On August 28, 2007, the same day that Abdullah Gul became Turkey's President -- replacing his secular predecessor, and further consolidating the ruling Islamic AK (Adalet ve Kalkinma) Party's (AKP) hold on power -- MEMRI published excerpts from a chilling interview given by former Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan. The interview originally aired July 1, 2007, as part of Erbakan's campaign efforts in support of Islamic fundamentalist political causes before the general elections of July 22, 2007, and the AKP's resounding popular electoral victory over its closest "secularist" rival parties.
Erbakan, founder of the fundamentalist Islamic Milli Gorus (National Vision; originated 1969) movement, mentored current AKP leaders President Gul, and Prime Minister Erdogan, both of whom were previously active members of Erbakan's assorted fundamentalist political parties, serving in mayoral, ministerial, and parliamentary posts. During Erbakan's pre-election campaign stops before throngs of tens of thousands of supporters throughout Anatolia (including cities such as Trabzon, Elazig, and Konya), as well as cosmopolitan Ankara and Istanbul, he reiterated the same virulently Antisemitic statements captured in the July 1 interview, and other interviews.
These interviews and more expansive speeches were rife with allusions to Zionists/Jews (deliberately conflated), as "bacteria," and "disease," conspiring to dominate the contemporary Islamic world ("from Morocco to Indonesia,"), as they had attempted unsuccessfully during the 11th and 12th centuries when Jews purportedly "organized" the Crusades, only to be stopped by the Turk's/Erbakan's Seljuk "forefathers." Ultimately, Erbakan claimed, modern Jews/Zionists wished to establish "a world order where money and manpower are dependent on [them]."
For over thirty years, Necmettin Erbakan
a former chairman of the fundamentalist National Salvation Party, and its numerous offshoots
, have represented the most significant examples of Turkish Muslim political organizations exploiting systematized anti-Jewish, anti-Zionist bigotry. Erbakan's ascension to Deputy Prime Minister in January, 1974, was marked by Pan-Islamic overtures, along with increasingly strident verbal violence against Jews, Zionism, and the State of Israel emanating from the National Salvation Party's organs, especially its daily Milli Gazete
(The National Newspaper), published in Istanbul since January 12, 1973.
The modern fundamentalist Islamic movement Erbakan founded has continued to produce the most extreme strain of antisemitism extant in Turkey
, and traditional Islamic motifs
, i.e., frequent quotations from the Koran and Hadith, remain central to this hatred, nurtured by early Islam's basic animus towards Judaism. Milli Gazete
published articles in February and April of 2005, for example, which were toxic amalgams of ahistorical drivel, and virulently antisemitic and anti-dhimmi
Koranic motifs, including these protoypical comments based upon Koran 2:61
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... The prophets sent to them, such as Zachariah and Isaiah, were murdered by the Jews...
The April 2005 edition of the monthly Aylik
, produced by a Turkish jihadist organization
which claimed responsibility for the November 15, 2003 dual synagogue bombings in Istanbul
, contained 18 pages of antisemitic material. An article written by Cumali Dalkilic entitled, "Why Antisemitism?", combined traditional Koranic antisemitic motifs with Nazi antisemitism, and Holocaust denial. Another article's title repeats the commonplace, if very pejorative Turkish Muslim characterization of Jews, "Tschifit," which translates as "filthy Jews" (a pejorative term for Jews whose usage was recorded by the European travelers
Carsten Niebuhr in 1794, and Abdolonyme Ubicini in 1856, based upon their visits to Ottoman Turkey),
i.e., "The Tschifits [The Filthy Jews] Castle."
Bat Ye'or published a remarkably foresighted 1973 analysis (first translated into English here
) of the Islamic Antisemitism resurgent in her native Egypt, and being packaged for dissemination throughout the Muslim world. The primary, core Antisemitic motifs were Islamic, derived from Islam's foundational texts, on to which European, especially Nazi elements were grafted.
The pejorative characteristics of Jews as they are described in Muslim religious texts are applied to modern Jews. Anti-Judaism and anti-Zionism are equivalent-due to the inferior status of Jews in Islam, and because divine will dooms Jews to wandering and misery, the Jewish state appears to Muslims as an unbearable affront and a sin against Allah. Therefore it must be destroyed by Jihad. Here the Pan-Arab and anti-Western theses that consider Israel as an advanced instrument of the West in the Islamic world, come to reinforce religious anti-Judaism. The religious and political fuse in a purely Islamic context onto which are grafted foreign elements. If, on the doctrinal level, Nazi influence is secondary to the Islamic base, the technique with which the Antisemitic material has been reworked, and the political purposes being pursued, present striking similarities with Hitler's Germany. [emphasis added]
That anti-Jewish opinions have been widely spread in Arab nationalist circles since the 1930s is not in doubt. But their confirmation at [Al] Azhar [University] by the most important authorities of Islam enabled them to be definitively imposed, with the cachet of infallible authenticity, upon illiterate masses that were strongly attached to religious traditions. [emphasis added]
Erbakan's recent statements
are vivid evidence of the fulminant Antisemitism his popular movement has imbued, including amongst Turkey's current ruling elites, who never criticize such pronouncements by their mentor. This bigoted discourse resonates among the masses, illustrating graphically the same phenomenon described so presciently 34 years ago by Bat Ye'or in Egypt: sequentially grafting on to a learned foundation of Antisemitic motifs from Islam's core texts, modern secular Western European elements, especially those associated with Nazism. Current Prime Minister Erdogan, in 1974, while serving as president of the Istanbul Youth Group of his mentor Erbakan's National Salvation Party, wrote, directed, and played the leading role in a theatrical play entitled Maskomya
, staged throughout Turkey during the 1970s. Mas-Kom-Ya
was a compound acronym for "Masons-Communists-Yahudi [Jews]", and the play focused on the evil, conspiratorial nature of these three entities whose common denominator was Judaism.
And recently, when the wildly popular, most expensive film ever made in Turkey Valley of the Wolves
(released February, 2006) included a "cinematic motif" which featured an American Jewish doctor dismembering Iraqis supposedly 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.
, a Turkish historian, and Jew, made a passionate indictment of Turkey's tacit acceptance of Antisemitism, published soon after the November 15, 2003 Istanbul synagogue bombings.
The singularly courageous Bali, decried first and foremost, Prime Minister Recep Tayip Erdogan's and his AKP government's abject failure to publicly denounce both the Antisemitic discourse of the fundamentalist Islamic movement from which Erdogan emerged, and which he claimed later to have abandoned, and those (like Erdogan's mentor Necmettin Erbakan, for example) insistent on perpetuating such public discourse. With bitter disbelief, Bali further noted the near unanimously shared, albeit counterfactual view, of a respected Turkish columnist, published (in Milliyet
November 17, 2003) within two days of the bombings, who maintained that, "...there has never been Antisemitism in Turkey in its racist or religious sense."
The opportunity for honest discussion was squandered by every domain of Turkish society, not only politicians, but also media and intellectual elites. Moreover, a profoundly depressing example of collective Jewish dhimmitude was on ignominious display: the Chief Rabbi, as well as the secular leaders in his entourage representing the voice of Turkey's Jewish community, even the Israeli government, as Bali observes,
...all seemed determined to ignore...[rather than] to confront face to face the Antisemitism which is incorporated in the political Islamic movement...[i.e., which currently governs Turkey].
Bali further admonished the Erdogan regime to live up to its professed support of equality for Jews within Turkish society:
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]
Amidst this atmosphere of chronic, openly espoused Antisemitism in Turkey-punctuated by the violent synagogue attacks of November, 2003, and met with craven silence by both political leaders in Israel, and major Jewish advocacy groups in the United States-a related subplot which concerns recognition of the Armenian genocide
has been unfolding since March, 2007.
According to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (4/23/07, "Turks want genocide commission
"), the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), the American Jewish Committee, and B'nai B'rith were all lobbying against the Armenian genocide recognition legislation in the Congress (HR 106
) and the Senate (SR 106
), at least "passively", by presenting of letters of opposition from the beset dhimmi Jewish community of Turkey; ADL and JINSA reportedly complemented these letters with their own statements opposing the resolutions. When the ADL later sponsored a campaign to combat bigotry and celebrate diversity ("No Place for Hate") it sparked bitter resentment in Watertown, MA
-a small town whose 8,000 Armenian-Americans comprise nearly 25% of the population -- ultimately forcing the organization and ADL leader Abraham Foxman to recognize this established historical event
. But even the most recent statements by ADL and AJC-both of whom publicly recognized the Armenian Genocide only under duress-actively oppose (ADL
), or fail to support (AJC
), the resolutions.
These groups maintain that passage of HR/SR 106 jeopardizes both the safety of Turkey's small Jewish minority (which is glaringly inconsistent with their simultaneous hagiography of Turkey's treatment of Jews, past
), and what they profess to be the ongoing congenial and strategic relationship between Turkey and Israel. The predictable Turkish response to ADL's about face
has been apoplectic denial -- of the Armenian genocide; of threats to the vestigial Turkish Jewish community as a consequence of potential American Jewish support for HR/SR 106 (let alone any acknowledgement of Turkey's chronic, virulent Antisemitism) -- replete with verbal chastisement of Israeli leaders
and American Jewish organizations, ADL especially
This unhinged "diplomatic" response by Turkey occurred, ironically, despite the fact that the US Congressional resolutions are based wholly on copious, often repellently detailed World War I era documentation, most notably, the diaries of Henry Morgenthau
, the U.S. ambassador to Turkey from 1913 to 1916, and his immediate successor Abraham Elkus
, an extended report by American consul Leslie Davis
in Harput, Turkey, from 1915 to 1917, and the entire recently published United States Official Records on the Armenian Genocide, 1915-1917
Such official Turkish governmental outrage and bullying is itself outrageous. Equally reprehensible is the behavior of Israeli political leaders, major American Jewish advocacy organizations, and the overtly dhimmi leadership of the vestigial Turkish Jewish community. This unholy alliance of "Jewish leadership" never condemns in public the poisonously Antisemitic discourse, or even violent acts committed in Turkey against Turkish Jews, yet, perversely is quick to apply pressure-notwithstanding the ahistorical and amoral connotations of these actions-to block recognition of the Armenian genocide, even within the United States.
Perhaps ceasing this disgraceful and delusional behavior starts by putting an end to the hagiography of Jewish life under Ottoman rule
-- including Jews living within Istanbul's ghettoes, and Ottoman Palestine -- and using precise terms that describe this half-millennium of history, appropriately and accurately: jihad, surgun (forced population transfer), and chronic dhimmitude. There was nothing "humanitarian" whatsoever in the Ottomans accepting a relatively modest number of Jewish refugees from the Inquisition -- far greater numbers were accepted in other parts of Europe itself. Indeed the vacuum created for these skilled Jewish refugees whom the Ottomans re-settled in their burgeoning Empire was created by the Ottoman jihad conquest of Byzantine and Venetian territories and their Jewish populations, i.e., Jews who were subjected to the Ottoman jihad, including massacre, pillage, enslavement, forced conversion, and surgun deportation.
Also one cannot get lost in comforting happy talk and ignore the chronic, grinding Antisemitism, and vestiges of dhimmitude to which the Jews in Turkey have been subjected throughout the history of modern Republican Turkey
-including the large, government organized Thracian pogroms of 1934, and the blatantly discriminatory, deliberately pauperizing varlik vergisi
taxation scheme and subsequent deportations of Jewish business leaders to "Turkish Siberia," during World War II (WWII). This ongoing discrimination contributed to the rapid exodus of 40% of Turkey's Jews after WWII to Israel within 2 years of its creation, followed by the steady, continuous attrition of the Turkish Jewish population -- their departure accelerating again after the notorious Istanbul pogrom against Greeks, Armenians, and Jews in 1955-so that only 17,000 of Turkey's 77, 000 post-WWII Jews remain.
Joseph Hacker's seminal research
highlights the 1523 book of the Talmudist Eliyah Kapsali (Seder Eliyah Zuta
, composed in Crete), and its embellishment by the 17th
century Egyptian chronicler Rabbi Yosef Sambari (in Sambari's Divrei Yosef
)-rather crudely redacted narratives which became the version accepted by modern historiography of the history of the Jews in the Ottoman Empire:
...the sürgün [forced population transfer] phenomenon and all its attendant [discriminatory] features features was not considered at all. If the sürgün was mentioned at all in the writings of the [Jewish] scholars of the Empire, it was held to be an insignificant, indecisive episode in the history of the Jews. The relations between Jews and Ottomans were thus felt to be both idyllic and monotonous from their very inception, no distinction being made either between kinds of Jewish populations or between one period and another throughout the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.
Kapsali conceals all criticism and tries to cover up and obliterate inconvenient facts...This is also apparently the reason for his utterly ignoring the Romaniot [Byzantine] Jews and their fate at the time of the conquest of Constantinople, and of the suffering of the others exiled there after the conquest.
century dhimmi Jewish leadership's deliberate misrepresentation of the actual plight of Ottoman Jewry was described by Hacker with obvious contempt. Tragically, and in our modern era, inexcusably, this pathological behavior persists five centuries later among contemporary Jewish leadership elites, who appear incapable of identifying, let alone adequately defending against, the resurgence of jihadist Islam in Turkey. Gifted writer Diana West's evocative language
depicts the ultimate outcome if this self-destructive dhimmitude is not reversed: "in denial there is defeat."
But a liberating victory can still be achieved if the leadership of the Turkish Jewish community, Israel, and American Jewish advocacy groups simply muster the intellectual courage to overcome their own craven denial. Collectively galvanized, they could confront Erdogan's AKP government over the ugly living legacy of anti-dhimmi and Antisemitic discrimination against Turkey's Jews
, and demand immediate efforts at amelioration of their plight: marginalization and legal punishment of Turkish politicians and public intellectuals whose discourse incites Jew-hatred, and potentially, anti-Jewish violence; the implementation of concrete reforms, ensuring in practice
equal rights, opportunities, and public safety for Jews. And if all these measures were not implemented rapidly, with tangible evidence of success, Turkey's Jews would be allowed unfettered, mass emigration without any economic penalties.
Such bold, forthright action -- joint "anti-dhimmitude" -- would put an end to the ongoing phenomenon of a vestigial de facto dhimmi Jewish community of Turkey (via its dhimmi leadership)
holding Israel, and American Jews hostage to the whims of an oppressive Turkish government, in the throes of a transformative fundamentalist Islamic revival.