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Turkey Uncensored: Jews in Turkey Under Attack Over Temple Mount Crisis

By Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Dozens of Turkish nationalist-Islamists affiliated with the organization “Alperen Hearths” (Alperen Ocakları) recently attacked Istanbul’s Neve Şalom Synagogue, where Jews were exposed to three terrorist attacks at the hands of Islamic groups – in 1986 (by Abu Nidal Organization), in 1992 (by Turkish Hizballah) and in 2003 (by Al-Qaeda).

On July 20, the demonstrators threw rocks at the synagogue, whose Hebrew name means “the Oasis of Peace,” kicked its doors and tried to break in.

Kürşat Mican, the head of the Istanbul branch of the Alperen movement linked to the religious nationalist Great Union Party (BBP), delivered a speech, saying in part:

“For long years up until today, Israel has banned Friday prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Not only has it banned them, it has placed X-rays at the entrance of our temple, thereby harassing our Palestinian brothers. Our brothers are unable to worship at the Al-Aqsa Mosque.”

Mican then threatened the worshippers at the synagogue: “Just as we are here today, we could come tomorrow too and then you will not be able to enter the synagogue. Is that what you want?”

Mican went on to threaten Israel with “a sudden siege:” “The Zionist, terrorist state of Israel must know that the grandchildren of Abdülhamid Han are alive. One night we could siege all of your places of worship and no one will be able to worship there.”

Demonstrators chanted the slogans “Allahu Akbar” and “One night, all of a sudden, we could come to you.”

See the speech here.

The recent conflicts surrounding the Temple Mount started with the murder of two Israeli Druze police officers by three Muslim terrorists. As a measure of security, just like many other religious centers around the world do, Israel placed metal detectors at the entrance of the place of worship. Bassam Tawil wrote for Gatestone Institute, exposing the real agenda of those provoking attacks against Jews in Israel or elsewhere:

First, the security measures – including the placement of the metal detectors – was not an Israeli initiative, but came as a direct and necessary response to a specific terror attack. The Israeli government did not convene and take a decision to install the metal detectors in order to alter the status quo or stop Muslims from praying.

Second, it was the Palestinians who took the decision not to enter into the Temple Mount unless the metal detectors are removed. The Palestinians and the Waqf are lying to the world by telling it that Israel is denying Muslims access to their holy sites.

Anti-Semitic provocation by media, top religious authority

Pro-government Turkish newspapers, perfectly in line with their traditional anti-Israel stance, distorted the facts surrounding the incidents at Temple Mount and covered them in a way as if Israel was trying to insult and harass Muslims by preventing them from praying at Masjid-i Aqsa.

The government funded Anatolian agency (Anadolu Ajansı/AA) and Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT) took the propaganda to an even a lower level by encouraging more attacks against synagogues.

The AA and the TRT used the photo of the attack by the Alperen Hearths against the Neve Şalom in their social media coverage of nationwide protests against Israel.

“Israel’s closure of Masjid-i Aqsa, Muslims’ first qibla [the direction that should be faced when a Muslim prays during Salah prayers] will be protested in demonstrations and press statements to be organized nationwide,” the AA reported on July 21. The TRT also used the same photo and text.

The Turkish Chief Rabbinate Foundation criticized their choice of a photo, writing on Twitter, “The AA is targeting Turkish Jews by posting in its news report the photo of those who came to our Neve Şalom synagogue yesterday to threaten and provoke. Enough!”

Upon the condemnation, both the AA and TRT deleted their posts. But many people still attended anti-Israel protests across Turkey. A group of Islamists in the city of Eskişehir, for example, burned the Israeli flag and stamped on it, shouting slogans such as, “Even if there is a bloodbath, Masjid-i Aqsa will be liberated,” and, “Down with Israel.” One of their banners read, “How can I laugh when Jerusalem is under occupation?”

Meanwhile, Turkey’s top Islamic authority joined the anti-Semitic chorus, also sharing incorrect information with the public concerning the incidents at Temple Mount.

One day before the attack, on July 19, Mehmet Görmez, the head of the government funded Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet), declared, “Those who slaughtered prophets in history want to play the game they played in Al-Khalil [Hebron] in Masjid-i Aqsa, as well.”

Görmez was apparently inspired by the Koranic verse (2:61) that labels Jews as “disobedient transgressors who slain the Prophets unrightfully,” who for that reason were exposed to “abasement and humiliation.”

Görmez went on to wrongfully claim that “the fact that Ekrima Sabri, the former mufti of Jerusalem and the khatib of the Al-Aqsa mosque, has been raped by Israeli soldiers deserves all kinds of condemnation.”

“The aim is to terrorize the entire Jewish community”

Garo Paylan, an Armenian MP of the pro-Kurdish Democratic Peoples’ Party (HDP), became the only MP in Turkey’s parliament who presented a parliamentary motion about the attacks, asking Turkish PM Binali Yıldırım, in part:

“Why and how was this attack that happened in front of a place of worship not prevented? What kind of activities is the government carrying out to prevent [future] attacks? Are you also investigating whether some groups within the government are directing these anti-Semitic attacks?”

Eren Keskin, the co-chair of the Human Rights Association (IHD), said the Turkish government has played a major role in Alperen movement’s actions:

“This group that calls for violence and engages in racism and anti-Semitism has never been stopped. This organization is openly protected by the government. What they are actually trying to do is to terrorize the entire Jewish community.”

Another synagogue, another attack

The pressures against Turkey’s Jews did not end with the attack against Neve Şalom. On July 22, another group, members of the nationalist religious “Great Ottoman Association,” placed an X-ray in front of another Istanbul synagogue, the Ahrida Synagogue.

Bayram Demir, the head of the association, said during the protest, “We have lived together for years and shown them the tolerance, respect and mercy of Islam. But now we say ‘enough.’ Israel has gone too far. We, as the Great Ottoman Association, will follow up on this issue.

“We also expect those [Jews] who live here and worship at these synagogues to meet with Israeli associations and warn their terrorist state, Israel, but not us.”

But the treatment of Jews at the hands of the Turkish government has been about everything but “tolerance, respect and mercy.” Under the Ottoman rule, they were dhimmis, third class, barely “tolerated” people who had to pay a tax (jizya) in exchange for so-called “protection.” And during the era of republican Turkey, they have been exposed to several campaigns of forced Turkification and Islamization, as well as widespread pressures.

Beginning of yet another pogrom?

Just as Turkish anti-Semites are now using the incidents at the Temple Mount as an excuse to attack synagogues, the issue of Cyprus was used as a convenient pretext to incite the Muslim populace to violence against the Greeks in Istanbul on September 6–7, 1955.

Hundreds of homes, shops, churches, monasteries, cemeteries, schools and other properties belonging to Greeks in the city were sacked, vandalized and plundered, and in some cases, were burned down and destroyed. Targets were marked with paint, and the perpetrators had lists, so they knew where to attack. The main targets were Greeks, but the Armenian and Jewish residents of the city were also affected by the attacks.

Many Greek women, girls and boys were raped. Professor Alfred de Zayas wrote that “The estimates go as high as 2,000 rapes. List of victims were established by the Ecumenical Patriarchate and by the Greek Consul General. Thirty victims were identified, three unidentified bodies were dug out of destroyed shops, and three burned bodies were found in a sack in Beşiktaş.

“Photos of the destroyed churches as well as cemeteries and the open and desecrated tombs of the ecumenical patriarchs appear in the book Mechanism of Catastrophe by Speros Vryonis.”

Zayas concluded that:

The vast destruction of Greek property, businesses and churches provides evidence of the Turkish authorities’ intent to terrorize the Greeks in Istanbul into abandoning the territory, thus eliminating the Greek minority. This practice falls within the ambit of the crime of ‘ethnic cleansing.’

In a July 21 column, journalist Murat Yetkin warned against the repetition of the violent attacks in 1955: “In situations like these, the first thing that comes to one’s mind is the 6–7 September 1955 catastrophe.”

In fact, Turkey’s Jewish community in Eastern Thrace was exposed to a pogrom – 11 years after the founding of the Turkish republic in 1923. It was targeted by widespread assaults from June 21–July 4, 1934. These began with a boycott of Jewish businesses, followed by physical attacks on Jewish-owned buildings, which were looted; many were set on fire. Jewish men were beaten, and some Jewish women were reportedly raped. Terrorized by the attacks, hundreds of Jews fled the region.

And that was way before Israel was reborn in 1948 on its ancestral homeland, and before the 1967 lines. In fact, anyone who pays enough attention would be aware of the fact that Jew-hatred is widespread and tolerated all across the Muslim world. Dr. Bill Warner, an author of several books and articles about political Islam, wrote that the Islamic scriptures – the Quran, Sira (biography of Islam’s prophet, Mohammed) and the Hadith (sayings of Muhammad) have “more Jew hatred than Mein Kampf.”

The “silent minority” breaking the silence?

Turkey’s Jews have not been a politically active community. Rıfat Bali, the leading scholar of Turkish Jewry, has defined Turkey’s Jewish community as “the silent minority.” Beni Yanar, a Jewish citizen of Turkey, is one who “broke the silence” and recently wrote an article on his blog about the current pressures against Turkey’s Jews; he said that the members of the Jewish community have been put under enormous pressure once again because of their religion. Yanar addressed those who do not seem to care:

Where are you? They are attacking us, threatening us and insulting us. And what are you doing? How can you still breathe so easily when we are anxious and scared, and when the lives of your citizens are in jeopardy?

Then you complain about why Jews are so reserved and live as if in ghettos. What are we supposed to do? You threaten me, swear at me, disrespect my religion – but then I should bow down to you no matter what? No, this cannot be. Every time we stayed silent and adopted a moderate attitude, you called us missionaries, moneybags, traitors, spies, warmongers and many other things. So now I am raising my voice.

Turkish president provoking more conflict

Meanwhile, the government of Turkey has continued to provoke more hatred against the Jewish people and the Jewish State. On July 24, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

said, We cannot stay silent and inactive when Israel tramples on our sacred [values]”. A day later, he continued bashing Israel based on information that does not reflect reality, such as, “Israel is trying to take Al-Aqsa from the Muslims under the guise of the fight against terrorism” and “Israeli soldiers pollute Al-Aqsa grounds with combat boots, and easily spill blood.”

The Turkish president has targeted Israel several times in his public speeches, in one case, calling the Jewish State “more barbaric than Hitler.”

Such attacks against Jews or Israel are obviously motivated by the anti-Semitic teachings in Islamic ideology as well as by murderous xenophobia and bigotry in Turkish nationalism. According to scholar Andrew Bostom, an expert of Islamic law, the main reason behind the attacks against Israel is “a solid foundation of fanatical Jew-hatred, dating back to the founding of Islam. There is literally nothing Israel or Jews can do to appease those who seek to annihilate them.”

The same situation applies to the Jew-hating, fanatical Muslims in Turkey. There seems to be two reasons why those groups are acting so blatantly: 1) It has never been held accountable for its criminal actions. 2) It is offended by the very existence of Israel, a sovereign, powerful Jewish State, which it seems to interpret as a slap in the face of the Islamic caliphate that it would like to see established in the Middle East.

Uzay Bulut

Uzay Bulut is a Turkish journalist and political analyst formerly based in Ankara. She graduated from Istanbul’s Bogazici University in 2007 with a BA in Translation and Interpreting Studies. She holds a master’s degree in Media and Cultural Studies at Ankara’s Middle East Technical University. Her writings have appeared in a variety of publications including Gatestone Institute, the Clarion Project, the Armenian Weekly, PJ Media, CBN News, the Algemeiner, the Kurdish newspaper Rudaw, International Business Times UK and the Voice of America. She has also contributed to several Israeli media outlets including the Jerusalem Post, Arutz Sheva (Israel National News), Israel Hayom and Jerusalem Online. Bulut’s journalistic work focuses mainly on Turkey’s ethnic and religious minorities, anti-Semitism, political Islam and the history of Turkey. She is currently based in Washington, D.C.

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  • sharonsj

    The Turks claimed that Israel has for years banned prayers at the Al-Aqsa mosque. That is a lie. The ban was for two weeks and applied to young men only. In the past, the mosque has been used to hide weapons caches and to deliver sermons against the Jews.

    One of the countries condemning the ban was Bahrain, which ironically has barred Shia Muslims from worshipping at a large mosque in Diran. The charge: inciting hatred against the regime….

  • flowerplough

    Jews almost anywhere in the Eastern hemisphere live under constant threat of some level of attack, no? Something about proximity to Islamics.

  • Guy de Lusignan

    If this is how Religious minorities are treated in “Moderate Islamic” Turkey, How can we find ANY way to trust the rest of the Muslim world? ……….outside of IRAN that Is.