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The message is always to show the Jew as the exploiter of the Turkish people.

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A newspaper cartoon in the 1940’s portrayed a Jew who became rich by selling Turkish flags. The message was always to show the Jew as the exploiter of the Turkish people. (Photo: Supplied)

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When Rushdu Saracoglu, one of the brilliant bureaucrats – former Governor of the Central Bank of Turkey – of the ’80s praised and defended the Property Tax (= Varlik Vergisi), specially launched on minorities in November 1942, a considerable rumble that condemned his approach, came out on social media.

In fact, many Jewish families, among other minorities, had to sell their possessions in the short term and at a small price to be able to pay the taxes imposed on them. Otherwise, they would be sent to forced labour camps in a remote eastern region, Ashkale.

Ashkale still is engraved in the collective memory of minorities in Turkey, especially of Jews that were aware of the atrocities committed in Europe by the Germans.

It was Shukru Saracoglu, Rushdu’s grandfather, then Prime Minister of the Republic of Turkey, who enforced this law of bad reputation. Obviously, he was not the only one who signed the corresponding resolution. Nazi admiration was then common among the members of the ruling party and the political climate was favorable for such an attempt.

The law foresaw a percentage of tax calculated on the property, both movable and landed, of the country’s citizens. However, the rates imposed on minorities were far more elevated, and many of them were unable to pay, thus were sent to camps. Some of them never came back.

At that same time, in the endless plains of Soviet Russia, near Stalingrad, that would become a symbol of the Soviet defence later on, Hitler’s armies were fighting for their lives. Should the Nazi army win the battle of Stalingrad, Turkey would be vulnerable to German attacks both through the Caucasus in the east and Thrace in the West.

Would the Germans come into Turkey? Would the Turkish Government resist the German pressure to join the war along with the Axis power? What would the destiny of the Jews in Turkey be if the Government was to give in to the oppression of Franz Von Papen, a prominent figure in the Nazi party, then Ambassador of the Third Reich near Ankara.

It may not be possible to quote this incident as antisemitic since the subjects were not only Jewish. However, the fear it created was much more apparent in them than in other minorities. The 1934 pogrom during which Jews of Thrace (Trakya Olayları) were forced to evacuate their hometowns was also vivid. People were also aware of the faith of Armenian, Greek, and Assyrian communities, during the first war and the aftermaths.

The Republic of Turkey, a unitary nation-state founded in 1923, after a long war of independence led in an ethnically fragmented land – Anatolia – has been based on a large consensus, similar to France, where citizenship has been described based on the constitution.

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The Treaty of Lausanne signed between the Entente Powers and Tukey in July 1923 already acknowledged the different religious groups other than Muslims as minorities. Jews were part of those minority communities, enjoying equal constitutional rights, theoretically. In practice, however, this was and still is, quite different.

The relations between Muslims and Non-Muslims in these lands, have generally been designed over the centuries, by the traditional dhimmi (zimmi) idea that oversaw the minorities. The status of dhimmi was granted as “the freedom of worship and involved the protection of life and property of the minorities” in exchange to a special tax paid, and was originally limited to Christians and Jews.

With the start of the Turkish Republic as a secular state, this status was abolished; however, its perception goes on unofficially: Minorities are still not welcomed into the state apparatus, into the politics, the army even if the roads leading to such key positions are officially clear.

When Erdogan, then prime minister, stated years ago while addressing university students, that minorities were under the Government’s special protection, the dhimmi perception, causing deterioration on the standing of minorities in a democratically run state, was just there. 

Photo taken in Konya, central Turkey, praising Hamas. It can be translated as: "Saluting Hamas, Going on with the Resistance." (Photo: Supplied)

Today, in Turkey, in an increasingly nationalist environment shaped by political Islam, social unrest is seen against:

  • the Armenians, when the 1915 events are concerned;            
  • the Rums (Greeks from Turkey – a word deriving from the Eastern Roman Empire, Byzance) when the Cyprus problem and / or the national interests of Greece & Turkey are concerned;
  • the Jews when the Palestine & Israel conflict is discussed.

During the war Israel held against terrorist groups as Hezbullah and Hamas, both the right as well as the left in Turkey, have been critical of the Jewish state. In many instances, political figures have blamed Israel to be a terrorist state, killing Palestinian children and implementing politics comparable to the Nazi regime under which Jews were persecuted. However, neither the right nor the left have been protesting Hamas for the thousands of rockets fired into Israel during the last clashes.

Obviously, antisemitic sentiments increase during these times. Further security measures are implemented in the daily communal life, while the same political figures accusing Israel of being an apartheid state say they are against Israel and not the Jewish people (citizen of Turkey).

They are cursing Zionism without putting where the line between “Jew” and “Zionist” should stand for them.

Last week, a leader of a worker’s union of the right condemned academics protesting against the president’s intervention on universities to be “Jews”! Simply that!

All that is ‘Jew’ is used more and more as a swear word not only by ordinary people, especially on social media, but also by important figures and opinion leaders.

The problem stems from the silence of the judiciary controlled by the ruling party for several years now, encouraging acts and rhetoric of hate and rage. 

Marsel Russo was born in Istanbul and was raised in a secular Jewish family. He holds a Chemistry degree and an MBA. His deep interest in the Jewish history of the 20th century, as well as other topics, has appeared since 2005 in Shalom, the weekly newspaper of the Jewish community of Turkey.

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Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

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