(JTA) — The United States is concerned over recent expressions of anti-Semitism in Turkey, the State Department’s special envoy for combatting anti-Semitism, Ira Forman, said.
Forman spoke of these concerns in an interview with JTA Friday from Berlin, where he attended a high-level meeting on anti-Semitism organized by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE.
“We are concerned when civil society or political leaders call on the Jewish community to denounce Israel,” Forman said in reference to such calls. Prime Minister Tayyp Erdogan made similar statements during Israel’s summer war with Hamas in Gaza.
“And we are concerned when we hear that someone posted a sign reading ‘to be demolished’ on Istanbul’s Neve Shalom synagogue,” Forman said in reference to an incident that occurred this week.
Forman, who visited Istanbul recently, noted “this causes concern” also in light of deadly terrorist attacks on the synagogue in 2003 and 1986. Forman said he was “very concerned” when he learned that when a Turkish tabloid with a large readership, Yeni Akit, reported in May on the collapse of the Soma mine the article’s front-page headline said that the mine owner’s son-in-law is Jewish, linking this with a conspiracy theory involving “Zionists.”
Erdogan, whose Islamic party has ruled Turkey for the past decade, has scaled back considerably what used to be a close strategic partnership between his country and Israel, which he has accused of “murdering babies.”
On Europe, Forman said that concerns about the safety of Jews remain strong across some of the continent’s Western countries.
“Listening to delegates from France telling us that Jewish parents are pulling their children out of public school to keep them safe and others even pulling them out of Jewish schools and sending them to Catholic schools so they won’t be targeted by terrorists made a powerful impression,” he said.
The American delegation included diplomats and leaders from nongovernmental groups representing Jews as well as other minorities.
“This reflects an understanding in American civil society that anti-Semitism is not a Jewish problem, but a problem of society as a whole. And while some European governments have demonstrated determination in the fight against anti-Semitism, civil society in many European countries is, sadly, not there yet.”