These vague Turkish government accusations have caused great concern within the Jewish community. The Anti-Defemation League’s Abraham Foxman asserted, “Throughout Jewish history, similar tactics have fomented anti-Semitism by publicly raising suspicions of Jewish dual loyalty in the minds of fellow countrymen.” Erdogan himself has noted what he perceives to be the “duel loyalty of Turkish Jewry.” Rafael Sadi of the Association of Turkish Immigrants in Israel, stated that the Turkish authorities “are trying to intimidate the Jews” as well as to send Israel the message that if Turkish demands are not met, the Turkish Jewish community is liable to suffer the consequences.
Meanwhile, Jews living within Turkey have complained about the deterioration of their plight since the Mavi Marmara affair. For example, one Turkish Jew named Ediz declared, “As a Jew, I can attest to you there is a difference between being a Turk and an Israeli. But whenever there is fighting between Israel and the Palestinians, the atmosphere in Turkey turns against us, and people start acting as if we committed a crime.” Leri, another Turkish Jew, claimed, “The media is painting such an image that many won’t even consider us human.”
Rifat N. Bali, a research fellow at the Alberto Benveniste Center for Sephardic Studies and Culture in Paris, has written, “In recent years, the Jewish community has become the target of much hostility and verbal abuse by the country’s Islamic and ultra-nationalist sectors. Zionism and Israel are publicly demonized and this sentiment often crosses the line into anti-Semitism. It is unthinkable that any Turkish Jew would make pro-Israel statements openly to correct all the misinformation and disinformation concerning Israel and Zionism.”
Meanwhile, Turkish officials are now denying that they are probing Turkish Jewish citizens. Turkish Foreign Ministry Spokesman Selcuk Unal asserted, “There has never been anti-Semitism in any part of our history and there will never be. Racism does not exist in the culture and the tradition of the Turkish nation. Turkey has repeatedly said it considers anti-Semitism and racism as crimes against humanity.” Nevertheless, he also claimed that legal procedures are underway to identify possible perpetrators of the Mavi Marmara incident, but added that this has nothing to do with Turkey’s “Jewish community who are equal citizens and an integral part of our society.”
By Rachel Avraham