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On being a ‘philosemite’ in Turkey

I am not Jewish but my father taught me never, under any circumstances whatsoever, to stand with the oppressor

“What’s wrong with you? Not even Jews (!) support Israel, why do you support Israel?”

“Israel is a rogue state”

“Palestine belongs to Palestinians. Jews are occupiers”

“Are you sure that you are not Jewish?”

“What is your religion?”

“What is your ethnicity?”

“Your surname is like that of a Jewish convert (dönme). Maybe your grandparents were Jews?”

These questions are part of my daily routine. “Are you Jewish? Are you sure you are not Jewish?” is my favourite.

I keep on answering people online and sometimes on the street or on campus, even in the bus: Look, I am not Jewish but I do not hate Jews. I support their state. They have the right to have a state of their own. We have a nation state too, right?

“Israelites never had a state, they bought land from the Palestinians. How can you support such people?”

Such people? How many Jews have you met in your entire life? One? Two?

Complete silence. I am living in a society that is supposed to be familiar with Jewish culture since we have been living for more than four centuries, together. Together. Undoubtedly, I can not claim that the Ottoman Empire was a safe haven for non-Muslims. Far from that. But at least, we had a Jewish minority. Although we still have Jewish citizens, many of them are very uncomfortable with the rise of antisemitism in Turkey and consider going away or even making Aliyah, something if I were a Jew, I would definitely do, rather than living in a society which considers me infidel and traitor.

To put it bluntly, the rise of antisemitism in Turkey is not directly related to the recent Islamist regime. I would like to write about this issue in another article, but here all I can say is that everyone is a little antisemite in Turkey. Both right wing and left wing. There are many reasons and justifications of antipathy toward Jews in our society. For me, there is none.

I will be honest with you, I am feeling like an alien sometimes. Because most of the people, even Jews themselves (some Jews asked me if I was a Jew too) do not understand that you do not have to be something to support it. It is for the mediocre mind. I am a woman but I do not support women rights just because I am a woman. I also support LGBTQ rights but I am not a lesbian nor a bisexual. It does not matter. I support animal rights. Even though I believe that we are part of the nature and that we often behave worse than animals, I still do not consider myself as an animal. Everyone has the right to exist. We can only exist if there is coexistence.

It is funny that a Jewish woman from Turkey accused me of being a fake Jew. I have never claimed that I am a Jew. I do not want to be a Jew. I want Jews to live wherever they want, however they want. Just like any other member of any other nation. I want to live with my own identity, with my own choices and my personal heritage which I was not able to choose (being a Turk, being from Istanbul, my parents, my DNA etc) . In other words, I want to live with my authentic self. So I dream of a world where there is coexistence, there is cooperation, not hate or conflict. That is why I want every Jewish baby to grow up with the same security and confidence that Muslim babies have here, that they can be anything or anyone they want and noone will hate them because of something that they have never chosen.

I may disappoint many people here because of my judeophilia, but I do not care in the least how they think because their world is so small. The great Elie Wiesel once said “We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe”.

I learned this lesson from my family, my father taught me that not ever, under any circumstances whatsoever, I should stand with the oppressor. I am an adult now and I know I can not support their perverted and sick mentality. To many people’s surprise, I grew up as a member of majority, Turk, Muslim, secular. I have never experienced any type of social disadvantage. If the majority of Turks take time to consider how they treat minorities, our struggle against hatred would and could bare fruit. I do not see any point hating other nations and countries. Because for me everywhere is a place of coexistence. Everywhere is a place for all of us. I am happy because I definitely have a bigger world.

About the Author
I was born in Istanbul. I like drawing, writing, singing and collecting Lego. I am interested in existentialism, Judaism, yoga, literature and theatre. I am living with my parents, my elder sister and my cats.
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