Why Doesn't Israel Protect Jews
From Mistreatment in Turkey?
By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier
The violations of the cultural, religious and educational rights of
Armenians, Assyrians, Greeks and Kurds in Turkey are well known. Very
little, however, has been made public about the condition of the Jews in
Turkey, particularly those in Anatolia, outside the limelight of Istanbul.
In a recent article, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency revealed that Jews in the
hinterland of Turkey live in such a state of fear and terror that they
practically have to keep their identities secret in order to stay alive.
The Agency's reporter, Matthew Gutman, visited Ourfa, which was inhabited by
thousands of Armenians before the Genocide, to check on the conditions of
the Jews in that city. The Turks have renamed it, Sanliurfa.
The journalist quickly discovered that "few traces remain of the 1,000
Jewish families that once lived in Sanliurfa." Gutman was told the
outlandish tale that the Jews of Ourfa hacked to death the members of a
local Jewish family and blamed the killings on their Muslim neighbors in
order to gain permission to emigrate to Israel!
Baki Ozmen, a Turkish historian, told Gutman, "Jews used sharp metal objects
to cut the neck of their brethren. Only the Jews kill that way. They were
the city's best smiths; that's how we know it was the Jews who killed that
Jewish family in 1945." Since then, no Jews are left in Ourfa. About 150
Jewish families stayed in the city after the mass migration to Israel in
1945. Most of them intermarried and assimilated fully into Islam, according
But Gutman found out that 10 Jewish families still live in Ourfa,
"clandestinely celebrating certain Jewish holidays in the privacy of their
homes." To stay alive, they "conceal their yarmulkes and Jewish books in
hidden corners of their homes.... Like their [Turkish] neighbors, they
dutifully head to the city's ancient mosques to pray, finger worry beads,
and wear the traditional baggy pants and red-checkered Kaffiyeh of the
Kurds - yet they remain Jews."
Kadir Celikcan, the director of Sanliurfa TV, told Gutman: "if the residents
here find out that there are Jews living in this city, there could be hell
to pay." At best, he said, the Turks would boycott the Jewish shops and
businesses, impoverishing them. At worst, they could be killed. Celikcan
refused to disclose the names of the local Jews, fearing for their lives.
"The publication of their names or descriptions could cause them much more
harm than good," he said.
"Sanliurfa is 100 percent Muslim," Mayor Ahmet Bahcivan proudly told Gutman
He added with a grin: "There are simply no Christians or Jews living here.
Not one!" The mayor went on to contradict himself by saying that the city's
600,000 population consisted of Kurds, Syrians, Turks and Armenians! Gutman
explained: "the Armenians are the remnants of those slaughtered in the 1915
Armenian Genocide. The Turks massacred or drove an estimated 2 million
Armenians from Anatolia; only those few able to quickly assimilate
remained." Mayor Bahcivan recently rejected a proposal for a huge inner city
park because it would have included a small synagogue and a Church, giving
the excuse that "there is no need in Sanliurfa for such shrines to other
With great difficulty, Gutman was able to locate and interview just one Jew
(with the unlikely name of "Muslim Dag"), while his Turkish employees looked
on with surprise!
"On three separate occasions, Dag was visited by members of the American
Jewish Joint Distribution Committee who wanted to know about the local
Jewish community. After the last visit, in 2001, Dag was questioned and
beaten by police," Gutman reported.
The government of Israel and American Jewish organizations
either do not
care about the fate of their compatriots in Turkey or are too inept to
defend their rights and ensure their survival! There can be no other
explanation. The powerful state of Israel and the American Jewish
organizations are surely not scared of Turkey - a bankrupt country that
needs the support of Israel and the Jewish lobby much more than they need
Armenian Americans always wondered why Israeli officials and some American
Jewish leaders repeatedly succumb to Turkish pressures on the Armenian
Genocide and don't even dare to utter the words, "Armenian Genocide." If
Israel and Jewish organizations can't defend their own compatriots in
Turkey, how can we expect them to support the Armenians?