ANKARA: Jewish groups urge Erdogan to address anti-Semitism

Today’s Zaman, Turkey
Jan 24 2009

Jewish groups urge ErdoÄ?an to address anti-Semitism

Leading US-based Jewish groups have sent a joint letter to Turkish
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip ErdoÄ?an expressing concern over "a
wave of anti-Semitism" in the aftermath of Israel’s devastating
offensive in the Gaza Strip.

Both Turkish leaders and the public reacted harshly to the offensive,
which Israel said was meant to rout Gaza’s Hamas leaders and stop the
group’s homemade rockets, which have killed around 20 people since
2002. The offensive, which ended with a truce on Sunday, killed 1,284
Palestinians — 894 of them civilians, including 280 children and
teenagers — according to a Palestinian human rights group. The death
toll and scale of destruction in Gaza provoked international outrage,
but in Israel the war was widely seen as a legitimate response to
Hamas’ attacks. Thirteen Israelis were also killed, 10 of them
soldiers.

"Many recent incidents are gravely distressing to us. Protestors
besieging the Israeli Consulate in Ä°stanbul have expressed
their hatred of Jews. Billboards around Ä°stanbul are full of
anti-Jewish propaganda posters. The door of a Jewish-owned shop near
Ä°stanbul University was covered with a poster that said, `Do
not buy from here, since this shop is owned by a Jew.’

The defacing of an Ä°zmir synagogue has brought about the
temporary closure of all but one of that city’s synagogues," said the
letter, signed by leaders of the American Jewish Committee, the
Anti-Defamation League, B’nai B’rith International, the Conference of
Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the Jewish
Institute for National Security Affairs.

"To be sure, we disagree with your government’s 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. We should certainly agree,
however, that such differences of opinion do not justify any display
of anti-Semitism in Turkey or elsewhere," continued the open letter on
the Web site of the American Jewish Committee.

"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," it said.

While constantly criticizing Israel for its Gaza offensive, which led
to the killings of hundreds of civilians, ErdoÄ?an labeled
Israel’s assault "a crime against humanity." However, he also said
publicly that anti-Semitism, too, is a crime against humanity.

In a speech delivered in Ankara last week, the prime minister referred
to an incident in which members of the Federation of Osman Gazi
Cultural Associations posed with placards on which they had written
"No Jews or Armenians allowed here" and "Dogs allowed," apparently in
response to the ongoing Israeli military offensive in Gaza, and added:
"Everyone who is under the flag of this country is our first-class
citizen. The Jewish citizens in my country have an honorable stance on
this issue. All minorities, Armenians, Jews, Greeks and Christians are
under the protection of the Turkish Republic and the government. It is
not correct to emotionally attack such citizens of our country."

Meanwhile, in its report about the letter, the Jewish Telegraphic News
Agency, an online news portal, noted that "the organizations that
signed on to the letter declined to support a 2007 US congressional
resolution recognizing the Armenian genocide, concerned that such
legislation could harm the relationships between the United States and
Turkey and Israel and Turkey."

24 January 2009, Saturday
TODAY’S ZAMAN ANKARA

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