There has been much rhetoric and some action in Turkey in recent years in an attempt to demonstrate just how far the country has progressed in terms of tackling anti-Semitic.
In March 2015, after a $2.5 million government-funded restoration programme, the Edirne Great Synagogue reopened. Indeed, it was a festive day for Turkey’s Jewish community, which numbers about 15,000 members. Istanbul’s Jewish community arrived in organized buses, along with government officials who also came to pay tribute to the restoration of what was once Europe’s second largest synagogue.
2015 also witnessed the first year that the Turkish government officially participated in International Holocaust Memorial Day. At this year’s Memorial Day, the Turkish EU Minister Volkan Bozkır was present along with the country’s chief rabbi and said, “We have been unfortunately observing that anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and xenophobia, which we can define as an epidemic disease and which we see is on the rise in every part of the world, have had an impact on some marginal circles in our country from time to time. Regardless of the religious, ethnic and sectarian identity targeted, it is not possible for us to tolerate any discourse of hate.”
In a written statement released on January 26th, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said, “We commemorate with respect millions of people who lost their lives in the Holocaust, which is one of the darkest and most painful eras in the history of humanity.”
“As it has done so far, our country will continue to fulfill its responsibility to ensure such atrocities are not experienced again and will continue its fight with determination against phenomena, such as anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobia and Islamophobia, which have unfortunately been observed and strengthened.”
However, despite this fine sentiment everyday Turkish anti-Semitism appears to be an ongoing problem. Just this week Turkish social media users have resorted to anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, calling a prominent pro-government media personality a “Jewish stooge” for publicly criticized the ruling AK Party during a television appearance last Thursday.
According to a report in Today’s Zaman, Yeni Safak columnist Yusuf Kaplan came under fire after panning Turkey’s “zero problems with neighbors” policy as incompatible with regional realities, leading users on social media to call for his death, accuse him of killing another pro-government journalist and of collusion with the Jews.
In a social media posting of his own, Kaplan accused his critics of “talking nonsense,” stating that while he was “accused of being a Jewish stooge and a British spy,” such statements are merely “a baseless smear campaign.”
The Anti-Defamation League’s website shows a study by the group that measures public attitudes and opinions toward Jews in over 100 countries. The index score for Turkey shows that 69 percent of the country harbor feelings of anti-Semitism. Of this number, 84 percent are men and 56 are women.
The website shows that 70 percent of Turkish citizens agree with the statement “Jews don’t care what happens to anyone but their own kind” and 75 percent agree with the statement “Jews have too much power in the business world.”
Still a lot of progress to be made in that country!