The modern fundamentalist Islamic movement Erbakan founded has continued to produce the most extreme strain of anti-Semitism extant in Turkey, and traditional Islamic motifs, i.e., frequent quotations from the Koran and Hadith, remain central to this hatred, nurtured by early Islam’s basic animus towards Judaism. For example, Milli Gazete published articles in February and April of 2005, which were toxic amalgams of ahistorical drivel and virulently anti-Semitic and anti-dhimmi Koranic motifs, including these protoypical comments based upon Koran 2:61/ 3:112:
In fact no amount of pages or lines would be sufficient to explain the Qur’anic chapters and our Lord Prophet’s [Muhammad's] words that tell us of the betrayals of the Jews. … The prophets sent to them, such as Zachariah and Isaiah, were murdered by the Jews…
The April 2005 edition of the monthly Aylik, produced by a Turkish jihadist organization which claimed responsibility for the November 15, 2003, dual synagogue bombings in Istanbul, contained 18 pages of antis-Semitic material. An article written by Cumali Dalkilic (“Why Antisemitism?”) combined traditional Koranic anti-Semitic motifs with Nazi anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial. Another article’s title repeats the commonplace, if very pejorative Turkish Muslim characterization of Jews, “Tschifit,” which translates as “filthy Jews” (a pejorative term for Jews whose usage was recorded by the European travelers Carsten Niebuhr in 1794 and Abdolonyme Ubicini in 1856, based upon their visits to Ottoman Turkey), i.e., “The Tschifits [The Filthy Jews] Castle.”
Bat Ye’or published a remarkably foresighted 1973 analysis (first translated into English here) of the Islamic anti-Semitism resurgent in her native Egypt and being packaged for dissemination throughout the Muslim world. The primary, core anti-Semitic motifs were Islamic, derived from Islam’s foundational texts, onto which European (especially Nazi) elements were grafted.
The pejorative characteristics of Jews as they are described in Muslim religious texts are applied to modern Jews. Anti-Judaism and anti-Zionism are equivalent-due to the inferior status of Jews in Islam, and because divine will dooms Jews to wandering and misery, the Jewish state appears to Muslims as an unbearable affront and a sin against Allah. Therefore it must be destroyed by Jihad. Here the Pan-Arab and anti-Western theses that consider Israel as an advanced instrument of the West in the Islamic world, come to reinforce religious anti-Judaism. The religious and political fuse in a purely Islamic context onto which are grafted foreign elements. If, on the doctrinal level, Nazi influence is secondary to the Islamic base, the technique with which the Antisemitic material has been reworked, and the political purposes being pursued, present striking similarities with Hitler’s Germany.
That anti-Jewish opinions have been widely spread in Arab nationalist circles since the 1930s is not in doubt. But their confirmation at [Al] Azhar [University] by the most important authorities of Islam enabled them to be definitively imposed, with the cachet of infallible authenticity, upon illiterate masses that were strongly attached to religious traditions.
Erbakan’s recent statements are vivid evidence of the fulminant anti-Semitism his popular movement has imbued, including among Turkey’s current ruling elites, who never criticize such pronouncements by their mentor. Indeed current Prime Minister Erdogan amplifies this bigoted, anti-Semitic discourse which resonates among the masses, illustrating graphically the same phenomenon described so presciently 37 years ago by Bat Ye’or about her native Egypt: sequentially grafting modern secular Western European elements, especially those associated with Nazism, onto a learned foundation of anti-Semitic motifs from Islam’s core texts.
Rifat Bali, a Turkish-Jewish historian, made a passionate indictment of Turkey’s tacit acceptance of anti-Semitism, published soon after the November 15, 2003, Istanbul synagogue bombings. The courageous Bali first and foremost decried the failure of Prime Minister Erdogan and his AKP government to publicly denounce both the anti-Semitic discourse of the fundamentalist Islamic movement from which Erdogan emerged (and which he claimed later to have abandoned), and those (like Erdogan’s mentor Necmettin Erbakan) insistent on perpetuating such public discourse. With bitter disbelief, Bali further noted the near unanimously shared, albeit counterfactual view, of a respected Turkish columnist, published (in Milliyet November 17, 2003) within two days of the bombings, who maintained that, “…there has never been anti-Semitism in Turkey in its racist or religious sense.”
The opportunity for honest discussion was squandered by every domain of Turkish society; not only politicians, but also media and intellectual elites. Moreover, a profoundly depressing example of collective Jewish dhimmitude was on ignominious display. The chief rabbi, as well as the secular leaders in his entourage representing the voice of Turkey’s Jewish community, even the Israeli government, as Bali observes,
…all seemed determined to ignore…[rather than] to confront face to face the anti-Semitism which is incorporated in the political Islamic movement…[i.e., which currently governs Turkey]. Bali further admonished the Erdogan regime to live up to its professed support of equality for Jews within Turkish society: Turkey’s Jews are not dhimmis in need of the tolerance and the protection of the Muslim majority. They are citizens of the Republic of Turkey.
Perhaps ceasing this disgraceful and delusional behavior starts by putting an end to the hagiography of Jewish life under Ottoman rule (including Jews living within Istanbul’s ghettos and Ottoman Palestine), and using precise, accurate, and appropriate terms that describe this half-millennium of history: jihad, surgun (forced population transfer), and chronic dhimmitude.
There was nothing “humanitarian” whatsoever in the Ottomans accepting a relatively modest number of Jewish refugees from the Inquisition. Far greater numbers were accepted in other parts of Europe itself. Indeed, the vacuum created for these skilled Jewish refugees whom the Ottomans re-settled in their burgeoning empire was created by the Ottoman jihad conquest of Byzantine and Venetian territories, and their Jewish populations, i.e., Jews who were subjected to the Ottoman jihad, including massacre, pillage, enslavement, forced conversion, and surgun deportation.
Also, one cannot get lost in comforting happy talk and ignore the chronic, grinding anti-Semitism, and vestiges of dhimmitude to which the Jews in Turkey have been subjected throughout the history of modern Turkey. This includes the large, government organized Thracian pogroms of 1934, and the blatantly discriminatory, deliberately pauperizing varlik vergisi taxation scheme and subsequent deportations of Jewish business leaders to “Turkish Siberia” during World War II. This ongoing discrimination contributed to the rapid exodus of 40% of Turkey’s Jews after WWII to Israel within two years of its creation. It was followed by the steady, continuous attrition of the Turkish Jewish population — their departure accelerating again after the notorious Istanbul pogrom against Greeks, Armenians, and Jews in 1955 — so that only 17,000 (or fewer) of Turkey’s 77, 000 post-WWII Jews remain.
Joseph Hacker’s seminal research highlights the 1523 book of the Talmudist Eliyah Kapsali (Seder Eliyah Zuta, composed in Crete) and its embellishment by the 17th century Egyptian chronicler Rabbi Yosef Sambari (in Sambari’s Divrei Yosef) — rather crudely redacted narratives which became the version accepted by modern historiography of the history of the Jews in the Ottoman Empire:
…the sürgün [forced population transfer] phenomenon and all its attendant [discriminatory] features was not considered at all. If the sürgün was mentioned at all in the writings of the [Jewish] scholars of the Empire, it was held to be an insignificant, indecisive episode in the history of the Jews. The relations between Jews and Ottomans were thus felt to be both idyllic and monotonous from their very inception, no distinction being made either between kinds of Jewish populations or between one period and another throughout the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.
Kapsali conceals all criticism and tries to cover up and obliterate inconvenient facts. … This is also apparently the reason for his utterly ignoring the Romaniot [Byzantine] Jews and their fate at the time of the conquest of Constantinople, and of the suffering of the others exiled there after the conquest.
The 16th century dhimmi Jewish leadership’s deliberate misrepresentation of the actual plight of Ottoman Jewry was described by Hacker with obvious contempt. Inexcusably, this pathological behavior persists five centuries later among contemporary Jewish leadership elites, who appear incapable of identifying, let alone adequately defending against, the resurgence of jihadist Islam in Turkey. Gifted writer Diana West’s evocative language depicts the ultimate outcome if this self-destructive dhimmitude is not reversed: “in denial there is defeat.”
Tragically, the contemporary leadership of the Turkish Jewish community, Israel, and American Jewish advocacy groups never mustered the intellectual courage to overcome their own craven denial. Collectively galvanized, several years ago, they might have confronted Erdogan’s AKP government over the ugly living legacy of anti-dhimmi and anti-Semitic discrimination against Turkey’s Jews, and demanded immediate efforts at amelioration of their plight: marginalization and legal punishment of Turkish politicians and public intellectuals whose discourse incites Jew-hatred, and potentially, anti-Jewish violence; the implementation of concrete reforms, ensuring in practice equal rights, opportunities, and public safety for Jews. And they should have demanded, further, that if all these measures were not implemented rapidly, with tangible evidence of success, Turkey’s Jews would be allowed unfettered, mass emigration without any economic penalties.
Such bold, forthright action – joint “anti-dhimmitude” — could have put an end to the ongoing phenomenon of a vestigial de facto dhimmi Jewish community of Turkey (via its dhimmi leadership) holding Israel and American Jews hostage to the whims of an oppressive Turkish government, in the throes of a transformative fundamentalist Islamic revival. But nothing of the sort was ever done.
Thus a Turkish Jew, Albert Pinto — illustrating modern Jewish dhimmitude, denial, and raw “fear for their lives” in Turkey as Muslims “take to the street in growing numbers against Israel” — reportedly stated, referring to the slain IHH jihadists aboard the Mavi Maramara: “What we are hearing in the media is not pleasant. Why did they kill those people? They were nice people who simply wished to help.”
More ominously, resurgent jihadism in Turkey manifest by the ruling AKP party, and its popular leader Erdogan, now brazenly espouses anti-Semitic hatred and focuses this animus on the Jewish state of Israel.