Jews are focus of most hate speech in Turkey, media study finds

Upcoming MEMRI report details growing anti-Semitic language in Islamist, pro-AKP outlets

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

A flyer circulated by Turkish Islamists claiming Israel plants trees around the world to protect Jews on Judgment Day (Courtesy: MEMRI)
A flyer circulated by Turkish Islamists claiming Israel plants trees around the world to protect Jews on Judgment Day (Courtesy: MEMRI)

Jews are the group most targeted by hate speech in the Turkish media, according to an upcoming report by a US-based watchdog, which found a rise in anti-Semitic language published in Turkey.

The study, by the Middle East Media Research Institute’s Turkish Media Project, found that such attacks are becoming more common, especially in Islamist media outlets.

Pro-AKP daily Yeni Akit is leading purveyor of hate speech, followed by another Islamist paper, Milli Gazett, MEMRI said.

The report, obtained by The Times of Israel ahead of its upcoming release to the public, is based on a study by the Turkish coexistence NGO Hrant Dink Foundation, which looked at hate speech in the country’s media.

It found a rise in hate speech against Jews, especially in opinion columns, with more than half of the instances — 130 out of 246 — targeting Jews. Armenians and Christians were also victims of attacks in the media, with 60 attacks and 25 instances respectively.

MEMRI’s Director of Turkish Studies, Rachel Sharon-Krespin, told The Times of Israel that hate speech constitutes “generalizations, prejudice and animosity against, and targeting and threatening a group of people or person, due to ethnicity, religion, race or gender.”

“And examples of anti-Semitism can be found almost daily in Turkish media,” she added.

Hate speech against the Jews is found mostly in the Islamist, pro-AKP organs, though Jews, Kurds, Armenians, and Greeks are targeted in nationalist outlets as well.

‘A magnificent speech’

“The most rabid and savage enemies of Islam on Earth are the Jews…,” said Imam Mehmet Sait Yaz during a July 2014 sermon in Diyarbakir, broadcast by OdaTV and cited by MEMRI. “The Jews and the Christians will never accept you unless you submit to their religion. These Jews spoil all the agreements on Earth and have murdered 17 of their own prophets … And I declare here: All Jews who have taken up arms to murder Muslims must be killed, and Israel must be wiped off the map! And it will be wiped out with Allah’s help!”

AKP lawmaker Cuma Icten called it a “magnificent speech” and posted it on his Facebook page.

Muhteşem Bir Sohbet

Mehmet Sait Yaz Hocamızın Diyarbakır Ulu Cami'de İsREAL ile ilgili sohbeti…

Posted by Cuma İçten on Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Wild conspiracy theories about Jews and Israel also found their way into pro-AKP newspapers.

On September 15, 2014, M. Necati Ozfatura wrote in his Turkiye column that the Mossad trained ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi from the time he was 11, “then integrated him among the Palestinians, sent him to Baghdad for studying, and gave him the identity of a dead Arab…Jewish capital is behind ISIS. Global Jewish capital is providing the arms and all the needs of ISIS. Its training is being provided in camps in Israel. The tactics and strategies employed by ISIS are from the Mossad and from Israeli military officers. Unfortunately, some ignorant and unaware Muslims are following this person [Al-Baghdadi] who is of Jewish origin.”

Ozfatura followed this up in November by asserting that Jews who pretend to be Christians and Muslims are Israel’s greatest power.

“These [secret Jews] insidiously grab key positions in the finance, media and governments of the countries in which they live, and steer and rule these countries so as to serve the goal of Zionism’s global rule,” Ozfatura wrote.

“At this time, in America, the converted Jewish clergymen are secretly running some of the Christian churches and are directing the unknowing, naïve Christian masses toward this goal,” he added.

Members of Turkey's Jewish community pray at Neve Shalom Synagogue in Istanbul on October 11, 2004, during a ceremony to mark the official reopening of the synagogue (photo credit: AP/Murad Sezer)
Members of Turkey’s Jewish community pray at Neve Shalom Synagogue in Istanbul on October 11, 2004, during a ceremony to mark the official reopening of the synagogue (photo credit: AP/Murad Sezer)

Other wild stories about Jews abounded in Turkey.

In November, more than 6,000 olive trees were cut down in western Turkey to make way for a new power plant. Islamists circulated flyers that said Israel was planting olives trees around the world in order to protect themselves on Judgment Day, because the olive tree will not tell Muslims that a Jew is hiding behind them.

“Yesterday, Israel tried to prevent the cutting of olive trees in Soma, by stopping the building of the plant. They even managed to get the High Administrative Court to rule for a stay. But our government carried out the felling of the trees, despite the court’s ruling – and, by doing so, spoiled Israel’s plans,” a flyer read, according to the MEMRI report. “It is planned that all the olive trees in Turkey will be cut down within the next three years. This is a very great blow to Israel.

“But it is not enough just to cut down all these trees. Our people must also do their duty; they must stop their consumption of olives, and refuse to be part of their plot.”

AKP officials themselves made anti-Jewish statements and decisions as well. In November, the AKP-appointed governor of Edirne Province, Dursun Sahin, said that Edirne’s Grand Synagogue would not be used for prayer, though it was planned to reopened for worship.

“When the winds of war blow inside Al-Aqsa [in Jerusalem], and those bandits are murdering Muslims, we are restoring their synagogues here [in Turkey],” he said. “I am saying this with great hatred in my heart. This synagogue, the restoration of which is almost complete, will become only a museum, with no exhibits in it.”

Sahin later apologized for the remarks.

Since the AKP came to power in 2002, the ruling party has transformed the media in Turkey, intimidated liberal outlets while promoting Islamist papers.

“Many media organs, once mainstream, were attacked — sometimes confiscated — by the government, and many were forced to sell to groups that are sympathizers of the AKP,” said Sharon-Krespin. “Through pressure and intimidation of media bosses, many mainstream journalists lost their jobs due to their criticism of the government, scores of lawsuits were and are being filed against them by now president Erdogan.”

“On the other hand the editors and columnists of Islamist media organs — such as Yeni Akit, Yeni Safak, Sabah etc. — are government’s favorites, enjoy permanent place in Erdogan’s private plane on his trips and even act as advisers. They are the mouthpiece of the AKP government and target non-Islamist journalists for any criticism of the government,” she said.

But there are voices who defend Turkey’s Jewish communities.

After Sahin’s announcement that the Grand Synagogue would be closed to prayer, Directorate of Foundations head Adnan Ertem vowed that the site would serve as a house of worship for Jews, and would be open to the public.

Some center-left media outlets in the country do raise the warning about racism and anti-Semitism, “but they are in the minority,” said Sharon-Krespin.

A lawmaker from Turkey’s main opposition party CHP, Aykan Erdemir, called the governor’s remarks “hate speech,” and said that “if Şahin does not resign, to preserve the dignity of his post and Turkey’s honor, he should be removed immediately.”

He also lamented that “hatred and antisemitism have seized the state.”

In December, 2014, a Jewish writer named Mois Gabay wrote a column called, “Are Turkish Jews leaving?” in Salom, the country’s only Jewish newspaper. In the piece, he warned that statements by government officials were spreading anti-Semitism to the general public.

Some writers quoted Gabay’s article and warned that they could be on their way to a Turkey without Jews, but Islamist paper Yeni Akit called the prospect “good news.”

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