Thursday, September 08, 2011

Today's Zaman (Turkey): "'As a Jew, I’m happier in Turkey than I’d be in Israel'"

Does he mean this, or is he merely like the Jewish figures who show up periodically in the Khomeinist press?
Prominent Turkish Jewish businessman İshak Alaton has said he couldn’t possibly lead a happier or a more fulfilling life than he enjoys in Turkey if he were to emigrate to Israel, speaking in an interview with a German radio station, news reports said on Friday.

Alaton spoke to a radio show aired on Radio Germany, during a program on the state of Turkey’s Jews and the recent tension between Turkey and Israel. The show’s host underlined that Alaton, who has long been respected for his democratic stance, is also admired for having donated $1 billion to charity efforts to fight famine in East Africa.

Being Jewish in Turkey has never felt like an extraordinary situation to Alaton. He said the crisis between Turkey and Israel certainly doesn’t make it easier for İstanbul’s 25,000-strong Jewish community to live together with Muslims, but noted that he does not have the least concern that the Jewish community will face pressure from the government. “This government is much more understanding toward minorities than any previous government. I remember the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, when we were referred to in legal texts as “foreigners” living here. Today, we are equal citizens of this country. Why should I be more worried now than yesterday?” Alaton said.

Alaton said he has no intention to migrate to Israel because of the crisis. “I can imagine there are segments of Israeli society that wouldn’t be opposed to seeing the Jewish community in Turkey in a difficult situation because of this crisis, because in that case, they could tell us, “come to Israel.” But this is certainly not the case for me. Israel is on the wrong track; the government is increasingly oppressive. I wouldn’t be happier there. The opposite would happen.”

In Alaton’s opinion, the partnership between Turkey and Israel prior to the crisis was not as strong as some make it out to have been. “The truth is coming out now, because the so-called great relationship between the two countries was based on military ties. Contact between the peoples was greatly neglected. The increasing alienation between the two nations was fanned by radical politicians such as Foreign Minister Liebermann, who uses every opportunity to express his hatred of all that is Turkish and Muslim. I’m afraid the relationship between the two countries is likely to deteriorate further than improve.”

Radio Germany said the first wave of Jewish migration to Turkey took place in 1492, when Jews fleeing the Spanish Inquisition regime arrived in Turkey. The radio program also noted that although Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had feelings of antipathy toward Israel, he pursues a policy based on Ottoman tolerance towards religious minorities.
They got the "antipathy" right anyway.

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