Berlin…JA ! Istanbul… HAYIR !

To its credit, the Federal Republic of Germany, under the leadership of Konrad Adenauer, accepted full responsibility and guilt for the crimes of Nazi Germany. Berlin responded with a loud JA… YES, we were guilty.

Compare that with Istanbul’s refusal to admit the guilt of the Turkish Ottoman Empire’s genocide against 1.5 million Christian Armenians in 1915. Istanbul responds with a loud HAYIR! NO, we are not responsible for the terrible massacres which we did not commit.

Germany met its obligations to the surviving Jews by payments of millions of dollars in reparations.

Istanbul pays nothing to survivors of the Ottoman genocide.

The distinction between the two nations is really one of morality, of moral obligations. The German Federal Republic was innocent of war crimes just as the modern Turkish Republic is innocent of the crimes of its previous regime.

Yet Germany admitted the crimes of its previous government and assumed its moral responsibility to survivors. It will always remain a credit to German morality.

The same, regrettably, cannot be said of Erdogan’s Turkey, which not only refuses to acknowledge the crime of genocide, but adamantly denies it. It is therefore, it says, not obligated to pay restitution for lost and confiscated Armenian property. Turkey lacks the morality to admit and to seek forgiveness for the 1915 massacres by Muslims against innocent Christians who had lived in Turkey for 3000 years.

Yet, as a Jewish people, we must be grateful to the ancient Turkish regime which welcomed Jews into its land as they fled from the persecution of the Spanish Inquisition. Jews have lived peacefully in Turkey for centuries and have thrived and prospered.

The situation of the remnant of Jews in today’s Turkey is tenuous at best. Turkey’s cool and sometimes hostile relations with Israel places its Jewish citizens in a very uncomfortable position. Anti-Semitism has once again reared its ugly head in Turkey.

Why Israelis continue to flock to Turkey for bargains is beyond my understanding.

And, at the same time, why thousands of young Israelis are immigrating to Berlin for a “better” economic life is also beyond my understanding.

We Jews are a strange people, always ready to forgive our enemies when it is convenient for us to do so.

While relations between Istanbul and Jerusalem are slowly warming, I prefer to follow advice my father once gave me…chabdehu v’chashdehu… respect and suspect.

It is a good recipe for our survival.

About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.
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