Anti-Semitism in Turkey has increased over the past decade partly because of
government policies and rhetoric by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and
other leaders, said Efrat Aviv at an international conference on Wednesday at
Bar-Ilan University titled “Turkey – Where to?” The conference was organized by
The Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, with the assistance of Aviv, a
researcher at BESA and a lecturer in the department of Middle East studies at
A poll she conducted under the auspices of the Vidal Sassoon
International Center for the Study of Antisemitism showed that Erdogan’s
rhetoric resulted in higher anti- Semitism in the country.
how Jews in Turkey live on edge, particularly because of the upsurge in tensions
with Israel under the current Justice and Development Party (AKP)
In public Turkish Jews tend not even to use the word
“Israel,” she said, instead referring to “the state.”
Since the AKP came
to power by winning elections in 2002, it has slowly Islamized society and
become more authoritative, which were some of the reasons behind the protests by
mainly liberal Turks over the past couple of months in Taksim
Aviv also noted that the Turkish press and government officials
have been demonizing Jews and involving them in various conspiracy theories. One
of the most recent examples was when Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay
linked the protests to the “Jewish Diaspora.”
Most anti-Semitism in
Turkey comes from the radical Right, radical Muslims, or the far Left, according
When a Jew became Turkey’s representative at the Eurovision song
contest, “some journalists were surprised and it caused a stir in Turkey about
whether a Jew can represent Turkey.
Aviv, who gave a balanced picture of the situation, also noted that there were some intellectuals calling for zero tolerance on the issue. Another interesting point was that the Jewish immigration rate to Israel from Turkey has not risen during AKP rule.
Prof. Efraim Inbar, director of BESA,
said that Israel-bashing is a tool the regime uses to gain “popularity in the
Israel’s apology to Turkey over the Mavi Marmara incident
was an attempt by Israel to improve relations, but “of course the apology did
not meet all the demands of Turkey – it did not work,” he said.
rest of the Arab world, they [Turkey] smelled the weakness of Obama,” so they
were not going to listen to him and apologize quickly to Israel. In fact,
“Erdogan slapped Obama in public by telling him, while standing next to him,
that he would go to Gaza.”
“I am a realpolitik kind of guy,” said Inbar,
adding that showing weakness in this region is not wise.
Inbar went on to
state that he said all along that it was a mistake to apologize, and a new BESA
poll found that 71 percent of the Israeli public agrees that Israel should not
“Israelis have common sense that doesn’t exist in some
ministries in Jerusalem,” he quipped.
Inbar predicted that Turkey- Israel
relations would continue to be poor, and that the idea that Israel would
cooperate with Turkey by building a pipeline through the country to export its
gas to Europe “is a pipe dream, and it does not make any strategic sense to
strengthen Turkey at this stage.”
Harold Rhode, a senior fellow at the
New-York-based Gatestone Institute and a former adviser at the Pentagon, said
that the real issue is that “Islam is provoking the West” and not vice
The US ignored Japan during World War II and then suddenly was
attacked at Pearl Harbor, leading to an instant and dramatic change in US public
opinion toward the war. Similarly, said Rhode, something could happen that
“would fill the West with enormous rage.”
Of course, there are moderate
voices in the Islamic world, but these people fear expressing themselves, he
Rhode said that his many years of experience in the Pentagon and
traveling throughout the Islamic world showed him that the Western concept of compromise
is foreign to the Middle East, as it is a Western conception.
Islamic world, it is shameful to compromise, he asserted.
the bureau chief in Israel of the Anadolu Agency, the official government news
agency in Turkey, tried to put a positive spin on AKP rule, stating that the
party brought economic stability to the country, successfully getting through
the worldwide economic crisis.
He defended the government’s crackdown on
protesters, stating that “no democracy would allow that.”
In Israel, he
said, “when Palestinians throw stones, the police act. The same is true in
On the jailing of journalists, he claimed that “no one in Turkey
is in jail because of their writing against the government.”
have been arrested were involved with the terrorist PKK organization, he
He countered the notion that the country was being Islamized, stating that the
new alcohol restrictions did not ban the substance but simply limited its sale
after certain hours, which is similar, he emphasized, to the laws of other
European countries which limit the sale of alcohol to certain times of
Metin Heper, a Turkish professor from Bilkent University in Ankara,
stated that it is difficult to make judgments about Turkish anti-Semitism
without seeing concrete data.
He noted that the periphery came to the
center and now plays an important role in Turkish politics.
a comment that Turkey is in a mess, he responded that this was an exaggeration.