Washington.- Leaders of five US Jewish groups in a joint letter to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan present their concerns about “the current wave of anti-Semitic manifestations in Turkey,” causing grave distress for them about Turkish Jews.
Reflecting the worsening relations between Ankara and American Jews, top Jewish groups in the United States have said that what they see as rising anti-Semitism in Turkey is connected to the strong condemnation of Israel for the recent fighting in Gaza by Turkish officials.
“We write to express our profound concern over the current wave of anti-Semitic manifestations in Turkey,” said leaders of five U.S. Jewish groups in a joint letter sent Wednesday to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The letter’s signatories include David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee; Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League; Daniel S. Mariaschin, executive vice president of B’nai B’rith International; Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations; and Thomas Neumann, executive director of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.
“Many recent incidents are gravely distressing to us. Protesters besieging the Israeli consulate in Istanbul have expressed their hatred of Jews,” they said. “Billboards around Istanbul are full of anti-Jewish propaganda posters. The door of a Jewish-owned shop near Istanbul University was covered with a poster that said, ‘Do not buy from here, as this shop is owned by a Jew.’ The defacing of an Izmir synagogue has brought about the temporary closure of all but one of the cityʼs synagogues.
“The Jewish leaders’ statement said: “Turkey rightly prides itself on many centuries of coexistence with Jews. But today, our Jewish friends in Turkey feel besieged and threatened. A connection is clearly perceived between the inflammatory denunciation of Israel by Turkish officials and the rise of anti-Semitism.”
Erdogan, President Abdullah Gul and other top Turkish officials have berated Israel for as its heavy-handed offensive in Gaza, killing hundreds of children and other civilians. Erdogan had described the Israeli actions in Gaza as inhuman acts, and Gul had said: “What Israel has done is nothing but an atrocity.”
But Erdogan’s and Gul’s statements fell short of seriously criticizing Hamas, the radical Palestinian group ruling Gaza. The Israeli offensive, which started shortly before the new year, lasted until last week. Israel said the military operations targeted Hamas, which had been firing rockets into the south of Israel.
During the Gaza fighting more than 1,000 Palestinians, including hundreds of children, were killed.
“To be sure, we disagree with your governmentʼs view of the situation in the Gaza Strip and with some of your own harshest statements. We firmly believe that responsibility for the conflict lies with the terrorist group Hamas and that Israel is permitted, indeed obligated, to exercise its right of self-defense,” the U.S. Jewish leaders said in their letter to Erdogan.
“We should certainly agree, however, that such differences of opinion do not justify any display of anti-Semitism in Turkey or elsewhere.”
At the end of the letter the Jewish leaders urged Erdogan to act against anti-Semitism in Turkey.
“We have been longstanding friends of the Turkey and have always valued our relationship with your government,” they said. “In the spirit of this historic relationship, we express our deep concern and, recalling your earlier denunciation of anti-Semitism as a ‘crime against humanity,’ call on you to urgently address these disturbing developments.”