Jews have lived in what is now Turkey since ancient times, and the Ottoman empire was once home to one of the world’s largest and most important Jewish communities. Now, writes Michael Rubin, that long history may be coming to a finale:
Turkish officials and their proxies argue . . . that Turkey remains both tolerant and democratic. . . . The Turkish Heritage Organization, for example, argued that “Turkey has been a safe haven for Jews, Arabs, Kurds, Yazidis, and Muslim nations for generations.” That may have once been true for minorities besides Armenians and Kurds but, increasingly, it’s no longer the case for Yazidis, Christians, and Jews. . . .
The Erdogan years have been scary ones for Turkey’s Jews, with wild anti-Semitic conspiracy theories becoming increasingly commonplace. Many Jews have nonetheless remained hopeful that the repression and intolerance would pass. There were reasons for hope: Turkey was never a perfect democracy, but, even after setbacks, its developmental trajectory was toward greater tolerance.
No longer. In many societies, Jews have been the canary in the coal mine. When a country loses its Jews, it is a sign that its democratic evolution has halted. Four years ago, some Turkish Jews began to leave. That trickle appears to be turning into a flood. . . . [D]escendants of many of the Jews who fled Spain for the safety of the Ottoman Empire more than 500 years ago now seek to return to Spain or Portugal.
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