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February 28, 2012 8:35 am

Turkey Reveals Uncomfortable Relationship with Jews

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Can Bonomo, a Sephardic Jew, will represent Turkey at the Eurovision contest this year. Aside from examples like this one, there is growing concern that ant-Semitism is increasing in Turkey. Photo: Maneki Neko.

“Never was any nationality, religion or belief group oppressed in these lands. On the contrary, they were treated as equals, with respect, and their cultural heritages were conserved,” Huseyin Avni Mutlu, Istanbul’s governor, recently said at a Holocaust commemoration ceremony. Still, though twenty thousand Jews currently live in Turkey, all is not as it seems in this Middle Eastern country.

Singer Can Bonomo, who will represent Turkey at the Eurovision song contest in Azerbaijan this year, is a Sephardic Jew. Recently the country also aired a movie about the Holocaust on public television, the Boston Globe reported. However, Deborah Dwork, director of the Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Clark University, believes Turkey always had a policy of inviting only those Jews it deemed useful.

“As far as I’m concerned, that is both compliance and complicity with mass murder,” she said.

Two Istanbul synagogues were bombed by Al-Qaida militants in 2003 and since then anti-Semitism has been on the rise across the country, said Murat Onur, an Istanbul-based commentator. Critics also point back to 750 Jewish refugees who sought shelter in Turkey during the Holocaust, only to be sent back to be killed.

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