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January 10, 2018 2:31 pm

Turkish Jews Denounce Antisemitic Tabloid’s Claim That ‘Jewish Businessmen’ Manipulated Financial Markets Ahead of Failed 2016 Coup

avatar by Ben Cohen

The entrance to Istanbul’s Bourse, or stock exchange. Photo: Reuters / Murad Sezer.

A mass-circulation, pro-government newspaper in Turkey has been roundly condemned by the country’s Jewish community after it accused “Jewish businessmen” of engaging in suspicious transactions on Turkish financial markets in the run-up to the abortive coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in July 2016.

In an article billed as an investigative report published by the conservative tabloid Yeni Şafak (“New Dawn”) on Tuesday, reporter Osman Özgan claimed that Turkish authorities had discovered “hundreds of suspicious transactions” before July 15, 2016 — the day the coup was launched.

“It became evident that nearly 60 businessmen had withdrawn from the market, selling all their shares on and before July 15,” Özgan wrote. “Among these names are also some Jewish businessmen and international corporations.” None of the individuals was explicitly named, and Özgan did not specify how many of them were Jews  — or why the fact of their being Jewish was relevant to the authorities’ inquiries.

On its official Twitter feed, the Turkish Jewish community denounced the article as an “antisemitic provocation” and an example of “hate rhetoric.”

Özgan’s report was apparently based upon an ongoing investigation by the Ankara Chief Prosecutor’s Office into whether the highlighted transactions prove that those investors selling Turkish stock were given advance warning of the coup. In that regard, Özgan claimed to have seen the details of a phone call between an unnamed businessman and his broker on the day of the coup — a Friday — in which the businessman supposedly said, “Some big things will happen on Monday.”

At the heart of the accusations laid out by Yeni Şafak are the Turkish Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen and his supporters. Based in the US since 1975, Gülen — a billionaire and former close ally of Erdogan — is charged by the Turkish president with having orchestrated the 2016 coup attempt.

One of the companies under investigation over the financial market transactions — the conglomerate Koza İpek, said to be tied to Gülen  — has been a favorite target of the Turkish government since the coup, with its 20 media outlets now either shut down or under the supervision of government-appointed trustees. Additionally, in May 2017, Turkish police detained 53 former employees of the Istanbul stock exchange over alleged links to Gülen, as part of a wider purge of business, government and media institutions following the coup.

The article ended with Özgan again emphasizing that “those withdrawing from the stock market included some Jewish businessmen and representatives in Turkey of some international corporations.”

“It is stated that those people, after selling their shares, converted large amounts of Turkish Lire into gold and foreign currency which will not lose value,” he claimed.

Yeni Şafak has long had the reputation of being one of the most antisemitic outlets in Turkey. Over the last decade, its columnists have published numerous articles accusing of Jews of “empowering” the “destruction of Islam by the USA.” It has also described Zionism as a “Jewish pathology,” and demanded that Turkish Jews, suspected of “dual loyalty,” condemn Israel. In September 2017, the paper enthusiastically pushed the conspiracy theory — also voiced by Erdoğan — that the independence referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan was an “Israeli plot” to resettle 200,000 Kurdish Jews in the region.

Louis Fishman — an assistant professor at Brooklyn College CUNY who writes extensively on Turkish affairs — told The Algemeiner on Wednesday that as well as the official Jewish community condemnation, “other members of the small Jewish community, together with Muslim counterparts who stand against antisemitism, joined in expressing their disgust” at the article.

Fishman observed that the response from the Jewish community reflected a growing willingness to call out antisemitic provocations. “The community’s swift condemnation, even if it was countered with some antisemitic tweets, marks a growing and much-needed trend of its members challenging public displays of antisemitism — which historically has crossed political lines, even if today it is much more prominent within the pro-government press,” he noted.

With the latest Yeni Şafak missive, Fishman said, “the message of the Jewish community was clear.”

“The singling out of Jewish businessmen, despite the fact that they are Turkish citizens, is antisemitic,” he said.

“Of course, with antisemitic conspiracy theories in Turkey rampant, claiming that a group of Jews had previous knowledge of the failed coup strike fears that some of members of the community could get caught in purges and arrests, with greater repercussions in store for the community at large,” Fishman added.

He noted too that the focus on Turkish Jews “verges away from the more widespread beliefs about an international Jewish conspiracy prevalent among a sizable group in Turkey — which makes the community’s response even more important.”

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