Turkey's main Jewish group urge calm after spat with Israel

Ankara Jewish community president: Further tensions could "turn into anti-Semitism"; ADL can't "ignore new atmosphere, potential consequences."

January 17, 2010 22:34
1 minute read.
ahmet oguz celikkol turkey ambassador

ahmet oguz celikkol turkey ambassador. (photo credit: )


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Turkey's main Jewish group on Thursday said disputes between the country and Israel must be solved courteously, and warned that continued tensions could inflame anti-Semitism.

Silvyo Ovadya, the president of the group Musevi Cemaati, or Jewish Community, said the 23,000-member community has no immediate fear, but further tensions could "turn into anti-Semitism."

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Israel on Wednesday caved in to demands from Turkey and apologized over an insult to its ambassador that had led Turkey to threaten to recall its ambassador.

The crisis erupted Monday when Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, summoned the Turkish ambassador to complain about a Turkish television drama that has been perceived as anti-Semitic. Ayalon forced Ambassador Oguz Celikkol to sit on a low sofa without a handshake and explained to cameramen that the humiliation was intentional.

The show, The Valley of the Wolves, depicts Israeli security forces kidnapping children and shooting old men.

"There might be ups and downs in relations between the two countries, there may be mutual anger, but all these have to be settled in a diplomatic way and in line with rules of courtesy," Ovadya said by telephone. "We are sorry to see that relations between the two countries are not going well."

Over the past decade, Turkey and Israel had built up a strong relationship, including military cooperation and tourism, making Turkey Israel's closest ally in the Muslim world.


Lately, however, Israel has been troubled by harsh statements from Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was outraged by the high Palestinian civilian death toll during Israel's Gaza offensive a year ago.

A major Jewish American group meanwhile, raised concerns about rising anti-Semitism in Turkey, pointing at Turkish government officials' harsh statements and the "hateful depiction [of Jews and Israel] in the mass media."

"We continue to be concerned about a new environment in Turkey which permits and even encourages extreme expressions regarding Jews and Israel," Abraham H. Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League said in a statement released Wednesday. "While we have celebrated Turkey's history of coexistence with Jews and the protection Turkish society provides for its Jewish community, we cannot ignore this new atmosphere and its potential consequences."

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