Most Turkish Jews careful about talking coup politics

Turkish Jewish Journalist to ‘Post’: Despite the flaws of the current government, a military intervention is not and cannot be the answer.

Turkish Jews eating breakfast in an Istanbul synagogue (photo credit: SAM SOKOL)
Turkish Jews eating breakfast in an Istanbul synagogue
(photo credit: SAM SOKOL)
A number of Jewish Turkish personalities preferred not to speak about the failed coup attempt over the weekend, with one rabbi telling The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that the community’s Jews remain “neutral.”
Turkish Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Haliva said a statement released by the representatives of Turkey’s Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities condemning the coup’s violence was a message of peace.
“We published a message to the whole world to show that we are working together for love between brothers,” he said. “There are no problems between the Christians, Jews or Muslims here.”
Haliva declined to comment further on the coup, saying it was a political issue and that “we religious figures do not express opinions on political issues. It’s the government’s issue. I’m just happy there is peace in Turkey.”
Rabbi Avraham Haim of the Torat Haim Community in Istanbul said: “The Jews of Turkey are neutral. Jewish history teaches that whatever side you take, it will work against you, so they don’t express any opinion,” he told the Post on the heels of the attempted military coup.
He said that while there is still an atmosphere of fear in the country following the deadly terrorist attack at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport last month, this weekend’s attempted coup had far less impact.
“The synagogues didn’t open on Saturday morning out of security concerns, but they were already open again for mincha,” afternoon prayers.
“I don’t think the coup had any real chance,” he said. “The government’s rule is total and the attempt was close to a joke.”
At most, he said, the move was a call of protest against the government, or that perhaps those behind it thought they could replicate Turkey’s history of revolutions. “But the conditions today are different and the population is different, so it wasn’t set up for success.”
Haim stressed that members of Turkey’s community shy away from commenting on political issues, as it is “a very sensitive situation.” Indeed, this was demonstrated by several failed attempts by the Post to reach other Jewish Turks.
Selin Nasi, a columnist for the Hurriyet Daily News and the Turkish-Jewish weekly Salom, told the Post: “I can say that we avoided a catastrophe regarding the fact that the coup attempt did not succeed.”
“Despite the flaws of the current government, a military intervention is not and cannot be the answer. We need to find solutions and reach reconciliation within the democratic framework,” she said.
The government has two alternative paths ahead, explained Nasi. One option is that it can build upon the rare solid consensus among the four political parties in the parliament that opposed the coup and promote a form of inclusive politics.
On the other hand, “the government might stick to its majority agenda, and try to derive political profit from the rallied constituency and push for a referendum to create a presidential system.”
According to early indications, she said, “the government seems to be determined to flex its muscles. This means Turkey has already slipped into a witch hunt for the putschists. This process is likely to lead to more polarization, instability and pave the way for repression of liberties in the name of cleansing the country of traitors.”
Asked if the coup attempt would influence foreign policy, Nasi said she does not think it will have much of an impact.
“The government made it clear beforehand that it was in favor of mending ties with former allies and neighbors, so I don’t foresee a significant change over that approach.”
With regard to relations with NATO countries, she argued that, so far on issues such as the refugees, “interests prevailed over democratic values.”
Therefore, even if the government becomes more authoritarian, the West is likely to continue stable relations with the country, she concluded.