Turkey's Jewish community is reeling from viral video that shows what appears to be a summer camp at which young children are being led in an anti-Semitic cheer in Turkish by a young girl or woman counselor. Pictured: The Neve Shalom Synagogue in Istanbul, Turkey. (Image source: Tatiana Matlina/Wikimedia Commons)
Turkey's Jewish community is still reeling from the content of a video that went viral at the end of July. The video shows what appears to be a summer camp at which young children, with a group of burqa-clad women behind them, are being led in an anti-Semitic cheer in Turkish by a young girl or woman counselor.
In the 39-second clip, when the girl says, "The Jews," the women and children reply, "Death!"
When she says, "Palestine," they reply, "It will be saved."
When she calls out, "Hagia Sophia" -- referring to the Byzantine cathedral-museum in Istanbul that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has announced will be turned into a mosque -- they chant, "It will be opened."
A few days after the footage began to circulate, Garo Paylan, a Member of Parliament from the opposition Peoples' Democratic Party, tweeted his outrage. He announced his intention to file a criminal complaint against the camp counselor and the organization behind her. Two days after posting the tweet, Paylan submitted the following parliamentary questions to Family, Labor and Social Services Minister Zehra Zümrüt Selçuk, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu and Justice Minister Abdülhamit Gül:
- Where and under whose care were the children in the film?
- Were their parents or other family members present during the event?
- Did the children who were instructed to shout "Death to the Jews" come together at that event as part of an organization?
- Did the event take place with the knowledge of your ministry?
- Will you launch an investigation into the organizers and the families of those children who abuse and encourage them to commit hate crimes?
- Will you launch administrative investigations into the authorities that neglected to expose the event?
- Will you put these children under the protection of your ministry?
- What kind of precautions will your ministry take so that our children are not exposed to such abuses again?
Paylan also asked the justice minister whether "those engaging in hate speech and hate crimes are punished effectively, or whether there is a climate of impunity concerning such crimes."
The ministers have yet to issue a response.
Meanwhile, Mois Gabay, a Jewish columnist based in Istanbul, told Gatestone that the anti-Semitism revealed in the video is the kind of incident that makes Turkey's already dwindling Jewish community extremely worried about the future. Gabay, in his July 31 column in Turkey's Jewish weekly, Şalom, wrote:
"It is possible to give many more examples [of anti-Semitism in Turkey]... It appears that as long as penalties are not imposed... and the Holocaust and anti-Semitism are not included in school curricula, some people will continue playing ostrich, no matter how much we write about these issues. I do hope that the hatred and exclusion [of Jews] that is growing by the day, with new emerging groups, will come to an end here one day."
Şalom's editor-in-chief, İvo Molinas, in an interview with the Bianet News Agency on August 5, also bemoaned the anti-Semitic incitement exposed in the video:
"There is a very intense anti-Semitism in the visual media and printed press, as well as on social media, in Turkey. But this video is the most major and most severe form of anti-Semitism. Very young children are indoctrinated in Jew-hatred and human-hatred without even knowing who Jews are. These children will grow up to be potential Jew-haters and this is the biggest danger. Penalties should be imposed for racism and hate crimes. Lawsuits should absolutely be filed against those who engage in racism and hate crimes and who direct children to these things. This is the short-term solution; but the long-term solution is education. We live in a country where an ethnic group is placed in the brains of very little children as enemies. And the saddest thing is that we are not able to do anything about it. As a society, we only complain, but cannot do anything else. It is so sad that neither political nor judicial attempts are being made to stop these things."
Uzay Bulut, a Turkish journalist, is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Gatestone Institute.