Two important Jew have lost their lives lately: Shimon Peres, the ninth President of Israel, and Ishak Alaton, a Jewish businessman from Turkey.
Upon receiving the news of the deaths of these two men, many Turks rushed to Twitter proudly and openly to show off their hatred of Jews, according to the Turkish news site, Avlaremoz, which covers Jewish affairs.
Some of the Tweets posted after Peres's death on September 28 included:
- "Shimon Peres died, there is now one fewer Jew. I wish the same for other Jews and their sperm..."
- "Shimon Peres died. One fewer Jew. The world has got rid of one more piece of dirt."
- "Shimon Peres, you'll get a nice tan there. May your hellfire be fierce. Jewish dog."
- "It would be great if we do salah [Islamic prayer] of thankfulness every time a Jew drops dead."
- "Hellfire is calling you, Jewish dog Shimon Peres."
Some people might attempt to normalize these Turks' hatred of Peres by pointing out that Peres was an Israeli state leader. However, the reactions many Turks gave on social media after a Turkish businessman of Jewish origin died shows that these reactions are instead simply raw Jew-hate, which has little to do with the policies of the state of Israel.
Ishak Alaton, a Turkish businessman and investor of Jewish descent, born in Istanbul in 1927, died of heart failure on September 11, at the age of 89. This is how some Turks on Twitter paid farewell to him:
- "Ishak Alaton, the darling of Soros and the Jewish usurer, has croaked. Master Baphomet was not able to protect him. I wish the same for other Jewish vampires."
- "Even those whose top expertise is making money eventually bid farewell to life. Ishak Alaton lost his life."
- [Responding to a tweet that wished Alaton to rest in peace:] "Idiots, since when have non-Muslims been wished to rest in peace? You do not even know about that. You have nothing to do with religion."
- "Even his air conditioners will not be enough to cool him down in the afterlife."
- "It is cause for rejoicing that one more Jew falls before the Bayram [Eid al-Adha, the Islamic 'Sacrifice Feast']."
Alaton had contributed immensely to the Turkish economy, and culture, as well as to the efforts of democratization of the country.
Between 1947 and 1948, he performed his military service in the Turkish army, compulsory for all male Turks. After studying and working in Sweden from 1951 to 1954, he returned to Turkey, co-founded the Alarko group of companies, and employed thousands of people.
A prominent businessman and philanthropist, Alaton was granted the Swedish Order of the North Star and the Spanish Order of Civil Merit. Yet he preferred to live in Turkey. There he became the chairman of one of the most prominent businesses in the country and established the Turkey Foundation of Economic and Social Studies.
The Turks that spewed Jew-hatred after his death are evidently sure that no prosecutor in Turkey will hold them accountable account for their remarks calling for hatred and even violence against Jews. They seem to think that no matter what you say or write about Jews, you can get away with it.
In fact, celebrating Jewish deaths on social media seems to be a tradition for some Turks. Following an attempted stabbing at the Israeli Embassy in Ankara on September 21, and the bombing attack in Istanbul's Taksim district which resulted in three Israeli deaths, many Turkish Twitter-users had filled Twitter with hate-filled messages again.
This should come as no surprise: 71% of the Turkish adult population harbors anti-Semitic attitudes, according to the 2015 Anti-Defamation League Global 100 Poll.
"I do not think that there has ever been a period in this country in which anti-Semitism and hatred against Jews has decreased," said Isil Demirel, an anthropologist from Turkey and an author for Avlaremoz. "And during the current political atmosphere, hate speech against Jews in Turkey is even more commonplace."
The Jewish community in Turkey has also been exposed to deadly terror attacks at the hands of Muslim groups. On September 6, 1986, Palestinian Arab terrorists affiliated with the Abu Nidal Organization bombed and opened fire at Neve Shalom Synagogue in Istanbul during a Sabbath service; 22 people were killed.
On November 15, 2003, Islamist Turks and Al-Qaeda sympathizers exploded near-simultaneous car bombs outside two Istanbul synagogues -- Neve Shalom and Beth Israel -- both filled with worshippers. At least 23 people were murdered, and more than 300 wounded. According to Demirel:
"The attacks against synagogues in particular have made security an even more alarming issue for the Jewish community. That is why, for many years, synagogues and other Jewish institutions have been protected by safety measures.... The government should immediately recognize anti-Semitism as a hate crime and impose penal sanctions on the perpetrators. I think this is the most important step to be taken to help the Jewish community live in peace here."
But given the anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli statements of state authorities in Turkey, it does not seem realistic to expect them to make laws that would recognize anti-Semitism as an offense in Turkey.
For example, on July 18, 2014, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said:
"The state that knows best how to kill children is Israel. The obvious reality is that Israel is the country that threatens peace in the world and in the Middle East. Israel has never been pro-peace. It has persecuted and continues the persecution.
"Israel might seem to be the winner now. But it will eventually be defeated. This will also bother the Jews living in certain parts of the world. We as Turkey and myself -- as long as I am in charge -- can never have a positive view of Israel."
According to a 2014 Pew Poll, Israel is the most hated country in Turkey, with 86% of respondents holding an unfavorable view of the Jewish state, and only 2% viewing it positively.
Although the Jewish people have not been allowed to live free and safe lives in Turkey, they have resided there for millennia -- as have the Armenians and the Greeks, who were also persecuted, and the Alevis and the Kurds who are persecuted now.
"The Jewish presence in Asia Minor dates back to Biblical times," writes Professor Franklin Hugh Adler. "This is mentioned by Aristotle and several Roman sources, including Josephus.
"Jews, in fact, had inhabited this land long before the birth of Mohammed and the Islamic conquests of the seventh and eighth centuries, or for that matter, the arrival and conquests of the Turks, beginning in the eleventh century.
"At the beginning of the Turkish Republic, in 1923, the Jewish population was 81,454. Nevertheless, Turkey's current Jewish population has diminished to 15,000."
Many verbal and physical attacks on Jews have played a significant role in Jewish emigration from Turkey. These included the "Citizen Speak Turkish" Campaign of 1930s, the 1934 anti-Jewish pogrom in eastern Thrace, the 1941-1942 conscription of the "twenty classes" (an attempt to conscript all male non-Muslim populations, including the elderly and mentally ill during World War II), and the 1942-1944 Wealth Tax. Today, under the current Islamist government, life for Jews in Turkey is no easier than before.
Meanwhile, militants linked to the Islamic State in the Sinai Peninsula recently released a new video that contains more threats against the Jews and Israel. "Oh Jews, wait for us," the narrator in the video threatens. "The punishment is severe and soon you will pay a high price."
This history and narrative leads one to ask: What is a radical Muslim and what is a moderate Muslim? Is "being radical" only about being an armed militant? Can Muslims who do not engage in violent action but who have extremely hate-filled and murderous speech be considered "moderate"? Or should their supremacist or even genocidal speech be reason enough to think of them as "radical?"
What then is the difference between armed Islamic State terrorists who threaten Jews with massacre and unarmed Turkish Twitter users who celebrate Jewish deaths and call for massacring more Jews?
Robert Jones, an expert on Turkey, is currently based in the UK.