Saturday, March 15, 2014

Jews In Turkey's Ottoman Empire and Today's Turkish Peacemakers with Jews

Nadene Goldfoot                                                              

"According to Jewish scriptureNoah's Ark landed on the top of Mount Ararat, a mountain in the Taurus range in the Republic of Turkey, near the modern borders Armenia and Iran." This was way before the days of Jews, who are named for Judah, the largest of the 12 tribes of Jacob.  Judah traces his father's line back to Noah,  like this:  Jacob to his father, Isaac, to Abraham, Terah, Nahor, Serug, Reu, Peleg, Eber, Shelah, Arpachshad, Shem and Noah.   Jews  lived in Asia Minor at the time the Ottoman Empire was created.  A synagogue was built in the old capital of Brusa in 1326.  

The Ottoman Empire lasted for over 400 years, ending in the outcome of WWI when they were on the wrong side by being aligned with Germany.  It's heyday was from the 1300s to the 1600s.  Jews living there were treated according to the whims of the Sultan. It actually started in 1299.  Mehmed II in 1453 took Constantinople and turned the empire into a Transcontinental Hyperpower.  

 Sultan Bayezed II sent Kemal Reis to save the Sepharic Jews of Spain who found themselves in the Spanish Inquisition and being forced to leave Spain or convert to Catholicism in 1492.  Then again, the Sultan, Murad II, expected all non Muslims to show humility and abjection.  Jews were 2nd class citizens called dhimmis which meant they couldn't live near a mosque, not that they would want to, or live near tall building or own slaves besides many other could nots.  Perhaps this is why some finally left the Turkish Ottoman Empire.   

The Ottoman Empire was vast  with 2.008 million square miles or (5.2 million km squared) and included Jerusalem since Palestine was included by 1517 as well as Egypt, Yemen and  Iraq.  Jews of Turkey made up the 3rd largest group after Russia and Austro-Hungary by 1900 with 350,000.  Turkey's core Jewish population today numbers 17,300 or 0.023% of their population.  

Some Jews were able to leave the Ottoman Empire.  Jewish merchants from Turkey first settled in Bucharest, the capital of Romania, in the 16th Century.  Some refugees from the Spanish Inquisition came to Walachia, a Romanian principality after being expelled from Hungary of the Balkans in 1367.  A few served as physicians and even diplomats at the court of the sovereigns of Walachia.    By  the 18th and 19th Century these Sephardic Jews  were joined by Ashkenazai Jews who were mainly craftsmen who came in considerable numbers, probably escaping pogroms.  None were allowed to build a synagogue until 1787.  

Throughout the 19th century the community was attacked and suffered from economic discrimination, the city's own system of a BDS movement.  Many Jews left as a result.  After WWI, Jews were to receive equal rights, it was nominal.  The condition didn't improve a great deal.  

By 1921 the Jews had unified.  during WWII, Bucharest became the seat of the central office of the Jews of Romania, and suffered from pogroms and confiscations but suffered less in Bucharest than the rest of the country.  

Romania established their own Romanian People's Republic in 1948 causing all Zionist activity to be prohibited and Jewish communists took control of the community.  The community kept their identity of being Jewish anyway, and services which included religious activities like a Purim spiel and even a Yiddish theater.  

Many Jews immigrated to Israel and the Jewish community shrunk.  In 1990 it numbered 10,478 which was half of the original population.  Romania's core Jewish population numbers 9,400 today or 0.044% of their population.  

In the early 1900s many Turkish Jews came to the Pacific Northwest of the USA to live with many settling in Seattle, Washington or Portland, Oregon.  Some had been in the fish business and continued that in these 2 cities.  The first Sephardic Jews-those who came from Turkey and the Isle of Rhodes and who spoke a unique language called Ladino-landed in Seattle in 1902. Expelled from Spain in 1492, now they fled the Ottoman Empire. The early Sephardim peddled fish and fruit. They joined their Ashkenazi brethren in living in the Yesler Way Cherry Street neighborhood of central Seattle.  The Sephardim founded a synagogue in Portland in 1910 that still exists today.  They also came from Turkey and the Isle of Rhodes.  We have a family from Marmora, Turkey whose members are living in both Seattle and Portland.  

Things with the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan,  and Israel have not been good.  "At the 2009 World Economic Forum conference, the debate became heated in relation to the Gaza conflict. Israeli President Shimon Peres responded to Erdoğan's claims, stating that Turkey would have done the same if rockets had been hitting Istanbul". Erdogan reprimanded Peres and said, "When it comes to killing you know it too well. I remember how you killed the children on beaches..." Erdogan left the panel then.  
Following the Gaza flotilla raid in May 2010, tension between the two countries dramatically mounted. Erdoğan strongly condemned the raid, describing it as "state terrorism", calling for Israeli leaders responsible to apologize. Erdoğan has described Israel as "the main threat to regional peace", and has called for Israel's nuclear facilities to come under IAEA inspection. Erdoğan accused Israel of turning Gaza into an "open-air prison". UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon subsequently described Erdoğan's remarks as "hurtful and divisive."  What is noticeable is Erdogan's falling back to be connected to the more strict Muslim Brotherhood group from a secular position.  Israel had warned all 
ships that they would need to board the flotilla due to the terrorists being able to gain 
shipments of ammunition that way, and all the other flotilla members did allow the Israeli 
sailors to do that, all except Turkey, who was supposed to be a friend of Israel.  In the 
end, Turkey demanded a huge sum of money to be paid to Turkey for the defiant Turks 
who attacked the boarding Israeli sailors.  

"In 2012, after a round of rocket fire from Gaza aimed at Israel, followed by Israeli retaliatory strikes, Erdoğan demanded that Israel must stop 'massacre' of Palestinians in Gaza, saying that it was a part of an Israeli campaign of "genocide" against the Palestinian people.  The Palestinian people had chosen terrorists, the Hamas terrorists, to be their governing power.  They have been attacking southern Israel every chance they can since 2001 with rockets, mortars and missiles. " 
In February 2013, Erdoğan called Zionism a "crime against humanity", comparing it to Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, and fascism.

He later walked back the statement, saying he had been misinterpreted. He said "everyone should know" that my comments were directed at "Israeli policies," especially as regards to "Gaza and the settlements." Erdogan also said "in several statements "I openly condemned anti-Semitism", and it clearly displays my position on this issue" Erdoğan's branding of Zionism as a crime against humanity was condemned by the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, criticized by the US Secretary of State John Kerry and called unacceptable by the German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, and EU High Representative Catherine  Ashton"
On the other side of the coin is the executive producer of Turkey's A9 satellite TV program, Sinem  Tezyapar,  who broadcasts from Istanbul and supports a peaceful  coexistence between Muslim and Jews.  She is a strong Muslim and points out that the Koran is not against Jews or killing them.  She is joined in this endeavor by the writer, and TV owner of satellite TV channel, A9, her boss,  "Adnan Oktar,a self taught preacher of Islam,  who has been against Jews, but has taken a turn for the best. "In 2009, Oktar expressed his new views on Jews in his own words, "hatred or anger toward the line of the Prophet Abraham is completely unacceptable. The Prophet Abraham is our ancestor, and the Jews are our brothers. We want the descendants of the Prophet Abraham to live in the easiest, pleasantest and most peaceful manner. We want them to be free to perform their religious obligations, to live as they wish in the lands of their forebears and to frequently remember Allah in comfort and security."
Nevertheless, that year the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) described Yahya as "an anti-Semitic Turkish writer whose articles demonize Jews who support Israel as "godless" and blames them for committing atrocities." The ADL also argued that Yahya (his alias) quotes Holocaust-denier Roger Garaudy and still cites The Holocaust Deception in the articles on his site.  Hopefully,  he has changed for the best.  If so, perhaps he can also change Erdogan as well one of these days.  

Reference: The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia  Washington State

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