Life for Turkish Jews has been less than comfortable in recent years. Gone are the days when a young Ben-Gurion-type would even dream of going there to study law. Turkey’s Jewish community, which numbered as many 80,000 in the late 1920s has dwindled down to approximately 20,000 and, more than ever, suffers alienation at every bloody bend in the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Following the bloody Mavi Marmara incident in 2010–during which the Turkish ship was boarded by IDF troops who were violently confronted by Islamists abroad–the crucial non-Arab Middle East alliance between Israel and Turkey was shattered (and the worst possible time). Over two years later, the former allies who used to trade, fret about Iran, and engage in military exercises together have still not reconciled. As Al-Monitor reports, the rift between Israel and Turkey has placed Turkish Jews precariously in the middle.
“As a Jew, I can attest to you there is a difference between being a Turk and an Israeli,” Ediz, a Turkish Jew, told Al-Monitor. “But whenever there is fighting between Israel and the Palestinians, the atmosphere in Turkey turns against us, and people start acting as if we committed a crime.” Leri, another Turkish Jew, sounds the same alarm bell. “The media is painting such an image that many won’t even consider us human.”
But sadly, the ostracism of and suspicion about Turkish Jews has also become state policy.
For example, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan surprisingly raised for the first time — just hours before the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas was announced on Nov. 21 — the question of the “dual loyalty” of Turkish Jews. Then, daily Yeni Safak, a supporter of Erdogan’s government, claimed in a front-page story on Dec.13 under the headline “Murderers amongst us” that there were Turkish-speaking Israeli soldiers who boarded the Mavi Marmara flotilla on May 30, 2010 and killed nine Turks.
This has carried beyond words and into deeds, including an investigation of at least five Turkish Jews who were suspected of aiding the IDF. Additionally, as The Times of Israel points out:
The investigation probed all Turkish citizens who traveled between Turkey and Israel at least two weeks before and after the Mavi Marmara incident on May 31, 2010. MIT officials were quoted as saying they expected to uncover additional suspects.
Adam Chandler was previously a staff writer at Tablet. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Slate, Esquire, New York, and elsewhere. He tweets @allmychandler.