Turkey acts to stop wave of hate

By Sami Kohen, February 12, 2009

The Turkish government has launched a series of measures to combat the antisemitism that hit Turkey during Operation Cast Lead, and has started trying to mend severely strained ties with Israel.

Following strong condemnation of antisemitism by President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the State Religious Affairs Department instructed clerics in all mosques to refrain from delivering sermons that could provoke anti-Jewish feelings. During the Gaza crisis, mass demonstrations after Friday services had featured antisemitic elements.

An anti-Jewish article on the website of the ruling Justice and Development Party was removed following action by the public prosecutor in Ankara. The public prosecutor in Eskısehir, in central Turkey, also took legal action against the organisers of a demonstration during which posters reading “Jews and Armenians Cannot Enter Here, Dogs Can” were displayed.

These steps follow repeated appeals by the president of Istanbul’s Jewish community, Silvyo Ovadia, for measures to stop the targeting of the 23,000-strong community.

Israel and Turkey are also trying to defuse the tension caused by Turkey’s harsh attitude over the Gaza crisis.

Senior officials from both Foreign Ministries have been meeting to seek ways to ensure close bilateral relations continue, and Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Cicek announced that “we are now looking to the future”.

    Last updated: 1:36pm, March 10 2009