The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) expressed alarm at the increasingly hostile environment toward Israel in Turkey Saturday, warning that the escalation of anti-Semitism against the Turkish Jewish community is rising and calling on Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to address the situation.
“We are alarmed by the growing hostility toward Israel in Turkey, which is increasingly being directed at the Jewish community,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. “Targeting Turkey’s Jews for the policies and actions of Israel is anti-Semitism.”
The ADL noted that in the past, Prime Minister Erdogan has made public statements in support of the Turkish Jewish community.
“He needs to do so again before the situation gets worse,” Foxman said. “Now is the time for the prime minister to speak out again and reject those who target Turkey’s Jews. He needs to assure this increasingly vulnerable community that it has the full support and protection of the state.”
Approximately 17,000 Jews live in Turkey, where 69% of the general population was revealed recently to hold anti-Semitic views.
On Wednesday, a pro-government newspaper, the daily Yeni Akit, published an open letter by Faruk Köse to Turkey’s chief rabbi, calling on the Jewish community to apologize for Israel’s actions in Gaza.
“You came here after being banished from Spain,” Köse wrote in the paper, which is affiliated with Erdogan. “You have lived comfortably among us for 500 years and gotten rich at our expense. Is this your gratitude – killing Muslims? Erdogan, demand that the community leader apologize!”
In the same newspaper, an editorial highlighted the victims in Gaza and suggested that Turkey’s Jews should condemn Israel’s actions. “While all this is happening, the journal of the Jewish community in Turkey, ‘Shalom,’ is referring to the murder of children in Gaza as ‘taking care of terrorists.’”
Long history of anti-Semitism
The statements follow Israel's decision to pull diplomatic staff from its embassies in Ankara and Istanbul, after violent riots there Thursday night resulted in injuries and damage.
Israel has linked the violence to a number of inflammatory and anti-Semitic hate slurs from Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has become increasingly vocal against Israel after the IDF moved to protect millions of Israelis from Hamas rocket fire.
"They say (Hamas) is firing rockets. But is there anybody who died?" he asked. "The number of Palestinians that you (Israel) killed is now 100. Their (Israel's) life is based on lies."
"You will first stop this oppression. If not, it is not possible to realize normalization between Turkey and Israel," Erdogan said, on a separate occasion.
On Thursday night, he claimed Israel had a long history of "genocide" against Muslims, in a series of confused and violent slurs relating to the Ramadan fast.
"This is not the first time we have been confronted by such situations," Erdogan told a meeting of Islamic scholars gathered in Istanbul for Ramadan, a holy month of fasting for Muslims. "Since (the creation of the state of Israel) in 1948 we have been witnessing this attempt at systematic genocide every day and every month. But above all we are witnessing this attempt at systematic genocide every Ramadan."
Erdogan himself has also had a long public record of anti-Semitic statements, including several recently despite efforts to normalize relations.
Several months ago, Erdogan kicked and beat a protestor who approached the premier over the May 2014 Soma mine disaster.
"Why are you running away from me - Israeli sperm!" he shrieked, slapping the protester, in video footage uploaded to Sozcu TV. The word "sperm" is seen as a particularly offensive insult in Turkish. The footage later shows security forces beating the man.
In 1998, prior to his stint as PM, 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."