ADL's Foxman: Erdogan’s statements foster 'distrust and animus toward the Jewish community'

In open letter ADL chief says to Erdogan that he is “deeply pained by your unfair and one dimensional characterization of the recent conflict between Israel and Hamas.”

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (photo credit: REUTERS)
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Anti-Defamation League head Abraham Foxman accused Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of stimulating the growth of anti-Semitism in a public letter Sunday. The two have been corresponding since July, when Foxman urged the Anatolian leader to “publicly reject all expressions of anti-Semitism including the scapegoating of Turkish Jews for the actions of Israel, and assure the Turkish Jewish community that they continue to have the full support and protection of the state and people of Turkey.”
Both the ADL and the American Jewish Congress have expressed alarm at the rise in what the two organizations perceive to be anti-Semitic rhetoric in Turkey during the course of Israel’s recent military conflict with Hamas, including a public request by Erdogan for his country’s Jewish community to condemn Israel.
Toward the end of August, Erdogan replied to Foxman, asserting that Turkish Jewry “need not be concerned with the Turkish public sentiments caused by the recent events in Gaza or feel vulnerable on grounds of anti-Semitism.”
During the conflict, Erdogan compared Israel to Adolf Hitler, terming the country a “terrorist state.”
Assuring Foxman that Turkey’s security services were protecting local Jews, Erdogan averred that “anti-Semitism…will never gain grounds in Turkey.”
Accusing Israel of collective punishment of the Palestinians, Erdogan shot back at Foxman, writing that seeking to prevent criticism of Israel “on the grounds of anti-Semitism, whereas this is not the case, will prevent the culture of democracy from taking root in the Middle East.”
Erdogan praised the Turkish Jewish community for writing to the American Jewish Congress to condemn its demand that Erdogan return an award the group granted him a decade ago, denying a link between government statements and anti-Semitism.
The Turkish Jewish community has a policy of silence when it comes to the press and former members have accused Turkish authorities of pressuring communal bodies to toe the party line.
According to one former Jewish college classmate of Erdogan now living in Tel Aviv, Turkish Jews have a “policy of silence.”
“The Turkish Jewish community will prefer to keep their mouths shut because of their public safety, and they are right to do this,” he said.
A group of Turkish Jewish intellectuals unconnected with the officials communal body recently wrote an open letter to Erdogan denouncing Israeli actions in Gaza but also decrying the President’s demands that they make such a declaration because they are Jews.
 “In the same way the people of Turkey cannot be held responsible for the barbarity of what Islamic State does because a number of Turks are among its fighters, the Jewish community of Turkey cannot be held responsible for what the state of Israel does,” they explained, stating that it is impossible for a community of 20,000 to offer a unified opinion on any matter.
Responding to Erdogan on Sunday, Foxman said that he was “deeply pained by your unfair and one dimensional characterization of the recent conflict between Israel and Hamas.”
Foxman accused the President of presenting an unbalanced description of the conflict that neglected to include Hamas’ attacks against civilians, adding that the “suggestion that Israel and Jews misuse claims of anti-Semitism to obstruct criticism, and this is somehow preventing democracy to take root in the Middle East, is unfounded.”
“During this most recent conflict there have been numerous attacks against Jews and Jewish institutions and ugly public expressions of hatred toward Jews across Europe and in other parts of the world,” Foxman wrote. “Moreover, Israel, the nation-state of the Jewish people, has been singled out, vilified and subjected to calls for boycotts and other sanctions…Fairness has no chance when expressions of anti-Semitism are presented as criticism of Israel. We will raise the alarm about anti-Semitism -- not to prevent democracy from taking root anywhere, but to foster respect for Jews and, indeed, all minorities in the region.”