The relationship between the 30,000 or so Jews living in Turkey and the rest of the Turkish population has become tense ever since the relationship between Israel and Turkey began to deteriorate shortly after the Mavi Marmara incident in 2010. Anti-Israel sentiment is high in the country, and anti-Semitism has also been on the rise at the encouragement of Turkey’s Islamist government. A report in Al-Monitor quotes several Jews who fear a backlash against their community.
“As a Jew, I can attest to you there is a difference between being a Turk and an Israeli,” Ediz said. “But whenever there is fighting between Israel and the Palestinians, the atmosphere in Turkey turns against us, and people start acting as if we committed a crime.”
Leri, another Turkish Jew, told Al-Monitor that the media is also to blame. “The media is painting such an image that many won’t even consider us human.”
According to the Al-Monitor article, the prosecutor’s office in Istanbul that tried Israeli soldiers in-absentia for their role in the Mavi Marmara incident asked the Turkish National Intelligence Service (MIT) for a listing of Turkish Jews who traveled to Israel two weeks before and after it occurred. These people were put under surveillance. There are also allegations that the MIT identified five Jews in Turkey as suspicious, and that they expanded surveillance in Istanbul and Izmir — where the majority of the country’s Jewish population lives.
Rafael Sadi, a member of Israel’s Turkish community, as well as a childhood friend of Erdogan, questions the Turkish President’s motives: “If he really believes that Turkey’s Jews had so much influence [over politicians], why didn’t he listen to our warnings before the Mavi Marmara set sail toward Gaza? Why did he make such a special effort to sever the ties between Israel and Turkey? The Turkish Red Crescent was then delivering the humanitarian aid to Gaza and it still does. If the issue is the lifting of the Gaza blockade, then he should have found a way to control and prevent the free flow of arms into Gaza.”