-language daily from Tel-Aviv, Israel, Tages Nachtrichten, maintained, 166

 

The Turkish authorities are interfering in all internal affairs of the Jewish community, and even the appointment of a Rabbi must be approved by the Turkish government.

 

Yavuz traces (and celebrates) the triumphal emergence of both Necmettin Erbakan (in 1996) and more recently Recep Tayyip Erdogan (in 2002)—two Turkish Prime Ministers he identifies as “Islamist”—to the “spirit of Menderes” [1950-1960], which reactivated Islam as the “lexicon from which coding and legitimation took place”. 167 Examining the same period, through the 1980s, Jacob Landau assessed the impact of the Islamists (whom he defined broadly as “those Muslims involved in politics”) return “to the mainstream of political life”, on attitudes toward Jews: 168

 

Islamic literature and press in Turkey since 1950 indeed displays a progression of animus towards Jews and even more so towards the State of Israel and its guiding ideology, Zionism. In other words, anti-Jewish motifs are increasingly evident in Turkish Islamist pronouncements appearing in the two decades following 1950. These views assumed an increasingly strident tone, although it is only since the 1970s that they began to display a growing anti-Zionist and anti-Israeli tenor on political and economic grounds.

 

…by bolstering their anti-Jewish propaganda with frequent quotations from the Koran and Hadith, and by incorporating into it anti-Zionist and anti-Israel invective, the Turkish Islamists have turned it into a cardinal part of their ideology and have been fostering a villain image which appeared to increase their popular support

 

Landau singles out the National Salvation Party and its founder and chairman, Necmettin Erbakan as the most significant examples of Islamists exploiting systematized anti-Jewish, anti-Zionist bigotry.169 Erbakan’s ascension to Deputy Prime Minister in January, 1974, Landau observes, 170 was marked by Pan-Islamic overtures, and,

 

…accompanied by increasing verbal violence against Jews, Zionism, and the State of Israel. Erbakan’s attacks…may well have added to his popularity, whether in Government or Opposition, among the rank-and-file of his own party, too.

 

Erbakan and his followers made no secret of these views and moves, many of which were widely reported in the Turkish press. Particularly revealing are the National Salvation Party’s organs, especially its daily Milli Gazete (The National Newspaper), published in Istanbul since January 12, 1973. Milli Gazete has maintained a relentlessly militant Islamic stance, even after the September 12, 1980 military intervention closed down the National Salvation Party—along with all other parties—and severely curtailed the public activity of all former political figures, including Erbakan…Indeed, the almost daily attacks on Jews, Zionism, and the State of Israel, usually labeled the foes of Islam [emphasis added], have persisted over a dozen years. Thus, every move of Israel or its representatives, in Turkey or abroad, was widely—and hostilely—commented upon as harmful to Islam, or at least helpful to Islam’s enemies. [emphasis added].

 

Landau concluded in his 1988 analysis that the Islamists represented the “most extreme” strain of antisemitism extant in Turkey, and traditional Islamic motifs (i.e., “…frequent quotations from the Koran and Hadith…”) were central to this hatred. 171

 

Nurtured by early Islam’s animus towards Judaism [emphasis added], Islamist exponents, more than others in Turkey, integrate their invective against Jews, Zionism, and Israel. Their arguments have been taken up by free-lance spokesmen; then by would-be-scholars who attempted to bolster their conclusions by using spurious source materials; lastly by organized groups with a marked Islamist character, which employ anti-Jewish, anti-Zionist and anti-Israel slogans and arguments in their political speeches and press as a means of promoting their own brand of propaganda. In doing so, Islamic bias in Turkey is increasingly directed against Jews, Zionism, and Israel, simultaneously—in general without attempting to distinguish between the three targets. This combination has proved particularly effective, propaganda-wise, from the Islamists’ point of view. It has exploited the general atmosphere in a state and society whose political leadership initiated a cooling-off of relations with Israel, in the last few years; conversely, Islamist propaganda has encouraged this cooling off and contributed to it in no little degree, by successfully shaping a villain image in which the Jews, Zionism, and Israel were essential components.

 

Although Landau’s important analysis was published in 1988, it covered events only through the early 1980s.172 The succeeding decades have witnessed two popularly elected Islamist, i.e., [according to Yavuz, those] “…whose political philosophy was based on Islam”, 173 Prime Ministers, Necmettin Erbakan in 1996, and the current Turkish leader, Erdogan, in 2002. Erbakan’s antisemitic views were discussed earlier. In 1974, Tayyip Recep Erdogan, then serving as president of the Istanbul Youth Group of the Islamist National Salvation Party (founded by Erbakan), wrote, directed, and played the leading role in a theatrical play entitled Maskomya. 173a  Rifat Bali, a Turkish historian, observes that Erdogan’s play, Maskomya, 174

 

…or in its correct form Mas-kom-Ya, was a theatrical play that was staged everywhere in the 1970s, as part of the “cultural” activities of MSP [National Salvation Party] Youth Brances. The unabbreviated version of Mas-kom-Ya is Mason-Kommunist-Yahudi [Mason-Communist-Jew]. It is known that the play was built on the “evil” nature of these three concepts, and the hatred towards them

 

These same decades of ascendancy for the Islamist parties have been marked by a burgeoning antisemitism in the Turkish media, 175 along with murderous Muslim attacks on the two major Istanbul synagogues in 1986 (Neve Shalom) 176, and 2003 (Neve Shalom and Beth Israel). 177 Another attack on the Neve Shalom synagogue in 1992 caused no casualties due to increased security. 178 While the 1986 attack was perpetrated by the Fatah Revolutionary Council, a Palestinian terrorist organization led by Abu Nidal, the 1992 and 2003 attacks were committed by indigenous Turkish Muslim groups. 179 Moreover, all these acts of terrorism targeting Jews occurred against a backdrop of relentless antisemitic propaganda conflating Jews, Zionism, and Israel—spearheaded by Islamist groups emphasizing traditional Islamic motifs of Jew hatred—a campaign that continues unabated. 180 For example, Milli Gazete, the daily produced by Erbakan’s National Salvation Party since January, 1973, and a major Islamist organ, published articles in February and April of 2005 which were toxic amalgams of ahistorical drivel, and virulently antisemitic and anti-dhimmi Qur’anic motifs: 181

 

(February 4, 2005) The Ottomans saved the Jews from the hands of the Christians, who murdered them along with the Muslims in Endulus [Muslim Spain]. When Russia and Hungary persecuted the Jews, again the Ottomans saved them. The Muslim Turks rescued Jews yet again from the hands of Hitler, who was himself a hidden Jew…From the beginning, the Ottomans showed hospitality, seemingly even allotting the best homes to the Jews—along the Bosporus, in Istanbul’s most luxurious area.

 

And, characteristic of their savage, treacherous [nature], in return they [the Jews] first overthrew the Sultan Abdul Hamid and destroyed the Ottomans; [then], like insects, they ate away at the Ottoman [Empire]; and as if this were not enough, they stabbed the Muslim Turkish soldiers in Palestine in the back.

 

Judaism is synonymous with treason…They [the Jews] even betrayed God…When God told them to bow their heads while entering Al-Quds [Jerusalem], they entered with their heads up. The prophets sent to them, such as Zachariah and Isaiah, were murdered by the Jews…In fact no amount of pages or lines would be sufficient to explain the Qur’anic chapters and our Lord Prophet’s [Muhammad’s] words that tell us of the betrayals of the Jews,

 

(April 13, 2005) Some people in this country are mistaken in how they treat Christians and Jews. Such mistakes are harming not only the perpetrators, but also all the young Muslims of this land, and directly, or indirectly, this country.

 

Heading the list of these mistakes is the respect and reverence shown to Christians and Jews…It is a mistake to include them in the protocol of meetings, to let them speak, to applaud them, to quote their words in the newspapers…It is not just wrong, it is a frighteningly grave mistake.

 

It is a mistake for so-called professors, writers, thinkers, and famous intellectuals to make “sympathetic” statements about Christians and Jews. Particularly, to say that “they too will go to heaven” is an even bigger mistake…Christians and Jews, who have rejected our Prophet and refuse to recite “Muhammad is the Messenger of God” belong forever in Hell…In the eyes of God, there is only one religion, and that is Islam…There is only one book, and that is the Qur’an…For so-called “dignitaries” to present Christianity and Judaism as “godly religions” is terribly wrong.

 

The April 2005 edition of the monthly Aylik, produced by a Turkish jihadist organization which claimed responsibility for the November 15, 2003 synagogue bombings in Istanbul, contained 18 pages of antisemitic material.  An article written by Cumali Dalkilic entitled, “Why Antisemitism?”, combined traditional Qur’anic antisemitic motifs with Nazi antisemitism, and Holocaust denial. Another artcle’s title repeats the very pejorative Turkish Muslim characterization of Jews, which translates as“filthy Jews”(a pejorative term for Jews whose usage was recorded by Niebuhr in 1794, and Ubicini in 1856, based upon their visits to Ottoman Turkey), 182 i.e., “The Cifits [The Filthy Jews] Castle”, and also targets the Dönme. 183

 

“Why Antisemitism?”…declares the Jews the “enemy” of the Turks, of Islam, and of the entire world. Jews are alleged to have a “disgusting nature” and are defined as “the people eternally cursed by God and His prophets, who are not wanted by anyone and thrown out of every place.” The article quotes many pages from Mein Kampf and shows admiration for Hitler, calling him “a hero,” “a true mind,” that grasped the meaning of the Jew and the Jewish problem, “a true statesman to whom no other can stand up.” The article, which also includes excerpts from the notorious Protocols of the Elders of Zion, ends with Holocaust denial…

 

“The Cifit’s [Filth Jews] Castle” attacks the Dönme, claiming that they are not “real Muslims” or real “Turks” but “filthy Jews” under cover, and they are responsible for the present secularism in Turkey, as well as for all the wrongdoings in the world. The article also states that “the only barrier before the filthy Jews is the wall of Islam.”

 

Rifat Bali, a Turkish historian, has noted another manifestation of contemporary antisemitism promulgated largely by Islamists: Israel’s so-called “Kurdish Card” (in fact a book with this title has been sold in Turkey for the past several years), which claims Massoud Barzani, leader of the Kurdish Democratic Party, is Jewish, which in turn, allegedly supports the theory that Israel wishes to “…create a Jewish state from the Nile to the Euphrates…[including] the Kurdish

area.” 184  And Bali made this passionate indictment of Turkey’s tolerance of antisemitism, published soon after the November, 2003 synagogue bombings: 185

 

In the recent past, some…events led Turks, with the help of the media, to face up to some disturbing realities within their society. The spotlight came on, but soon it went off, and the incidents were all but forgotten, either because the agenda changed, or because the investigations dragged on without conclusion. I fear that, similarly, the repugnant reality of antisemitism, which was always present in Turkey and came undeniably to the fore in the [November 15, 2003] synagogue  attacks, will also soon be forgotten…

 

In the aftermath of the violence suffered in Istanbul on Saturday, November 15, Turkish society had the opportunity to confront face to face the antisemitism which is incorporated in the political Islamic movement. However, the political leaders, the media, the intellectual elite, the Israeli government…the Chief Rabbi and the secular leaders in his entourage as the representatives of the Turkish-Jewish community, [all] seemed determined to ignore that opportunity. Everyone apparently shared the view of the conservative and nationalist columnist Taha Akyol, who two days after the attack wrote in Milliyet [Novermber 17, 2003], “…there has never been  antisemitism in Turkey in its racist or religious sense.”

 

…In recent years, not only in the Islamic sector, but in virtually all ideological variants, we have seen incessant discussions on the topic of Dönmes, “decoding” the names of individuals and “exposing” them as “Jews.”  Isn't this behavior a provocation to violence for raging fanatics against innocent persons whose ancestors are “presumed” to be Jewish?

 

…The ones responsible for the November 15, 2003 violence are the government, the society, and the political, intellectual, cultural and media elite that turn a blind eye to these facts, and that do not enforce the relevant clauses of Turkish criminal law against such behavior. They shield themselves behind the argument of “freedom of the press,” legitimize and elevate antisemitic writers as “enlightened,” and refrain from stressing the antisemitic nature of the November 15 attacks, referring to them only as “terrorism.”

 

…Every [Turkish] government since 1950 bears the responsibility for the situation we find ourselves in today. This is because they remained silent with regard to the hateful rhetoric against Jews, and took no steps to make the Jews feel like real Turkish citizens.

 

…Also responsible for this situation are the writers of yesteryears' 'religious', today's 'Islamist' media, and all 'opinion makers' who, since the establishment of the State of Israel, have incessantly and untiringly engaged in a rhetoric of hatred against Jews and continue to poison the minds of the future generations…

 

Prime Minister Recep Tayip Erdogan and the AKP government must publicly denounce [both] the antisemitic discourse of political Islam, from which he emerged and which he declared later to have abandoned, and those who insist on perpetuating such discourse. Turkey's Jews are not dhimmis in need of the tolerance and the protection of the Muslim majority. They are citizens of the Republic of Turkey.[emphasis added]

 

Interviewed for a November 19, 2003 story in The Christian Science Monitor, Bali acknowledged  the chronic plight of Turkey’s small, dwindling Jewish community (echoing concerns documented six decades earlier), 186 which the bombings transiently illuminated—a largely marginalized society, whose shrinking numbers and “other problems” were deliberately downplayed by community leaders: 187

 

The Turkish Jews have not been fully integrated or Turkified, and they have had to limit their expectations. A kid grows up knowing he is never going to become a government minister, so no one tries, and the same goes for positions in the military.

 

Rifat Bali’s observations on Turkish antisemitism and the predicament of the Jewish community following the November, 2003 synagogue bombings fit neatly within the context of overarching historical forces elucidated by Vryonis in 2005: 188

 

Greeks, Armenians, and Jews are the principal non-Muslim minorities that remain in Turkey. Their numbers, however, have diminished drastically because of the historical developments that led to the creation of modern Turkey, and the practices, theories, and mentalities that sought to obliterate ethnic identities, first in the crumbling Ottoman state and then in its modern Turkish successor. The Turkish state’s record of behavior toward these now tiny ethnic minorities, located primarily in the region around and in Istanbul, has been one of grudging and limited acceptance, heavily vitiated by acts of state terror and repression, aided and abetted by significant portions of the area’s dominant Muslim population. Indeed, extremist segments of the latter remain a constant threat to the minorities, carrying out their own more violent acts against their non-Muslim co-citizens, often with the indifference or even active but unspoken complicity of state authorities.

 

Conclusion

 

Ignorance about the plight of Jews under Turkish rule—past, including Ottoman Palestine, and present—is profound. In lieu of serious, critical examination one finds whitewashed apologetics concocted to promote dubious geo-political strategies—even the morally bankrupt denial of the Armenian genocide, as promoted, shamefully, by public intellectuals and major US Jewish organizations, who abet the exploitation of their co-religionist Turkish Jews as dhmmi “lobbyists” for the government of Turkey. These strategies  have “succeeded”, perversely, in further isolating Jews, while failing, abysmally, to alter a virulently Antisemitic Turkish religious (i.e., Islamic), and secular culture—the latter perhaps best exemplified by the wildly popular, and most expensive film ever made in Turkey, “Valley of the Wolves  (released February, 2006), which features an American Jewish doctor dismembering Iraqis brutally murdered by American soldiers in order to harvest their organs for Jewish markets. Prime Minister Erdogan not only failed to condemn the film, he justified its production and popularity. His wife, Ermine Erdogan attended the film’s gala opening, seated with Turkish Parliamentary Leader Bulent Arinc. An emotional and teary eyed Mrs. Erdogan emerged from this screening  praising the film, while Speaker Arinc referred to it as “very realistic.”

 

The steady recrudescence of fundamentalist Islam in Turkey since 1950—epitomized by the overwhelming re-election of the AKP—does not bode well for either the dhimmified vestigial Jewish community of Turkey, or long term relations between Turkey and the Jewish State of Israel. But the plight of Turkey’s Jews and the other vestigial non-Muslim Turkish minorities reveals a more profound challenge which modern Turkey has failed to overcome since its origins under Ataturk in 1923—steering a truly progressive course between the Scylla of autocratic secular Kemalist nationalism (whose often racist theories are still being taught), and the Charybdis of a totalitarian, politicized Islam. Commenting on the May 2007 demonstrations in Turkey sparked by Erdogan’s failed attempt to install the AKP’s Abdullah Gul as President, Ayaan Hirsi Ali elucidated Turkey’s long unresolved predicament:

 

…true secularism does not mean just any secularism. It means secularism that protects individual freedoms and rights, not the ultra-nationalist kind that breeds an environment in which Adolf Hitler's “Mein Kampf” is a bestseller, the Armenian genocide is denied and minorities are persecuted. Hrant Dink, the Armenian editor, was murdered by such a nationalist. It is this mix of virulent nationalism and predatory Islam in Turkey that makes the challenge for Turkish secular liberals greater than for any other liberal movement today.

 

NOTES:

 

117. Speros Vryonis. The Mechanism of Catastrophe: The Turkish Pogrom of September 6-7, 1955 and the Destruction of the Greek Community of Istanbul. NewYork, 2005, p. 30.

118. Bernard Lewis. The Emergence of Modern Turkey. London, 1968, pp. 254-255.

119. Vryonis. The Mechanism of Catastrophe, p. 32, note 15.

120. Ziya Gokälp. The Principles of Turkism, Leiden, 1968. Translated and edited by R. Devereux, p. 102. Cited in Vryonis. The Mechanism of Catastrophe, p. 30, note 8.

121. Speros Vryonis. The Turkish State and History. Clio Meets the Grey Wolf, 1991, New Rochelle, New York, pp. 65, 67, 73.

122. Frank Weber. The Evasive Neutral. 1979, Columbia, Missouri, pp. 113, 115-116. Weber makes clear that  based on the reports of both British and German diplomats during the World War II era, Pan Turanism remained a potent ideology (and perhaps even an official policy) in ruling Turkish political elites, and even more so within the Turkish army, and among the masses.

 

Thus British as well as German sources strongly suggest that Pan Turanianism [Turanism] was not simply a mass enthusiasm popularly engendered, but an official program of the Turkish government, continuously though surreptitiously cultivated. Ankara preferred to use subordinate diplomats or non-official spokesmen in order to obscure the origins of the Pan-Turanian movement, but there was little room for doubt that those origins were in the highest echelons of the Turkish leadership.

 

Nuri Paşa, brother of the celebrated Enver Paşa, Ottoman minister of war who was most responsible for allying the sultan’s empire with the Wilhelmian Reich in 1914…had survived the First World War to become a moderately prosperous factory owner in Republican Turkey…[on a] mission to propound his theories of the Pan-Turanian reorganization of the Middle East before the highest dignitaries of the German government…he delimited for the German minister [Woermann] what areas of Asia he considered “Pan Turanian.” These were the Crimea, Transcaucasia, Azerbaijan, the land between the Ural Mountains and the Volga River, and Daghestan and Tatar Autonomous Soviet republics. In addition to these provinces, Nuri also claimed Turanian enclaves in Syria, Iraq, and northern Iran. Finally, he would have had the Turanian state embrace “East Turkestan,”that is, the Chinese province of Sinkiang. Quite obviously, his schemes were a blend of old and new, with some points drawn from Ottoman times and others conceived under the republic…[Woermann] pointedly commented that all these Pan-Turanian proposals ran counter to Atatürk’s precept that Turkey was a purely national state. Nuri asserted that Atatürk’s foreign policy had been only temporary, necessitated by the weakness of the infant Turkish Republic and fear of Soviet Russia. But the Wehrmacht [German army] now stood on Soviet soli and was gaining more ground every day. According to Nuri, Turanian expansion was very popular with the Turkish people and with the Turkish army, and if the government in Ankara did not advance the cuase or proved negativistic and timid, the Turkish army could be expected to sweep it away.

 

123. Bernard Lewis. “History-Writing and National Revival in Turkey”, Middle Eastern Affairs, 1953, No. 4, p. 225.

124. Faik Ökte. The Tragedy of the Turkish Capital Tax, London, 1987. English translation by Geoffroy Cox, with an Introduction by David Brown, p. ix.

124a. Alexis Alexandris. Greek Minority of Istanbul and Greek-Turkish Relations, 1918-1974. 1983/1992, Athens, p. 111.

125. Ibid., p. 111

126. Vryonis, The Mechanism of Catastrophe, pp. 32-33.

127. Hatrice Bayraktar. “The anti-Jewish Pogrom in Eastern Thrace in 1934: New Evidence for the Responsibility of the Turkish Government”, Patterns of Prejudice, 2006, Vol. 40, pp. 95-96.

128. Membership in the authoritarian nationalist party Ittihat ve Terakki (Union and Progress).

129. Vahakn Dadrian. “The Role of Turkish Physicians in the World War I Genocide of Ottoman Armenians”, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, 1986, Vol. 1, pp. 169-192, note 44. According to Bayraktar, “The anti-Jewish Pogrom in Eastern Thrace in 1934”, p. 102, note 39,

 

In the 1920s, Tali temporarily held the post of leader of the CHF [Cumhuriyet Halk Firkasi, People’s Republican Party] in Istanbul and was also a member of the Turkish National Assembly.

 

130. Bayraktar, “The anti-Jewish Pogrom in Eastern Thrace in 1934”, p. 103.

131. Ibid., p. 104.

132. Ibid., pp. 105 ff.

133. Rifat Bali. “Stéréoytpe du Juif dans le Folklore Turc”, in Relations Entre Turcs et Juifs, Istanbul, 2001, pp. 25-28.

134. Frank Weber. The Evasive Neutral, Columbia, Missouri, 1979, pp. 22-23.

135. Ibid., p. 101.

136. Alexandris, Greek Minority of Istanbul and Greek-Turkish Relations, pp. 213-214.

137. Bernard Wasserstein. Review of Turkey and the Holocaust (by Stanford Shaw) Times Literary Supplement, January 7, 1994, p. 4.

138. Ibid.

139. Ökte. The Tragedy of the Turkish Capital Tax, p. 23.

140. Ibid, p. 24.

141. Ökte. The Tragedy of the Turkish Capital Tax, ff.

142. Ibid., p. 26.

143. Lewis, The Emergence of Modern Turkey, p. 300.

144. Ökte. The Tragedy of the Turkish Capital Tax, pp. 26,32,34-35,38-39.

145. Vryonis, The Mechanism of Catastrophe, p. 38.

146. Alexandris, Greek Minority of Istanbul and Greek-Turkish Relations, pp. 220-221, 225-226.

147. Lewis, The Emergence of Modern Turkey, p. 300, note 10.

148. Alexandris, Greek Minority of Istanbul and Greek-Turkish Relations, p. 220.

149. Edward Clark. “The Turkish Varlik Vergisi Reconsidered” Middle East Studies, 1972, Vol. 8, pp. 208-209.

150. Alexandris, Greek Minority of Istanbul and Greek-Turkish Relations, pp. 216-224.

151. Ibid., pp. 216-217.

152. “The Turkish Minorities” The New York Times, September 17, 1943.

153. Alexandris, Greek Minority of Istanbul and Greek-Turkish Relations, pp. 223-224.

154. Vryonis, The Mechanism of Catastrophe, pp. 34, 35,39.

155. D.E. Webster. The Turkey of Atatürk, Philadelphia, 1939, pp. 280-281.

156. The Position of the Jewish Communities in Oriental Countries. Submitted March, 1946 to the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry, by the Jewish Agency for Palestine, and published in Jerusalem, 1947, pp. 16-17.

157. Data compiled from the 1927 Turkish census, reproduced in Webster, The Turkey of Atatürk, Table 3, p. 50; an assessment by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, “Turkey-Demography”, using statistics from Encyclopedia Judaica, 1972, Jerusalem,http://motlc.learningcenter.wiesenthal.org/text/x33/xm3316.html; and, for 1964, a report dated April 5, 1964, published in Tages Nachtrichten, a large German-language daily, from Tel-Aviv, Israel.

158. “Antisemitism in the Turkish Media (Part II): Turkish Intellectual Against Antisemitism”, Middle East Media Research Institute, May 5, 2005.

159. Bernard Lewis. “Islamic Revival in Turkey”, International Affairs, Vol. 28, p. 48.

160. M. Hakun Yavuz. Islamic Political Identity in Turkey. Oxford, 2003. 328 pp. Yavuz, who felt the 2002 election of the Islamist Recep Tayyip Erdogan (of the Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, AKP, or “Justice and Development Party”), vindicated his viewpoint regarding the emergence of a modern, progressive Turkish Islam, singles out Bernard Lewis in a pejorative manner, invoking the hackneyed language of Edward Said’s silly polemic Orientalism—an intractably flawed work from 1978, which was been discredited, permanently, by Ibn Warraq’s Defending the West: A Critique of Edward Said's Orientalism, Amherst, New York, 2007. Here is Yavuz’s comment, from p. 261:

 

 

The AKP’s experiment with democracy reveals the failure of an authoritarian secularism that is informed by crude orientalist conceptions, like those of Bernard Lewis, [emphasis added] that posit Islam as inherently opposed to democracy, pluralism, and modernity. Ironically, for many decades the main obstacle to full democratization in Turkey has not been Islam but rather the authoritarian secular ideology of an oppressive state elite, which found many apologists in Western circles.

 

161. Yavuz,  Islamic Political Identity in Turkey, pp. 47-48, 56,55, 56-57.

162. Vryonis, The Mechanism of Catastrophe, p. 555.

163. Ibid., pp. 189-289.

164. Ibid., p. 562

165. Ibid., p. 563.

166. Cited in Ibid., p. 563

167. Yavuz,  Islamic Political Identity in Turkey, pp. 239-264; p. 258

168. Jacob Landau. “Muslim Turkish Attitudes Towards Jews, Zionism, and IsraelDie Welt des Islams, 1988, Vol. 28, pp. 294, 292.

169. Ibid., pp. 297-298.

170. Ibid., pp. 298-299.

171. Ibid., p. 300.

172. Landau. “Muslim Turkish Attitudes Towards Jews, Zionism, and Israel

173. Yavuz,  Islamic Political Identity in Turkey, p. 241.

173a. “Antisemitism in the Turkish Media (Part III): Targeting Turkey’s Jewish Citizens” Middle East Media Research Institute, Special Disptatch Series No. 916, June 6, 2005, note 4.

174. Ibid.

175. Landau. “Muslim Turkish Attitudes Towards Jews, Zionism, and Israel”; “Antisemitism in the Turkish Media (Part I)”, Middle East Media Research Institute, Special Disptatch Series No. 900, April 28, 2005; “Antisemitism in the Turkish Media (Part II): Turkish Intellectuals Against Antisemitism”, Middle East Media Research Institute, Special Disptatch Series No. 904, May 5, 2005; “Antisemitism in the Turkish Media (Part III)”

176. Judith Miller. “The Istanbul Synagogue Massacre: An Investigation” The New York Times, January 4, 1987.

177. Ilene Prusher. “Turkish Jews Search for Answers”, The Christian Science Monitor, November 19, 2003.

178. Ely Karmon. “The Synagogue Bombings in Istanbul: Al-Qaeda’s New Front?” Policywatch #806: Analysis of Near East Policy from The Washington Institute, November 18, 2003.

179. Miller, “The Istanbul Synagogue Massacre”;  Karmon, “The Synagogue Bombings in Istanbul

180. “Antisemitism in the Turkish Media (Parts I-III)”

181. “Antisemitism in the Turkish Media (Part III)”

182. See references 608, 608a, and 613, above.

183. “Antisemitism in the Turkish Media (Part III)”

184. Yigal Schleifer. “One of the Kurds Leaders is Jewish? So They Claim in Turkish Newspapers” The Jewish Telegraphic Agency, April 7, 2003.

185. “Antisemitism in the Turkish Media (Part II)”

186. The Position of the Jewish Communities in Oriental Countries, March, 1946, pp. 16-17.

187. Prusher. “Turkish Jews Search for Answers”

188. Vryonis, The Mechanism of Catastrophe, pp. 31-32.

 


Andrew G. Bostom is a frequent contributor to Frontpage Magazine.com, and the author of The Legacy of Jihad, and the forthcoming The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism.



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