As reported by the Jerusalem Post on June 9, 2010, the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (ITIC) has revealed the close ties between the most violent operatives from Turkey’s jihadist IHH organization on board the Mavi Maramara ship, and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling AKP government.
Salient details of these connections from the ITIC analysis — based upon statements given by Mavi Maramara passengers after the vessel was towed to the port of Ashdod last week, as well as findings from IHH members’ computers seized by the Israel Defense Forces — included:
- The Mavi Maramara was purchased by the IHH from a major shipping company owned by the Istanbul Municipality, which is operated by the governing AKP party. A computer file showed that the IHH purchased the Mavi Maramara from a Turkish company called IDO, which was founded in 1987 by the city of Istanbul, an AKP-run municipality. “It is not conceivable that the IHH’s Gaza operation could have been carried out absent high-level government sanction,” as per Svante Cornell, a Swedish scholar specializing on politics and security issues in Eurasia.
- The passengers, including the IHH operatives, maintained that there were close relations between the organization and Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, and that the Turkish government was involved in preparations for the flotilla.
- Files found in laptops seized from IHH members contained a letter written in Turkish from IHH head Bülent Yildirim to Turkish President Abdullah Gül. The letter requested Gul’s assistance in efforts to release an IHH operative, named Izzat Shahin, from an Israeli prison. Sahin was arrested by Israeli security forces in the West Bank on April 27 on suspicion of transferring cash to Hamas under the guise of charitable aid. He had since been deported from Israel “at the request of Turkish officials.”
- A journalist on board the Mavi Maramara, described as having good links with the heads of the Turkish government and Bulent Yildirim, head of the IHH, had stated, “The flotilla was organized with the support of the Turkish government and Prime Minister Erdogan gave the instructions for it to set sail. That was despite the fact that everyone knew it would never reach its destination.”
- The IHH operatives acted according to a clearly defined internal hierarchy and boarded the ship in the port of Istanbul without undergoing a security inspection, as opposed to the other passengers who boarded in Anatolia after a full inspection.
- The IHH operatives’ preparations included handing out walkie-talkies as they boarded the ship, taking over the upper deck, setting up a situation room for communications, and a briefing given to them two hours before the confrontation by IHH head Bülent Yildirim, who was on board the ship and commanded his men.
- On June 4, 2010, Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) released footage of a speech made by Bulent Yildirim, head of IHH, in Gaza during February of 2009.Yildrim’s utterances, which were peppered with references to “martyrdom,” included the statement, “All the peoples of the Islamic world would want a leader like [Turkish prime minister] Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.”
Independent reports confirm that this same violent Mavi Maramara contingent, while in transit, chanted, “Khaybar, Khaybar ya Yahud, jaish Muhammad sa ya ‘ud”(“Jews, remember Khyabar, the army of Muhammad is returning”). This is a classic motif of Islamic Jew hatred which celebrates Muhammad’s massacre, rapine, enslavement, and subjugation of the last bastion of Arabian Jewry free from Muslim domination. The survivors were relegated, at best, to the humiliating status of prototype dhimmis — non-citizen tributaries, and pariahs in their own former lands.
Moreover, following the deadly violence that erupted after the Mavi Maramara’s IHH jihadists attacked Israeli commandos enforcing the Gaza blockade, Prime Minister Erdogan stepped up his incendiary rhetoric against Israel, while encouraging the tens of thousands of Turks who have taken to the streets of Istanbul each day vilifying Israel and praising Gaza’s Hamas jihadist rulers. And after recalling Turkey’s ambassador from Tel Aviv, Turkish President Abdullah Gul opined that relations with Israel would “never be the same.”
A seven-page report released in late January of this year by the Israeli Foreign Ministry (i.e., its “Center for Political Research”) accurately highlighted Erdogan’s personal role in fomenting anti-Semitism among the Turkish populace — particularly, his granting legitimacy to anti-Israeli television programs (Valley of the Wolves) and newspapers (Vakit) rife with blatant anti-Semitic content. The report concluded, aptly:
For Erdogan, Israel-bashing is a way of bolstering his status with Islamic and Middle Eastern states, which Turkey would like to lead, and against the Turkish opposition, as well as with his own party’s target audience and nationalist elements of the Turkish public. For Erdogan and some of those around him there is no distinction between “Israeli” and “Jewish,” and therefore, [their] anti-Israel fervor and criticism become anti-Jewish.
Although it provides a useful introduction, the Israeli Foreign Ministry report fails to elucidate any of the critical doctrinal and historical context reflected in Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan’s attitudes. Erdogan and his ruling AKP’s posture toward Israel and Jews represents the apotheosis of Islamic Jew hatred manifest in Turkey for a half-millennium. It has been revitalized during the past 50 years by an indigenous Muslim fundamentalist movement eager to exploit both the traditional anti-Semitic motifs of Islam, and those of European origin — especially Nazi and Czarist Russian (i.e., The Protocols of the Elders of Zion).
In 1974, Erdogan, while serving as president of the Istanbul Youth Group of his mentor, former Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan’s National Salvation Party, wrote, directed, and played the leading role in a theatrical play entitled Maskomya, staged throughout Turkey during the 1970s. Mas-Kom-Ya was a compound acronym for “Masons-Communists-Yahudi” — the latter meaning “Jews.” The play focused on the evil, conspiratorial nature of these three entities whose common denominator was Judaism.
More recently, when Valley of the Wolves (released February, 2006), the wildly popular, most expensive film ever made in Turkey, included a “cinematic motif” which featured an American Jewish doctor dismembering Iraqis supposedly murdered by American soldiers in order to harvest their organs for Jewish markets, Prime Minister Erdogan not only failed to condemn the film, he justified its production and popularity.
On August 28, 2007, the same day that Abdullah Gul became Turkey’s president — replacing his secular predecessor, and further consolidating the ruling Islamic AK (Adalet ve Kalkınma) Party’s (AKP) hold on power — MEMRI published excerpts from a chilling interview given by Erdogan’s mentor, former Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan. The interview originally aired July 1, 2007, as part of Erbakan’s campaign efforts in support of Islamic fundamentalist political causes before the general elections of July 22, 2007, and the AKP’s resounding popular electoral victory over its closest “secularist” rival parties.
Erbakan, founder of the fundamentalist Islamic Milli Gorus movement (National Vision; originated 1969), mentored current AKP leaders President Gul and Prime Minister Erdogan. Both were previously active members of Erbakan’s assorted fundamentalist political parties, serving in mayoral, ministerial, and parliamentary posts. The IHH — whose violent operatives featured prominently in the Mavi Maramara anti-Semitic incitement and subsequent bloodshed — has its origins in this same Orthodox Islamic Milli Görüş movement. During Erbakan’s pre-election 2007 campaign stops before throngs of tens of thousands of supporters throughout Anatolia, he reiterated the same virulently anti-Semitic statements captured in the July 1 interview and other interviews.
These interviews and more expansive speeches were rife with allusions to Zionists/Jews (deliberately conflated) as “bacteria” and “disease” conspiring to dominate the contemporary Islamic world (“from Morocco to Indonesia”), as they had attempted unsuccessfully during the 11th and 12th centuries when Jews purportedly “organized” the Crusades, only to be stopped by the Turks’/Erbakan’s Seljuk “forefathers.” Ultimately, Erbakan claimed, modern Jews/Zionists wished to establish “a world order where money and manpower are dependent on [them].”
For over thirty years, the fundamentalist National Salvation Party (of which Erbakan was a chairman) and its numerous offshoots have represented the most significant examples of Turkish Muslim political organizations exploiting systematized anti-Jewish, anti-Zionist bigotry. Erbakan’s ascension to deputy prime minister in January of 1974 was marked by Pan-Islamic overtures, along with increasingly strident verbal violence against Jews, Zionism, and the state of Israel emanating from the National Salvation Party’s organs, especially its daily Milli Gazete, published in Istanbul since January 12, 1973.
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.