The secular spirit of Kamal Ataturk that brought Turkey so close to the Western world is fading away.
But such a change seems to pass unnoticed. Anti-Semitism in Turkey seems to find hardly any room in the Western press.
Last year, when Turkey’s Supreme Court tried to dismantle the AKP for having trespassed Turkey’s secular constitution, EU officials sided with the Islamist government.
This constitutes a major turnabout not only for the stability of the region but also for Europe. Turkey is a NATO member, it aspires to become a EU member, has one of the strongest armies in the region, and is a key country for transporting gas to Europe through pipelines such as Nabucco and Blue Stream.
Recently, Turkey barred Israel from participating in NATO military manoeuvres; Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said the move was a result of public concerns over the Israeli military offensive in the Gaza Strip earlier this year. Erdogan called Israel's operations, launched with the aim of ending Hamas' cross-border rocket attacks, "a crime against humanity," and suggested that Israel be barred from the United Nations.
A study of the Israeli Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center shows that in recent years there has been a significant growth of anti-Semitic literature published in Turkey. Much of this literature has become best-seller books. Two categories of books can be established: 1) “Classical” anti-Semitic literature in Turkish translation, such as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler, and The International Jew by Henry Ford; 2) Anti-Semitic books in the Turkish language, set in an internal Turkish context. These books are mostly written by radical Islamic elements in Turkey, which believe that the current Islamic government is not Islamist enough.
In addition to the anti-Semitic books, the Turkish press frequently publishes anti-Semitic articles which combine anti-Israeli incitement and “classical” anti- Semitic motifs. Even more disturbing was a blockbuster film called Valley of the Wolves Iraq, produced in Turkey, and based on a popular television series. Due to its anti-Semitic and anti-American character, the movie was pulled from theatres in the US, and triggered harsh criticism in Germany, where it was shown to the Turkish community. So far, the Turkish government has refused to take any action to prevent the distribution of such anti-Semitic agitprop.
“Separation,” a TV series aired on Turkey’s state-run TRT channel for the first time last week, contains several controversial scenes. In one, a Palestinian father holds his new-born baby above his head in front of Israeli soldiers at a checkpoint. A few moments later, one of the soldiers shoots the baby dead. In another scene, Israeli soldiers kick and beat elderly Palestinians on the streets and one soldier shoots a teenage Palestinian girl on her chest.
The drama outraged Israel. Israel summoned a Turkish diplomat to protest at what it called "state-sponsored incitement.” “Such a drama series, which doesn’t even have the slightest link to reality and which presents Israeli soldiers as murderers of innocent children, isn’t worthy of being broadcast even by enemy states and certainly not in a state which has full diplomatic relations with Israel,” Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in a statement.
A TV channel official responded that none of the scenes in the show was “imaginary” “and that photographs of what Israelis are doing to Palestinians are freely available on the Internet, whereas Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said that the Turkish government “has no right to comment on the quality of broadcasts or the opinions expressed in them.” Freedom of Expression is not what Turkey is most famous for in any event.
This is only one of the last incidents that are marring the relations between the two countries. Israel and Turkey, once stern allies, have been on a collision course ever since the AKP party took power; it looks as if the Turkish government is trying its best to enlarge the rift, casting a shadow over the future of the Middle East.
Some 24,000 Jews live in Turkey, making them one of the world's largest Jewish communities in a Muslim country; their relations with the state are becoming more and more strained. "I feel worried, sad and scared for myself and for my country's future, which is leaning towards racism," Turkish-Jewish academic Leyla Navaro wrote in a local newspaper. Many Jews are thinking of leaving the country.
An Islamist Turkey, winking at the Islamist regimes of the region and joining their anti-Israeli policies is bad news for the free world.