Daily Israel Report

Young Turkish Jews Flee Growing Anti-Semitism

Senior member of Israel's Turkish Jewish community says Islamist AKP party fanning the flames of hatred.
By Ari Soffer
First Publish: 10/23/2013, 9:36 PM

Illustration: Turkish anti-Israel march
Illustration: Turkish anti-Israel march
Reuters

Turkish Jews are leaving the country due to growing anti-Semitism, exacerbated by the Islamist AKP government's antagonism towards Israel and Jews.

So says Nesim Güveniş, deputy chairman the Association of Turkish Jews in Israel.

Speaking to Turkey's Hurriyet Daily Güveniş claimed that young Jews are particularly keen to leave, hundreds of whom have already moved to the US and Europe in recent years.

The infamous Mavi Marmara incident and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's decision to storm out of a televised interview with Israeli President Shimon Peres were all contributing factors to the growing sense of unease among Turkey's 15,000-strong Jewish community, who saw it as pure antagonism on the part of their own Prime Minister.

"Is [Israeli President Shimon] Peres a man that could be told ‘one minute’? He is known in the world as a man of peace," protested Güveniş, who himself made aliyah (emigrated) to Israel in 1981, and is one of approximately 80,000 Turkish Jews living in Israel today.

But anti-Israel politics are just the tip of the iceberg.

Blatantly anti-Semitic statements by Turkish leaders have become almost routine; from the country's Deputy Prime Minister accusing a dark conspiracy by "Diaspora Jewry" as being behind the mass "Gezi Park" anti-government protest movement, to similar comments made by Erdogan himself.

The Turkish Prime Minister's long history of anti-Semitism is no secret. Prior to his stint as PM, in 1998 Erdogan - then mayor of Istanbul - infamously declared that "the Jews have begun to crush the Muslims in Palestine, in the name of Zionism. Today, the image of the Jews is no different than that of the Nazis."

"K", a 20 year-old Jewish student and emigre from Turkey who spoke to Arutz Sheva on condition of anonymity, confirmed that he and other Turkish Jews his age were leaving Turkey out of "desperation."

"They were like, 'let's go before it's too late,'" he related, saying that the number one destination for emigres was Israel, followed by the United States.

"They were afraid for the future of Turkey," he added, asking not to be named due to fears for his safety and the safety of his family.

Interestingly, in his interview with Hurriyet, Güveniş claimed that a significant factor motivating his own aliyah was the extremism his sons experienced on Turkish university campuses.

“They didn’t want to go to university where leftists or other groups were putting pressure on them to take sides at school. They went to university in Israel and we also had to move again after a couple of years. The first two years in Israel were difficult, and we had to learn the language. But I don’t regret it,” he said.

With two Turkish students currently held in Poland after an anti-Semitic incident at a former Nazi death camp, it would appear that little has changed.