Thursday, March 19, 2015

Turkey: Third of Jews plan to flee to Spain

Via the Financial Times:
Turkey’s Jewish community is in decline, its numbers shrinking by a 10th in the past decade, to not more than 17,000 today. Of those about 5,000 have applied for Spanish nationality, which new legislation means they are likely to be granted. While visa-free travel to the EU is an advantage of itself, many add they may need a “plan B” to life in the country of their birth.

Many Jews smart at what they see as hostile rhetoric by the country’s Islamist-rooted government, not least President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s repeated references to an “interest rate lobby” supposedly plotting against Turkey. Last year, the governor of Edirne province said he felt “hatred” towards Jews because of Israel’s actions in Gaza.

Mr Erdogan has said he is the first leader in the Islamic world to denounce anti-semitism, and his government has emphasised its steps to restore property confiscated long before from Jewish and other minority groups. But many Turkish Jews feel deeply uneasy all the same.

“There is open anti-semitism in the pro-government press,” says Ivo Molinas, editor of Shalom, the Jewish community’s weekly newspaper. “This is hate speech and in places like Germany or Switzerland it would be taken to court.” One columnist last year called for Turkey’s Jews to pay a special tax to compensate for damage in Gaza, adding: “Naturally you want to say: ‘God bless Hitler’.”

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