Anti-Semitism is running rampant in Turkey
Anti-Semitism is running rampant in Turkey

When the Kurdish-controlled city of Afrin in northern Syria fell to Turkey on March 18, many Turkish Twitter users celebrated it, using anti-Semitic epithets that referred to the Kurdish PKK fighters there as “servants of Jews”, “bastards of Jews,” “underbred Armenians and Jews” and “Crypto-Jews, -Armenians and -Pontian Greeks,” among others.

One asserted that “Striking hospitals is the work of Americans and Jews”, while another declared: “Allah willing, Hans’, Georges, and Jewish and Armenian dogs will be cleansed from the area.”

These anti-Semitic outbursts are not only peculiar to social media users in Turkey. The rise in anti-Semitic expressions in the country has a plethora of sources, including the president, several MPs, journalists, and members of political organizations, among others. And these public figures set a terrible example to average Turks, many of whom are already inclined to have Jew-hating sentiments due to the violent, anti-Semitic teachings in Islamic theology.

A Turkish news website that reports on Jewish-related issues, Avlaremoz,conducted an online survey in which readers were asked to choose “the most anti-Semitic incidents of 2017.”

Here are the results:

1. Attack against Istanbul’s Neve Şalom Synagogue

Dozens of Turkish nationalists attacked the Neve Şalom Synagogue in Istanbul on July 20 of last year after Israel temporarily implemented new security checks following the murder of two Druze border guards by Palestinian gunmen on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The demonstrators threw rocks at the synagogue, kicked its doors and tried to break in. Kürşat Mican, the head of the Istanbul branch of the Islamist nationalist Alperen movement, threatened the worshippers at the synagogue as well as Israel: “One night we could place a siege on all of your places of worship and no one will be able to worship there,” he said.

2. Turkish journalist mocking Holocaust victims on Twitter

When the Turkish and Ukrainian governments agreed in February of last year to allow their citizens to travel to each other’s countries without passports, the columnist, Aykut Işıklar, posted on Twitter a photo of Holocaust victims in a concentration camp. He mockingly wrote: “The first Turkish tourist convoy after Ukraine removed visas for Turkey has set off. They will warm up in the touristy bakery shops on the roadsides.”

3. Television drama series inciting anti-Semitism through unreal events and Jewish characters

The Turkish drama series “Payitaht: Abdülhamid” (roughly, "Sultan Abdulhamid") on the state-owned TRT 1 television channel depicts Jews as murderous and conspiratorial people who constantly engage in scheming, deception and cruelty. For further details, please read the report by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).

4. Murderous statements against Jews on Twitter following the U.S. decision regarding Jerusalem

Following U.S. President Donald Trump's December 6 recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, many radical Turks expressed a seething Jew-hatred on Twitter. One asked “Where will we bury millions of Jewish bodies?” while another asserted: "For Jerusalem to belong to Muslims, not a single Jew should be left alive in Palestinian lands.” Some Twitter users praised Hitler for killing Jews, while others condemned him for not doing a sufficient job.

There were also those who suggested persecuting Turkish Jews.

5. The Nazi salute interrupting a football match between Turkish and Austrian teams

A group of Hannover 96 football fans in the town of Velden in Austria shouted “Heil Hitler” while making the Nazi salute to the football players on the Turkish team Kayserispor on July 27.

6. Prosecutor calling Gülen movement “a Jewish organization”

In an apparent attempt to further demonize the Fethullah Gülen movement (FETÖ), which the Turkish government accuses of being behind the 2016 failed coup attempt, Hüsnü Aldemir, chief prosecutor in the city of Çankırı, said at a public meeting on June 15 that “FETÖ is very intricate and is totally a Jewish organization. Everything they do is planned. That is why we’re going over our investigations with a fine-tooth comb.”

7. Nationalist MP spreading anti-Semitic misinformation about Jewish burial customs

Lütfü Türkkan, a former MP of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and a member of the executive board of the recently established Good Party, posted an untruthful tweet on November 8, promoting the false anti-Semitic prejudice that Jews are rapacious and self-obsessed. He wrote: “Hebrews put a piece of soil on the eyes of the dead before burying them. It means ‘let this soil finally suffice to financially satisfy you.’”

Avlaremoz criticized the former MP for spreading misinformation and clarified the Jewish custom: “What we do is we put a handful of soil on the face of the dead to symbolize the fact that we come from the soil and go back to the soil.”

8. Anti-Semitic banner targeting the referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan

Following the Kurdistan Regional Government’s independence referendum on September 25 in Iraq, a banner was hung in the Beşiktaş neighborhood of Istanbul. It read: "Jewish [Masoud] Barzani, we know who you are. You aim to establish greater Israel, but not Kurdistan. We'll come to you suddenly one night.”

9. MP of the ruling party blaming a Jewish bank for the assassination of Kennedy

Burhan Kuzu, an MP of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), associated the assassination of U.S. president John F. Kennedy with a Jewish bank he did not name. On November 12, he wrote on Twitter:

“Kennedy took the mandate for printing the U.S. dollar from the Jewish bank and gave it to the state’s central bank and got killed; the killer remains unidentified. The first act by Johnson, who replaced him, was to give the mandate for printing the dollar back to the Jewish bank. The fights for the throne in Saudi Arabia can end like this.”

10. Deputy president of the main opposition party targeting the “Jewish lobby”

Özgür Özel, deputy president of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), accused Turkish PM Binali Yıldırım of going to the United States to “ask for the support of the Jewish lobby to promote the wealth fund” in November of last year.   

By negatively using the phrase “the Jewish lobby,” Özel attempted to create the false perception that “Jews are not people whose help could be sought” while also promoting, as did some of those cited above, the medieval anti-Semitic canard that “Jews rule the world”.  

As the many examples in the survey once again makes clear, Jew-haters in Turkey, a country that fancies itself as a candidate for EU, are proudly revealing themselves through their words and deeds. And Turkey’s large number of military and economic agreements with Israel does not seem to reduce the level of anti-Semitism in Turkey.

The problem is clear. The question is what the government and other politicians are doing about it.

In normal countries, when the government fails to bring the perpetrators of evil to account, opposition parties are expected to call out and condemn the perpetrators and those who enable them. But in Turkey, not only the ruling AKP party, but also the major Turkish opposition parties, commonly engage in anti-Semitism. And these anti-Semites are warmly tolerated by their fellow party members.

Even when hatred of the Jews and other non-Muslims is commanded by the scriptures of the dominant religion of a country, responsible leaders and other officials are expected to educate their citizens, teaching them – particularly through the curricula at schools - to reject hatred and embrace some values such as dignity and humanity.

But how is murderous Jew-hatred to be tackled and reduced now that making anti-Semitic statements in public - and with impunity -  has become a norm in Turkey?