The Turkish Paradox, Part II

The Turkish Paradox, Part II
December 16, 2004

By Gamaliel Issac

Was the Turkish Destruction of Smyrna Vengeance?

Mustafa Akyol wrote[i] that the Turks were not invading Smyrna, they
were liberating the city from the occupying Greek army. He also wrote
that the Greeks had previously committed atrocities against the Turks
and that ?The bloodshed in Smyrna in September, 1922 was an act of
vengeance.? If the bloodshed in Smyrna was an act of vengeance
against the Greeks then why did the Turks also annihilate the Armenian
population of Smyrna? If vengeance against atrocities committed by
the Greek Christians against Turkish Muslims was the motive, than why
did the Turks commit atrocities against the Armenians and Greeks in
Smyrna before the Greek re-occupation? The reason the Greeks
re-occupied Smyrna to begin with was to prevent more of these
atrocities. Perhaps the atrocities committed by the Greeks were

The Turkish Paradox

Why were the Turks so brutal to the Armenians and yet as Mr. Akyol
pointed out in his previous article[ii], did they offer refuge to Jews
fleeing from European Nations. In order to understand this we need to
first understand the concept of Dhimma. Tudor Parfitt in his book,
The Jews in Palestine[iii] 1800-1882 (The Boydell Press, 1987)
explains that concept as follows:

?Dhimma is the relationship between the protector (in this case the
Sultan) and the protected (the Dhimmi) and was the dominant factor in
the status of the ahl al-kitab (People of the Book) i.e. Jews,
Christians, Sabeans, (sabi?un) and later Persian Zoroastrians, in the
Muslim state. Dhimma required the state to protect the life and
property of the Dhimmi, exempt him from military service and allow him
freedom of worship, while the Dhimmi was expected to pay the poll
tax(cizye), not to insult Islam, not to build new places of worship
and to dress in a distinctive fashion in order not to be mistaken for
a Muslim. In cases of civil and family law, non-Muslims had judicial
autonomy except in such cases which involved both a Dhimmi and a
Muslim, in which event the case would be tried before a Muslim court
(mahkama) where the Dhimmi?s legal testimony was unacceptable?The
measure of religious toleration that obtained under Islam had to be
purchased: and the price was a considerable one. ?

The Jews and Armenians as long as they meekly tolerated the
depredations of Dhimmitude were not considered enemies. In fact a
jizya [tax] paying infidel was considered a very valuable commodity.
Joan Peters, in her book, From Time Immemorial[iv] wrote how after the
conquest of Alexandria, Caliph Omar received word from his general
describing the wealth they had just attained.

?I have captured a city from the description of which I shall
refrain. Suffice it to say that I have seized therein 4,000 villas
with 4,000 baths, 40,000 poll-tax paying Jews and four hundred places
of entertainment for the royalty.”

Mr. Akyol responded to two quotes from the Koran from my previous
article, by referring the reader to two articles he had written. In
one of those articles ? Still Standing For Islam and Against
Terrorism?[v], Mr. Akyol, quoted Karen Armstrong?s writings about the
aftermath of the fighting at Badr as follows:

?The Muslims were jubilant. They began to round up prisoners and, in
the usual Arab fashion, started to kill them, but Muhammad put a stop
to this. A revelation came down saying that the prisoners of war were
to be ransomed.?

The quote chosen by Mr. Akyol demonstrates that money was what kept
the Muslims from murdering the infidel. Ransom was why Muhammad put a
stop to the Muslim murder of the prisoners of war from Badr. Money is
the reason that subjugated people, who pay the jizya and karaj taxes
are not killed.

Another argument in Mr. Akyol?s article is that according to Islam
there is no compulsion in religion. Although Muslims have violated
this law frequently, a recent example being the forced conversion of
the wife of an Egyptian priest[vi], there have actually been cases
where they have compelled infidels not to convert.

Bernard Lewis in his book The Arabs in History[vii] wrote that during:

?The time of `Abd al-Malik the Muslim government actually resorted to
discouraging conversion ? in order to restore the failing revenues of
the state.”

In 1492, when Spain expelled the Jews, Sultan Bayazid II ordered the
governors of the provinces of the Ottoman Empire “not to refuse the
Jews entry or cause them difficulties, but to receive them cordially”.
One reason for this was the wealth that the Sultan knew the Jews would
bring to Turkey. The Sultan even said that: “the Catholic monarch
Ferdinand was wrongly considered as wise, since he impoverished Spain
by the expulsion of the Jews, and enriched Turkey”.

Serge Trifkovic in an article in Chronicles Magazine titled Turkey in
the European Union: a lethal fait accompli[viii] (10/29/04) wrote
about the Sultan?s offer of refuge to the Jews of Spain as follows:

?The act that resonates with modern Ottoman apologists was the
invitation to the Jews of Spain to resettle in the Sultan’s lands
after expulsion under Ferdinand and Isabella. They were invited not
because of the Turks’ “tolerance,” however, but primarily because it
was necessary to replace the vast numbers of Christians who had been
killed, expelled, or reduced to penury, and thus to maintain the
Sultan’s tax base. The fact that the Ottoman Jews held a more favored
status within the Empire than the giaours (infidel Christian dogs) is
as much a reason for celebration of the Ottoman “tolerance” as is the
fact that the Nazis were somewhat more “tolerant” of occupied Slavs
than of the Jews the reason to exonerate them for their many crimes. ?

If the Dhimmi explanation above were the whole story that leaves the
question of why the Armenians? Dhimmi status didn?t protect them from
genocide. It doesn?t explain why Smyrna was burned while Kemal
Atatürk who was secular in his beliefs was in command. It also
doesn?t explain the Turkish atrocities against the Jews of Palestine.

The Jews of Palestine and the Armenians of Turkey had one crucial
thing in common that endangered them, Turkey was occupying their
homeland and they wanted to liberate their homeland. The ultimate
crime as far as the Turks were concerned was the Armenian and Jewish
desire for freedom, because such freedom threatened the integrity of
their empire.

Liberation, the Root Cause of Turkish Revenge

Turkish vengeance occurred when they felt there was a threat to the
integrity of their empire. In April 1876 when Bulgarians fought for
their freedom, the Turks committed mass slaughter in Bulgaria, killing
12000-15,000 Bulgarians.

Graber, in his book, Caravans to Oblivion, The Armenian Genocide[ix],
explained how the threat of Armenian liberation led to revenge by the
Turkish authorities.

?It was in Geneva in 1887 that the first radical Armenian political
organization was born. It was called Hunchak, meaning ?bell,? and it
was revolutionary in its aims. It was followed in 1890 by the
foundation of the much more important and longer lived Dashnakstutium.
Both organizations called for an independent Armenia?This was
basically a new position for the Armenians. Its effect on Abdulhamid
was predictable. He felt he was faced with a sinister revolution that
he must use all his resources to combat.

When Armenian resistance first arose in 1893, however, it was not
driven by urban radicals or intellectual leaders. Its voice was the
Armenian peasantry in Sassun, deep in the Armenian mountains. It was
not based primarily on a yearning for freedom; its cause was much
nearer to the hearts of a peasant society. The wandering Kurdish
tribes had been given tacit allowance by the sultan to extort the
peasant Armenian communities in the way that gangsters extort
protection money for use of their turf. According to the historian
Christopher J. Walker, ?The Kurdish aghas [commanders] used to demand
from them a kind of protection tax ? an annual due of crops, cattle,
silver, iron ore?agricultural implements or clothes? In many places
the Armenians were forced to pay double taxes?

By 1892 Abdulhamid had authorized the formation of some thirty
regiments of Hamideye, each about five hundred men strong and each
composed of itinerant Kurds whose spoken or unspoken function was to
suppress the Armenians. To defend themselves against the depredations
of the Kurds and the corruption of the Turkish officials, Armenian
peasants in the Sassun district retreated into the mountains and held
out against successive attacks mounted by Kurds and regular Turkish
army units. ? In the end, despite some early success, the Armenian
peasants were overrun and murdered ? men, women and children ? in
their mountain hideouts.?

The Armenian desire for national liberation ultimately led to their
destruction. Graber wrote that:

?In November 1914, the Russians published a declaration that promised
national liberation to the Armenians on the condition that they oppose
their Ottoman masters. Some Armenians answered the call; small
numbers of Armenian soldiers deserted from the Turkish army and some
in the areas of the battles gave assistance to the Russian
forces… In the winter of 1914-15, the Ottoman army mounted a major
attack against the Russians? Enver Pasha, who had assumed command of
the Third Army, made fatal errors which led to the loss of most of his
forces and the loss of wide stretches of territory to the Russian
army. There are those who point to Enver Pasha?s direct
responsibility for the military defeat as the motive for his search
for a scapegoat; the Armenians were accused of treachery by Enver
Pasha and his supporters. It was alleged that Armenian betrayal,
according to the Empire?s rulers, had caused the defeat? To this day,
the Turkish government claims the treachery of the Armenians as the
explanation for what subsequently befell them.

During the night, between April 23 and April 24, 1915, the
Constantinople police broke into the homes of the Armenian elite in
the city. Two hundred thirty five Armenian leaders politicians,
writers, educators, lawyers, etc. ? were taken to the police station
and then deported.?

The method of elimination by deportation is explained by Graber as

?The Young Turks had no railroad system to collect and dispose of the
Armenians. Despite the efforts to proceed with the construction of
the Berlin to Baghdad railroad, there were few miles of track
available, and the condition of most highways was appalling.
Consequently, those charged by the Teshkilati Mahsusa with the
responsibility of eliminating the Armenian community evolved a system
of such primitive brutality that even today, after our century has
witnessed the indiscriminate massacre of many millions, the Ittihadist
project still evokes the most fundamental feelings of revulsion.
There is no doubt that if a more sophisticated machinery for slaughter
had been available, the Young Turks would have used it. Lacking such
machinery, their system of eradication worked along the following
lines, as described by one scholar of the period:

?Initially all the able-bodied men of a certain town or village would
be ordered, either by a public crier or by an official proclamation
nailed to the walls, to present themselves at the Konak [government
building]. The proclamation stated that the Armenian population would
be deported, gave the official reasons for it, and assured them that
the government was benevolent. Once at the konak, they would be
jailed for a day or two. No reason was given. Then they would be led
out of jail and marched out of town. At the first lonely halting
place they would be shot, or bayoneted to death. Some days later the
old men and the women and children were summoned in the same way; they
were often given a few days grace, but then they had to leave. It was
their misfortune not to be killed at the first desolate place. The
government?s reasoning appears to have been: the men might pose a
threat ? leaders might spring up among them, who would defy the
order; but why waste valuable lead on women, old men and children?
Instead they were forced to walk, endlessly, along pre-arranged
routes, until they died from thirst, hunger, exposure, or exhaustion.?

Jewish Liberation and The Revenge of the Turks

A declaration about Zionism released in January 25, 1915 by the
Turkish Authorities and published by Haherut, a Hebrew language
newspaper, demonstrates that Turkish hostility was to the Jewish
liberation movement of Zionism more than it was to the Jews. The
declaration was:

?The exalted Government, in its resistance to the dangerous element
known as Zionism, which is struggling to create a Jewish government in
the Palestinian area of the Ottoman Kingdom and thus placing its own
people in jeopardy, has ordered the confiscation of all postal stamps,
Zionist flags, paper money, banknotes, etc., and has declared the
dissolution of the Zionist organizations and associations, which were
secretly established. It has now become known to us that other
mischief makers are maliciously engaged in libelous attempts to assert
that our measures are directed against all Jews. These have no
application to all of those Jews who uphold our covenant?We hope and
pray that they will be forever safe, as in the past?It is only the
Zionists and Zionism, that corrupt incendiary and rebellious element,
together with other groups with such delusionary aspirations, which we
must vanquish.?

Yair Auron, in his book, The Banality of Indifference, Zionism and the
Armenian Genocide[x], wrote how the Turks almost annihilated the
Jewish community of Palestine because of the threat of Zionism. He

?In the spring of 1917, the small Jewish community in Palestine was
stunned by an order issued by the Turkish authorities for the
deportation of the 5,000 Jews from Tel Aviv to the small farming
villages in the Sharon Plain and the Galilee. This may have been the
beginning of a plan to deport the Jews in the villages and in the
Jerusalem region as an emergency war measure, and the decree aroused
grave concern about the future of the Jewish settlement in the
country. When the deportation order became known to the Nili
organization [a hebrew spy organization], its members publicized the
plan in the world press. American Jewry was shocked, and the nations
fighting against Turkey released reports on Turkish intentions to
exterminate the Jews in Palestine, as they had already done to the
Armenians. Public opinion in the neutral countries, as well as in
Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, was outraged and Jamal Pasha
was forced to reconsider his plan of action.

The Role Played by Islam

Although the direct cause of the massacres of the Armenians was the
threat they posed to the integrity of the Ottoman Empire the
underlying cause was Islam. Islam was one of the factors that led to
the Jihad that led to the conquest of Armenia. Islam was responsible
for the creation of the oppressed Armenian Dhimmi class. It was that
oppression that forced the Armenians to fight back even at tremendous
risk to themselves. The role of Islam in the massacre of the
Armenians also becomes clear in a communication between a German
witness to the deportations Scheubner Richter and the German
ambassador in Constantinople, Wangenheim, about the deportation.
Mr. Richter wrote[xi]:

?This large scale evacuation is synonymous with massacre, for in the
absence of any means of transport , hardly half of the refugees will
reach their goal alive?. Those who convert to Islam are not evicted.?

The fact that those who converted to Islam were protected shows that
the infidel status of the Armenians played a role in the thinking of
those who massacred them. Many Armenians converted in order to
survive until Talaat, Turkey?s minister of the interior, issued a
circular banning the conversion of Armenians to Islam.

Although Islam prevented the killing of Armenian converts to Islam,
Islam made it permissible to kill the Armenians and the Jews when they
rebelled. Chief Dragoman (Turkish-speaking interpreter) of the
British embassy reported regarding the 1894-96 massacres:

??[The perpetrators] are guided in their general action by the
prescriptions of the Sheri [Sharia] Law. That law prescribes that if
the “rayah” [dhimmi] Christian attempts, by having recourse to foreign
powers, to overstep the limits of privileges allowed them by their
Mussulman [Muslim] masters, and free themselves from their bondage,
their lives and property are to be forfeited, and are at the mercy of
the Mussulmans. To the Turkish mind the Armenians had tried to
overstep those limits by appealing to foreign powers, especially
England. They therefore considered it their religious duty and a
righteous thing to destroy and seize the lives and properties of the

The Turkish Rescue of Jews From the Holocaust

Although Turkey turned back the Jewish refugee ship, the Struma during
World War II, there were heroic Turks who risked their lives to save
Turkish Jews from the Holocaust. This cannot be explained by desire
for money, this can only be explained by compassion, humanitarianism
and heroism. Perhaps the reforms ending the discriminatory laws of
Dhimmitude introduced into Turkish society in the 19th century by the
European powers, can partly explain the changes in Turkish society
that made this possible.

Should Turkey be Accepted into the European Union?

The stabilizing factor in Turkey that prevented radical Islamists from
taking over was the military. The army did not act to prevent the
current radical Islamic government of prime minister, Recep Tayyip
Erdogan from coming to power. The opinions of the Turkish masses are
moving against the United States and Israel partly as a result of this
governments influence over the media according to an article by Soner
Cagaptay in the Middle East Quarterly[xii]. This is alarming because
it suggests a movement away from the enlightenment that made possible
the rescue of Jews by Turks during World War II and a movement back
toward the beliefs that led to Turkey?s terrible past.

The secular Turkish army has been a stabilizing force on Turkey in the
past but if Turkey joins the European Union it is unlikely to be able
to play this role. The Anatolia news agency[xiii] quoted the European
Union envoy to Turkey, Ambassador Hansjorg Kretschmer, as saying that
?the European Turkey’s EU-inspired democracy reforms will be
incomplete if the country fails to curb the influence its powerful
army wields in politics?

New EU commissioner Olli Rehnn said on Oct. 20 that “Turkey’s EU
membership will open new horizons for both Turkey and the Union and
bring forth new challenges.” On the same day Germany’s foreign
minister Joschka Fischer went a step further and declared that Turkish
entry to the EU would be as important for Europe as the D-Day invasion
60 years ago – a key way to liberate Europe from the threat of
insecurity from the Middle East and “terrorist ideas.”

In light of these comments and the threat faced by Europe, I think the
most suitable way to finish this article is with the final sentence of
Marjorie Housepian Dobkin?s book The Smyrna Affair[xiv].

?The course of history in recent years suggests that the ultimate
victims may be those who delude themselves.?


[i] Akyol M., “What’s Right with Turkey”,, 12/3/04

[ii] Akyol M., “What’s Right with Turkey”,, 12/3/04

[iii] Parfitt, T., ?The Jews in Palestine 1800-1822″,
The Boydell Press, 1987

[iv] Peters, J.. ?From Time Immemorial?, Harper & Row,

[v] Akyol, M. “Still Standing for Islam – and Against
Terrorism” 10/8/04

[vi] Klein, A. “Christians protest kidnapping forced
conversion”, 12/6/04

[vii] Lewis, B. ?The Arabs in History?, Oxford
University Press, 1993

[viii] Trifkovic, S. ?Turkey in the European Union? a
lethal fait accompli?, Chronicles Magazine, 10/29/04

[ix] Graber, G. S. :Caravans to Oblivion, The Armenian
Genocide: John Wiley and Sons 1996

[x] Auron, Y., The Banality of Indifference, Zionism
and the Armenian Genocide, Transactions Publishers,
New Brunswick, NJ 2000

[xi] Graber, G. S. :Caravans to Oblivion, The Armenian
Genocide: John Wiley and Sons 1996

[xii] Cagaptay, S., ?Where Goes the U.S.-Turkish
Relationship?? Middle East Quarterly, Fall 2004

[xiii] ?Turkish Army should Toe European Union line,
EU official says,?, EU Business, 6/14/03

[xiv] Dobkin, M., The Smyrna Affair, Harcourt Brace
Jovanovich, [1st ed.] 1971


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