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American Jewish organization sees emergence of 'holocaust denial' in Turkey

HDN | 3/27/1997 12:00:00 AM |

By Laurie Udesky / Turkish Daily News Ankara-In its first visit to Turkey as a formal delegation, the U.S.-based Anti-Defamation League (ADL), met with government officials on Tuesday to discuss their concern that Turkey remain a country that is "pluralistic." Representatives from the ADL, an organization which began in 1913 to fight anti-semitism and bigotry, said that Turkey has been a refuge for Jews for centuries; many who were expelled from Spain and Portugal 500 years ago settled here

By Laurie Udesky / Turkish Daily News

Ankara-In its first visit to Turkey as a formal delegation, the U.S.-based Anti-Defamation League (ADL), met with government officials on Tuesday to discuss their concern that Turkey remain a country that is "pluralistic."

Representatives from the ADL, an organization which began in 1913 to fight anti-semitism and bigotry, said that Turkey has been a refuge for Jews for centuries; many who were expelled from Spain and Portugal 500 years ago settled here and have enjoyed equal treatment to other citizens.

"It's also opened its doors again to Jews during the Holocaust," said ADL National Director Abraham Foxman.

But, says Foxman, the group is worried that an atmosphere ripe for anti-semitism and intolerance is growing. "There have been disturbing signs of anti-semitic comments, greater tolerance for them, and the emergence of 'holocaust denial,'" said Foxman, whose group also met with members of the Jewish community in Istanbul.

"We urged the government to be sensitive and denounce this. We were assured that this is not part of the tradition of this country."

As one example, ADL points to the publication last year of a book in Turkey which denied that the holocaust happened. When well-known artist Bedri Baykam wrote an article criticizing the book, says Foxman, "He was sued for defamation."

The book, bearing a title which translates to "The Lie of the Jewish Genocide," was written by a Harun Yahya, which, according to Bedri Baykam, is a pseudonym used by Islamist extremists.

"I wrote a very harsh article denouncing this book. Six million people lost their lives. You shouldn't invent theories about this disaster. It was shameful to do so," Baykam told the Turkish Daily News.

Coincidentally, Baykam said, the case brought against him, which was initiated a year ago, was withdrawn on Tuesday. But he agrees with the ADL that there should be cause for concern.

"In a perfect democracy, you shouldn't have holocaust denial," added Baykam, who said that what he calls "pro-Iranian" publications, such as Akit and Cuma, "frequently publish anti-Jewish articles."

ADL Director Foxman said that his group's focus was not solely on issues pertaining to Jews, but speaking out against bigotry affecting all people. The ADL had recently written a letter of protest to the European Union (EU) condemning the Christian Democrats' disparaging comments about Turkey, explained Foxman. In it, the ADL wrote that, in considering its EU membership, "Turkey's religious orientation should in no way negatively impact this process." Back to first page of this issueBack to Submenu for more choices
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