NEW YORK—The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) earlier this month expressed alarm at the increasingly hostile environment toward Israel in Turkey, which with the recent intensification of the conflict between Israel and Hamas is extending to the Turkish Jewish community, and called on Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to reject this targeting and publicly assert that the Jewish community has the full support and protection of the state.
Turkey’s leaders, including Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, have harshly criticized Israel and Israeli leaders in recent days with Hitler comparisons. Several anti-Israel protests have turned violent. Last Thursday night, demonstrators waving pro-Palestinian flags and banners in Ankara and Istanbul hurled rocks and screamed anti-Semitic and anti-Israel epithets outside of the Israeli diplomatic offices. Hundreds of protestors reportedly attacked the Israeli consulate in Istanbul.
Recent articles in the Turkish media have blamed Turkey’s Jews for the situation in Gaza.
“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.”
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.”
Turkey’s Jewish community of approximately 17,000 people has been a vibrant part of Turkey’s social fabric for more than 500 years.
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.’”
ADL’s recent Global 100 survey of anti-Semitism found that 69 percent of those surveyed in Turkey agreed with a series of long-held anti-Semitic stereotypes about Jews.