Anti-Semitism has never taken root in Turkey, deputy PM tells Israeli TV
by Sena Alkan
ISTANBULApr 03, 2015 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Sena Alkan
Apr 03, 2015 12:00 am
Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç, in an interview on Israeli channel TV2, said that anti-Semitism has never taken root in Turkey, there is only outrage over Israeli government policies.
Defending Turkey's reactions to Israeli policies, Arınç said: "No one in Turkey is anti-Semitic. Most of the Turkish people strongly react against the Israeli government.
Mentioning the latest election in Israel in which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu scored a victory in March, Arınç said that Netanyahu should declare his will to build peace and remove the blockade of the Gaza Strip if Israel is eager to mend fences with Turkey.
"We hope that there would be more positive statements from Netanyahu over the Palestine issue, Gaza issue and the resolution in Middle East. We wait to see an Israeli government's strong will to end grievances between Palestine and Israel," he said, adding that Turkey would be a good partner both in the peace to be maintained in the Middle East and in the security of Israel when Israel shows determination to resolve the Palestinian issue.
Last week Arınç attended the opening ceremony of the historic and newly renovated Great Edirne Synagogue, which opened its doors after 46 years in the Thracian region of Turkey. In a speech at the ceremony he said: "There is no anti-Semitism in Turkey or racism. They won't find support from the public. We are truly sorry about how European and other countries lag behind Turkey in that sense."
Arınç said the reason why he attended the ceremony was to show that people of different faiths and cultures can coexist in peace and security. He also underscored that Turkey had a better level of freedom of religion and conscience compared to European countries and the restoration of the synagogue was an indication of this.
Buildt in 1905 on an order by Sultan Abdülhamid II to replace 13 separate synagogues that were destroyed by a huge fire, the Great Edirne Synagogue opened in 1907 and served as a house of worship until 1983, which is the time that the city's Jewish community had declined to nearly zero. The building was later transferred to Edirne's Trakya University for cultural use, but due to criticism it was handed over to the General Directorate of Foundations in 1995. The synagogue's roof collapsed two years later.
Through restoration, the synagogue's lead domes and splendid interior and Torah scrolls were restored to their former glory.
Restoration of the synagogue was one of the ambitious projects undertaken by the government, which seeks to restore the rights of the often neglected minorities of the country, to promote coexistence after decades of policies suppressing minorities' rights. Turkey's Jewish population stands at 20,000, according to unconfirmed figures, and while the country pursues a strong anti-Israel policy in response to the Israeli government's oppression of Palestinians in Gaza, the government tries to assuage concerns over anti-Semitism in the country.