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In Turkey, to the typical person, the Holocaust either never happened, or it’s a tale of deliberate false reckoning

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A demonstration in Istanbul, comparing Israel to Nazi Germany, to blame Zionism for the course of the problems between the Palestinians and Israel, is quite popular. (Photo: Supplied)

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Last month, the International Day of Holocaust was commemorated everywhere in the free world. “I remember”, was the hashtag of the day, as usual. It has again been a warning to all people who do not want to hear about and those who do not wish to see about the atrocities that have been committed and may be committed in the future.

Racism, xenophobia, antisemitism is still among us and infiltrate into vast piles of people worldwide. It’s unfortunate to see that even today, despite all the lessons that humanity could withdraw from the Holocaust, we are again coming across discrimination, intimidation, ethnic cleansing, direct and indirect extermination… What a shame?

In Turkey, where I come from, the Holocaust is not known as it should be. The “man in the street” is either unaware of what went on during WW2 or knows very poorly and has his fixed ideas about it. We can easily conclude that there is a solid base for Holocaust denial. For him, the “man in the street”, the Holocaust is exaggerated: Either it has never happened, or it’s a tale of deliberate false reckoning.

For him, The Holocaust is the malice that Jews have taken advantage of to create the Jewish State, despite what the Arabs deserved. Building a link between the Holocaust and Israel is very common and connotes a negative perception. For him, Hitler should have fulfilled his task of the final solution, and it’s a pity that he was banned from doing so by the Soviets and the Americans, both having solid Jewish connections. 

For him, Europe is the culprit of the Jewish elimination; however, the Muslims had to pay dearly: losing their lands being forced out to live as refugees in camps with a broken national pride. This national pride that has been substituted by a kind of religious brotherhood among Arabs is, for some time, being systematically used by the ruling regime in Turkey to consolidate its supporters. 

For him, that Jews – who have suffered so much from the atrocities of the Nazi regime – give a hard time to Muslims in Palestine should be a shame for them. To link Israel to Nazi Germany, to blame Zionism for the course of the problems between the Palestinians and Israel, is quite popular. This has put the Palestinian flag with the swastika very often together during the many anti-Israel demonstrations in Istanbul. So, not only is there the banalisation of the Holocaust but also the de-legitimization and demonization of Israel, in the approach of the “man in the Turkish streets”… However, this is a learned situation.

Turkey is an observer at IHRA. The Turkish delegation, headed by a diplomat from the Foreign Ministry and enriched by scholars and members from the Jewish community, is always participating in the conventions. Commemoration of the Holocaust has been done every year since 2008, on the International Day of the Holocaust Remembrance, on the Jan 27’s, even if behind closed doors… However, history textbooks covering the high school curriculum still miss the Holocaust. Only a couple of sentences are put in there to barely describe what the final solution and the faith of the Jewish people was.

This being said, it’s no big surprise that not only the ordinary people, but educated ones like lawyers, journalists, teachers, academics, artists, people of all professions and political inclinations will meet at similar places: Indifference, disdain, suspicion concerning the Holocaust, and Jews in general. A sense of admiration mixed with envy for Israel with a dual identity, both innovator who brings fresh air to humanity, and oppressor…

Obviously, there are also exceptions. The Holocaust starts to become more and more the subject of academic studies. Many young academics, journalists, artists are interested in the various aspects of this episode of Jewish history and try to withdraw meaningful consequences out of it. Digital forums and YouTube channels have made a deep focus on Jan 27. Different commemorations have taken place, trying to understand the outcomes of the Shoah.

Is this enough? Obviously not! However, in a country like Turkey, with a deep Muslim tradition, where the daily politics caused tremendous bewilderment, where the Jewish people and Israel are frequently demonized, where the state apparatus constantly remains silent against the mostly verbal various attacks on Jews, seeing these blossoming efforts give optimism and courage.

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The famous Davos convention of January 2009 where Israeli President Shimon Peres was accused of being a killer Jew by then Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan has been one of the many milestones in the bilateral relations between the two countries. Then came the “Mavi Marmara” incident, where 9 Turkish citizens were killed during a fight as the vessel was trying to infiltrate towards Gazza in an alleged effort to bring humanitarian aid to Palestinians. It was May 2010, and this put extra tensions to the political relations, though the economic exchange was always there and has shown a crescendo trend since then.

At a panel in Davos in 2009, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan accused Shimon Peres and Israel of "State Terror" and "Murder of Palestinians" and walked off the podium. (Photo: Facebook)

The famous Davos convention of January 2009 where Israeli President Shimon Peres was accused of being a killer Jew by then Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan has been one of the many milestones in the bilateral relations between the two countries. Then came the “Mavi Marmara” incident, where 9 Turkish citizens were killed during a fight as the vessel was trying to infiltrate towards Gazza in an alleged effort to bring humanitarian aid to Palestinians. It was May 2010, and this put extra tensions to the political relations, though the economic exchange was always there and has shown a crescendo trend since then.

A couple of months later would begin the Arab Spring. These revolutionary acts would put them at odds with the Arab states. Expecting to influence these streets’ movements, the Ankara government, among other policy changes, chose to set a crescendo of hostility in its relations with Israel. Once strategic partners in the Middle East had become foes.

All these years from 2010 to today witnessed political antisemitic rhetoric. Mainly during the hot days Israel had with Hamas and Hezbollah, the media and the streets were dominated with slogans and billboards accusing Jews of betraying Moses’s law, “you shall not murder”!

From the Holocaust to Israel and antisemitism and anti-Zionism, the example I have tried to put above is unfortunately not unique. Anti-Jewish sentiments have always been present and will also be there with us in future. We need to relentlessly run after Holocaust’s legacy and try to explain what racism, hatred of the other, xenophobia and political distortions of the truth may bring to humanity. Noting that history is evaluated through the past and life is honored towards the future.

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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