US Jewish Groups Slam Turkey for Anti-Semitism, Threaten to Cut Lobbying Efforts

WASHINGTON (Combined Sources)–Five major Jewish organizations called on the Turkish prime minister this week to "urgently address" a wave of anti-Semitism in his country, warning that Turkey’s recent condemnation of Israel will make it difficult to continue supporting Turkey’s attempts to prevent US recognition of the Armenian Genocide.

In a letter to Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the groups’ leaders wrote, "Turkey rightly prides itself on many centuries of coexistence with Jews. But today, our Jewish friends in Turkey feel besieged and threatened."

Signing on to the letter were the leaders of the American Jewish Committee, Anti-Defamation League, B’nai B’rith International, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.

"Turkey was our friend. I am sorrowful and confused. You may not like the Israel’s policy, but there is a method of criticism. It is clear that the Prime Minister chose his words carefully. He is using very sharp words," Anti Defamation League Chairman Abraham Foxman was quoted by Turkey’s Milliyyet newspaper as saying. Foxman’s organization has stood at the forefront of US lobbying efforts against recognition of the Armenian Genocide for years, working on behalf of the Turkish government to provide weight to dissuade different US administrations and Congresses from reaffirming the Genocide.

The organizations that signed on to the letter declined to support a 2007 U.S. congressional resolution recognizing the Armenian genocide, concerned that such legislation could harm the relationships between the United States and Turkey and Israel and Turkey.

"This time it will be difficult,” the letter said in reference to future lobbying efforts against the Genocide. “Earlier we supported you not only for the fair case of Turkey, but also it was our friend. No wit is difficult to say that Turkey is our friend."

Among the incidents cited in the letter are Istanbul billboards full of anti-Jewish propaganda posters, the door to a Jewish-owned shop in Istanbul with a sign reading "Do not buy from here, since this shop is owned by a Jew" and the defacing of a synagogue, which has led to the closure of all but one of the synagogues in the city of Izmir. Protesters also have expressed their hatred of Jews at the Israeli Consulate.

The groups’ letter notes a connection between "the inflammatory denunciation of Israel by Turkish officials" and the rise of anti-Semitism. Erdogan has called Israeli actions in Gaza "a crime against humanity" and told a municipal election campaign rally that the Jewish state was "perpetrating inhuman actions which would bring it to self-destruction."

"To be sure, we disagree with your government’s view of the situation in the Gaza Strip and with some of your own harshest statemen’s," the leaders wrote. "We should certainly agree, however, that such differences of opinion do not justify any display of anti-Semitism in Turkey or elsewhere."

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