FaithWorld

Turkish Jews worried after politician links diaspora to recent protests

July 2, 2013

(Members of Turkey’s Jewish community gather at Etz Ahayim Synagogue to commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day in Istanbul January 27, 2013. REUTERS/Murad Sezer )

A Turkish deputy prime minister linked the “Jewish diaspora” to recent anti-government unrest and the country’s Jewish community expressed fears on Tuesday the comments could make them targets of popular anger.

Turkey was rocked by violent protests last month when a small effort to save Gezi Park in central Istanbul from redevelopment mushroomed into a mass demonstration by tens of thousands of people opposed to what they see as Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian rule.

Erdogan, in power for ten years, and other cabinet officials have spoken of conspiracies involving “foreign circles”, including an “interest-rate lobby” and international media organizations engineering the protests to undermine Turkey’s growing economy and political clout.

“There are those inside and outside the country who are envious about Turkey growing too much,” Besir Atalay, one of four deputy prime ministers, told reporters on Monday in comments broadcast on the Cihan news agency website.

“They are all uniting. On the one side you have the Jewish diaspora. You have seen the foreign media’s attitude over the Gezi Park events, how quickly they bought into it and how quickly and widely they started broadcasting before any assessment was made,” he said.

The Turkish Jewish Community, which represents most of Turkey’s estimated 23,000 Jewish faithful, said Atalay’s remarks could lead to reprisals against its members in a mostly Muslim country of 76 million.

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