Recent developments have created much apprehension among the Jews of Turkey. The avowed intent of the government to create a strong spirit of Turkish nationalism and to “crack down” every force that might be considered to militate against this, combined with the fears of the authorities that capital might leave the country, has resulted in several actions which have shaken the Jewish community.
The first of these was the arrest of Sadiaah Tcherniak, director of the Istanbul office of the Jewish Colonization Association. No charges were made against M. Tcherniak at the time of his arrest, or even at this writing. He was taken to central police headquarters where he was held incommunicado for several days. M. Henri Soriano, president of the Jewish community, was refused permission to see him. M. Couteaux, head of the League of Nations Committee for White Russian Refugees of the Christian Faith, demanded permission to see M. Tcherniak and finally obtained it. M. Tcherniak is also the head of the League committee for Jewish refugees from Germany.
After Mr. Whithall, the British consul, had intervened, Mr. Tcherniak was transferred from the criminal to the political section and was provisionally released three days after his arrest.
He was lengthily questioned regarding Jewish emigration from Turkey to Palestine and examined as to the existence in Turkey of an organized group spreading Zionist propaganda. He was evidently able to convince the authorities that his part had not exceeded the giving of technical advice and aiding the British consul in the distribution of Palestine immigration certificates.
Although M. Tcherniak was provisionally freed, the files and records seized at his office and home were not returned by the police. These contained the identification cards of 400 Turkish Jews who had applied for visas to settle in Palestine.
What action may be taken with regard to these people is a cause of grave concern to themselves, their families and the community generally. It is safe to assume that all whose cards were found in M. Tcherniak’s possession will be examined closely by the authorities to discover whether they had violated or attempted to violate Turkey’s strict regulations with regard to the export of capital from the country. Whether they have engaged in Zionist “propaganda” is a question that may involve some of them in serious difficulties.
Shortly after the Tcherniak incident, which was more disturbing for the Jewish community because of the mystery which surrounded the entire case and the secrecy with which the examination was conducted, it became known that the authorities were preparing a new piece of legislation which would hit one of the strongest unifying factors in Turco-Jewish life, the B’nai B’rith.
Two weeks after the general congress of the People’s Party, the government party, the press revealed that the congress had decided to bring an end to the activities of all sorts of organizations and associations not primarily based on the Turkish nationalistic program and which maintain affiliation with similar groups in other countries. This measure would strike principally the B’nai B’rith and the Masonic lodges.
While this measure has not yet been enacted into law, government circles state that it will be presented to the National Assembly within a few days. It passage there is a certainty.
That the government is fully determined that there shall be no interests in Turkey conflicting with the nationalistic program proclaimed by Kemal Ataturk was evidenced again by the arrest of a Hebrew teacher named Isaacs for secretly giving lessons in Hebrew at his home to seventeen Jewish boys. Isaacs has been held for examination by the magistrates. His case is taken by the community to signify that the government will tolerate nothing that can be considered at variance with the nationalism of the new Turkey.