Prominent Turkish Jew Survives an Attack on His Life in Istanbul

A leading figure in the Turkish Jewish community survived an attack on his life last week in Istanbul, according to reports from Turkey.

Five heavily armed unidentified gunmen opened fire Jan. 28 on the armored car of businessman Jak Kamhi, whose guards returned fire. The gunmen escaped, leaving behind an anti-tank rocket, assault rifles, pistols and hand grenades.

Kamhi, 68, who is chairman of the Quincentennial Foundation of Istanbul, was unhurt.

The attack took place four days after a prominent Ankara journalist was killed by a car bomb. But sources said the two incidents were not necessarily linked.

In the earlier attack, three pro-Iranian Moslem groups and a Kurdish rebel party took responsibility for the Jan. 24 killing of Ugur Mumcu, who was an investigative reporter for the leading daily Cumhuriyet, where he had often criticized militant Islamic forces.

Protesters of his killing marched through Istanbul the day after the journalist’s death, passing the Iranian Consulate, where they called out, “Here are the murderers.”

Word of the attack on Kamhi upset colleagues here in the Jewish and specifically Sephardic communities. Kamhi is a member of the executive committee of the World Sephardi Federation.

“He is one of the finest people that ever put two feet on this planet,” said Ed Alcosser, chairman of the board of the American Sephardi Federation.

“He worked the last two years on promoting tolerance between Moslems and Jews,” said Alcosser. “That is what the Quincentennial Foundation of Istanbul is all about.”

Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, wrote Kamhi a letter expressing outrage at the attack.

“Terrorists are using Turkey as a shooting gallery to undermine democracy,” Foxman said. “It is time that the international community refocus its efforts — moral and political — on those who engage in terrorism rather than those who resist it.”

The attack on Kamhi was the third time in less than a year that Jews or Jewish institutions were the target of terrorists in Turkey.

Last March 7, terrorists booby-trapped a car driven by the security chief at the Israeli Embassy in Ankara, killing him and badly wounding three Turkish bystanders. The blast, which occurred two days after Israel and Turkey established full diplomatic relations, was so powerful it left a 16-inch crater under the car.

A week earlier, two unidentified assailants hurled hand grenades at Istanbul’s Neve Shalom Synagogue, slightly injuring a blind bystander but causing no damage to the building.

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