‘War on Kurds’ Myth Debunked – Turkey’s Operation Peace Spring

France, Germany, and the Netherlands have all halted their weapons exports to Turkey.[1] The US imposed sanctions in response to its operation ‘Peace Spring’ in northern Syria.[2] The operation, despite being aimed as dislodging control of the YPG-dominated (and euphemistically-named) ‘Syrian Democratic Force (SDF)’ in Syria’s northern regions, is still being dubbed a ‘war against the Kurds’ by some.

Good Terrorist—Bad Terrorist
The YPG is a recognised extension of the PKK. The US,[3] UK, and Turkey have all outlawed the PKK as a proscribed terrorist organisation, who are responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians in mainland Turkey. Some segments of the media however continues to infer that it is only Turkey that makes this association. It is as if, in the age of information, the world did not see their true colours unfurling on banners featuring the face of PKK-founder, Abdullah Ocalan, all over Syria, in their moment of excitement in overrunning Syria’s north.[4] It fact, the ideological association was declared on their website before it was removed, yet still persists on the social media profiles of countless YPG activists and fighters.

In the words of the taxpayer-funded BBC, (emphasis added) “Turkey considers…the Kurdish-led alliance a terrorist organisation. It says it is an extension of a Kurdish rebel group fighting in Turkey.”[5] What creativity!

In the words of Stephen Gowans in his article “The Myth of the Kurdish YPG’s Moral Excellence”:

When PKK fighters cross the border into Turkey, they become ‘terrorists’, according to the United States and European Union, but when they cross back into Syria they are miraculously transformed into ‘guerrilla” fighters waging a war for democracy as the principal component of the Syrian Democratic Force. The reality is, however, that whether on the Turkish or Syrian side of the border, the PKK uses the same methods, pursues the same goals, and relies largely on the same personnel. The YPG is the PKK.[6]

How can some laud the US-led coalition, its YPG-led ground force and SDF brainchild, both complicit in harrowing crimes, as a ‘liberation’? It takes very little to conclude that the uproar against Turkey has very little to do with the SDF’s fight to ISIS. If such were the case, then NATO’s ‘ally’ Turkey also took the fight to ISIS in Jarablus. In fact, Turkey was the only active NATO member to dislodge the group on the ground in the form of an organised army.[7]

Invasion—Liberation
Whilst the Turkish ally apparently ‘invades’, the PKK-affiliates had instead ‘liberated’. Imagine if such terminology was afforded to all groups the US and EU labelled as terrorists. In 2015, France drafted a resolution to “take all necessary measures” against ISIS and al-Nusra Front. The latter was an ethnically Syrian arch-enemy of the former, but nonetheless a legitimate ‘terrorist’ target.

Some outlets went to the extent of fabricating images to show the extent of Turkey’s ‘slaughter in Syria’.[8] It is rather unfortunate that their cameras were not on the ground when the US-led coalition blitzed Syria’s north with 11,235 airstrikes as part of ‘Operation Inherent Resolve’.[9] No fabrications would have been needed.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, between September 2014 and May 2019, more than 4,000 Syrian civilian citizens, including 972 children under the age of eighteen, and 712 citizen women over the age of eighteen, were killed in Syria’s east-Euphrates provinces of al-Hasakah, Al-Raqqah, Aleppo, Idlib, and Deir Ezzor by the US-led coalition.[10] No doubt expendable “collateral damage” in some people’s estimation.

The US-led coalition’s concerns are very much besides their concern for ‘civilian casualties’.[11] The relentless US-led bombing obliterated Syria’s north and decapacitated many divisions in the rebellion against both the regime and ISIS. In one coalition airstrike, more than 140 fighters in various rebel factions were killed.[12] According to Amnesty International, the coalition’s YPG ground force led a deliberate, “co-ordinated campaign of collective punishment of civilians in villages previously captured by IS, or where a small minority were suspected of supporting the group” not associated with the fighting. Satellite images illustrate an inordinate scale of home demolitions, with up to 94% of some villages razed and burned to the ground by the US-EU-backed ground-force.[13]

Satellite images obtained by Amnesty International illustrate the scale of the demolitions in the Husseiniya village in the Tel Hamees countryside. The images show 225 buildings standing in June 2014, but only 14 remaining in June 2015 – a shocking 93.8% reduction. The separatist group, bolstered by the US, Europe, and Israel,[14] has since displaced hundreds of thousands of inhabitants from their homelands (East of the Euphrates River) to neighbouring Turkey as well as hundreds of thousands from western districts. In 2015, Lama Fakih, Senior Crisis Advisor at Amnesty International, demanded:

“It is critical that the US-led coalition fighting IS in Syria and all other states supporting the Autonomous Administration, or co-ordinating with it militarily, do not turn a blind eye to such abuses. They must take a public stand condemning forced displacement and unlawful demolitions and ensure their military assistance is not contributing to violations of international humanitarian law.”

A “Fight Against Kurds”? An “Invasion of Kurdish Territories”?
Kurdish people that do not support these proscribed groups would be particularly concerned when they see reputable media outlets using such terminology. It would imply that ‘Kurds’ are a monolithic group of people with a uniform political ideology and objectives.

Divide-and-rule ethno-nationalism
Kurds have existed as a discernible group for as long as two thousand years. It was only at the turn of the twentieth century that secularist nationalist movements sprouted up almost at precisely the same time that other types of ethnic-nationalisms beleaguered the ailing Ottoman Caliphate. Religious solidarity and brotherhood based on Islam, and citizenship of the Caliphate based on religious identity, or millet, mutated into a new philosophy based on the ‘ethnic’ nation-state. This naturally disadvantaged minority Kurdish communities.[15] Colonial powers played on previously unnecessary ethnic divisions to shape out today’s nation-states, instigating the downfall of the last Caliphate. The problem of a region, hacked by colonialists into powerless ethno-minority-states, will definitely not be mended through another divide. I say this not just for Kurds but also for Arab nationalism, being of Palestinian descent myself. The answer to the oppression of Palestinians is likewise not a secularist, nationalistic Palestinian nation state, but the unity and strengthening of the Ummah at large.

Kurds live across four countries and some of them aspire to statehood; they are not isolated in northern Syria. In fact, of the four countries, the Syrian-Kurdish community is the smallest. Less than two million live in Syria and whilst they are concentrated in the north, they do not form the majority ethnic group there. We can take a step further and say that to call Turkey’s involvement an ‘aggression’ or ‘war against Kurds’ is intentionally inflammatory. Kurds, who fought against the oppressive ramifications brought onto them by the wretched nationalism mentioned above, should read this fictitious display of ethnic sympathy as just another instance of colonial opportunism on the back of their repression.

Historic melting-pot
The regions between Turkey and Syria, previously overrun by SDF forces, are an almost indiscernible melting-pot of ethnicities. And many are almost entirely ethnically Arab districts. This is not to play on ethnic sensitivities, but a statement of fact. Arabs, for instance, are the largest ethnic group in all of Raqqa, Deir ez-Zor, al-Hasakah, Manbij, Tel al-Abyad, and Tel Raf’at. The remainder are not entirely Kurd, but a mixture of Kurds, Turkmen, Circassians, and Assyrians.

The northern-Syrian city of Qamishli, adjoining the Turkish city of Nusaybin, was established by the Assyrians in the 1920s. Kurdish-populated ‘Ayn al-Arab, or Kobane in eastern-Aleppo was originally inhabited by Arabs followed by Armenians prior to World War I. Manbij, northeast of Aleppo, was inhabited by Assyrians centuries before Christ. Similar can be said about Afrin, Malikiya, and al-Hasakah to which ethnic Kurds migrated and settled.

Even the SDF is not ethnically only ‘Kurdish’ by any stretch of imagination. In fact, around 40% of the group is non-Kurdish and amongst its fighters are Arabs and Turkmen. Likewise, the Syrian National Army, which has been fighting the YPG, is also not entirely Arab. Some battalions like the ‘Hamza Brigade’ is nearly 70% Kurdish, operates under the Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army and fights alongside Turkish forces.[16] The simplistic Turk vs Kurd or Arab vs Kurd binaries are dangerous and misleading distractions that serve the neo-imperialist interests of divide-and-rule, that break down once the facts on the ground are revealed

Inconvenient statistics
Operation ‘Peace Spring’ is not to repatriate only Syria’s ethnic Arabs either. Around 300,000 ethnically Kurdish refugees have been displaced from Syria and live in neighbouring Turkey.[17] The fight against the SDF, a force of some 50,000 militiamen, around half of whom are ethnically Arab,[18] is at the expense of repatriating ten times that number of ethnic Kurds. One would thus be more justified, statistically, calling it an operation to repatriate Kurdish people rather than a war against them. Ponder the power of the agenda at play to paint it as the latter rather than the former.

There is no doubt that there is a large Kurdish presence in Syria’s north. But the question is: should every ethnic composition or concentration form a separate state? If such were the case, should the four million displaced Syrians living in destitution and clustered in Turkey’s south also demand independence? In reality, if ethnicity were grounds for independence, the extraordinary diversity of the region, including the Anatolian Peninsula, is such that there would be countless quasi-states.

The absurdity of claiming Turkey’s operation is a war or invasion against Kurds as an ethnicity is compounded by the fact that Turkey contains the largest population of Kurds in the world – around 15 million.[19] In the last Turkish General Election, the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), representing a sizeable segment of Turkey’s Kurdish population, won more than 10% of parliament.

There is indeed systemic disadvantage and even oppression that Kurdish people have suffered in Turkey—which is of little surprise considering modern Turkey’s secularist, nationalist underpinnings. However, it would be simply unjust to ignore the recent initiatives (under the AK Party) to try to address grievances and politically enfranchise Kurdish communities, and end Turkish-Kurdish conflict, whilst attempting to address the historic economic disadvantages afforded to majority-Kurdish areas in the South-East of the country. It is difficult to reconcile between Kurdish political assimilation and economic development on one hand, and a desire to ‘fight the Kurds’ as an ethnic community, on the other.

Last but not least, it is an affront to the Kurdish people to label an offensive against the PKK as one against “The Kurds”. If nothing else, it promulgates the narrative that the groups (SDF/YPG) acknowledged as having carried out US-coalition-augmented war crimes, including forced displacements, kidnapping, and mass home demolitions akin to ISIS, are actually the generality of the Kurds. The ‘sympathetic’ narrative supposed by some is thus not so sympathetic after all.

Source: http://www.islam21c.com

Notes:

[1] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/uk-turkey-arms-sales-syria-kurds-germany-france-netherlands-eu-embargo-a9155536.html

[2] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-50050264

[3] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-50075703

[4] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-raqqa/ypg-fighters-credit-ocalan-with-syria-victory-idUSKBN1CS1J7

[5] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-49963649

[6] https://gowans.blog/2017/07/11/the-myth-of-the-kurdish-ypgs-moral-excellence/

[7] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-39439593

[8] https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/abc-news-slaughter-in-syria-footage-appears-to-come-from-a-kentucky-gun-range

[9] https://dod.defense.gov/OIR/

[10] http://www.syriahr.com/en/?p=138492

[11] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-50056358

[12] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-50056358

[13] https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2015/10/syria-us-allys-razing-of-villages-amounts-to-war-crimes/

[14] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-syria-security-israel-kurds/israel-uneasy-over-trumps-refusal-to-stand-by-kurds-idUSKBN1WP2KP

[15] McDowall, David (1997). A Modern History of the Kurds. London: I.B.Tauris. p. 2. ISBN 1 86064 185 7.

[16] https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/turkey-sends-kurdish-falcon-force-afrin-counter-anti-kurd-image

[17] http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2014/Oct-22/274938-syria-says-giving-military-support-to-kurds-in-koban.ashx

[18] https://ctc.usma.edu/the-battle-for-raqqa-and-the-challenges-after-liberation/

[19] https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/tu.html#People

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk: Jew, Muslim or Non-Muslim?

 

[33:70] O you who believe, fear Allah, and speak in straightforward words.


Introduction:

Pakistan and Turkey are two Muslim countries which in addition to sharing a common religion also have common business, political, bilateral and foreign relation interests. Both nations also have a fixation, undying love and devotion to their founding father. Muhammad Ali Jinnah is affectionately called Quaid-i-Azam (The Greatest Leader) by the Pakistanees and Mustafa Kemal is affectionately called Atatürk (Father of the Turks).
The lineage, origins and family history of both of these leaders is suspect. Muhammad Ali Jinnah was an Ismaili Rafidhi (Shia), secular in his outlook who some Islamic Scholars state later accepted Islam.

Both the Pakistanees and Turks refuse to ever acknowledge or admit these historical facts and you will even see religious Muslims often adorn their pictures with Islamic headgear etc. In the case of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, speeches during the later part of his life do advocate Islam (specifically mentioning Qur’aan and Sunnah) and his funeral prayer was performed by Allamah Shabbir Ahmed Usmani (RA) so there is some credible evidence that he accepted Islam or at least drastically changed his views towards the later part of his life.

Mustafa Kemal’s parentage and origins has no less than 4 separate accounts and most importantly he remained staunchly secular and opposed Islam until the very end. He said and others quoted regarding him:

We do not need take the principles for our party from a book that supposingly was revealed from the heaven. [Ataturk, Soylev ve Demecleri (Istanbul 1945) 389]

There is no religion, only the people. [Wrote on the cover of the book of Ruseni Barkin]

Respected people, every man should move his religion on the side if he wants to strive towards a civilized society.[Diary notes, Mustafa Kemal, Nutuk, 460.]

His close friends like Reza Nur, an atheist and Kazim Karabekir Pasa all claim he was an enemy to Islam and an atheist. He removed the shariah courts.

The great Ottoman scholar Shaykh al-Islam Mustafa Sabri called him kaafir and a British puppet. [Mustafa Sabri Efendi, Hilafetin ilgasinin arka plani (Istanbul)]

 

His words, statements and most importantly actions cannot be taken as those of a Muslim. However in the last two decades evidence has been unearthed that Mustafa Kemalwas actually a Dönmeh i.e. a crypto Jew a group of individuals who publicly converted to Islam but secretly held on to their own beliefs.

 

What we present below is the research from Jewish sources on the origins and heritage of Mustafa Kemal.

 


When Ataturk Recited the Jewish “Shema Yisrael” (1994)

Hillel Halkin

When Kemal Ataturk Recited Shema Yisrael: ‘It’s My Secret Prayer, Too,’. He Confessed

ZICHRON YAAKOV — There were two questions I wanted to ask, I said over the phone to Batya Keinan, spokeswoman for Israeli president Ezer Weizman, who was about to leave the next day, Monday, Jan. 24, on the first visit ever made to Turkey by a Jewish chief of state. One was whether Mr. Weizman would be taking part in an official ceremony commemorating Kemal Ataturk.

Ms. Kenan checked the president’s itinerary, according to which he and his wife would lay a wreath on Ataturk’s …
Excited and Distressed

I thanked her and hung up. A few minutes later it occurred to me to call back and ask whether President Weizman intended to make any reference while in Turkey to Ataturk’s Jewish antecedents. “I’m so glad you called again,” said Ms. Kenan, who now sounded excited and a bit distressed. “Exactly where did you get your information from?”

Why was she asking, I countered, if the president’s office had it too?

Because it did not, she confessed. She had only assumed that it must because I had sounded so matter-of-fact myself. “After you hung up,” she said, “I mentioned what you told me and nobody here knows anything about it. Could you please fax us what you know?”

I faxed her a short version of it. Here is a longer one.

Stories about the Jewishness of Ataturk, whose statue stands in the main square of every town and city in Turkey, already circulated in his lifetime but were denied by him and his family and never taken seriously by biographers. Of six biographies of him that I consulted this week, none even mentions such a speculation. The only scholarly reference to it in print that I could find was in the entry on Ataturk in the Israeli Entsiklopedya ha-Ivrit, which begins:

“Mustafa Kemal Ataturk – (1881-1938), Turkish general and statesman and founder of the modern Turkish state.

“Mustafa Kemal was born to the family of a minor customs clerk in Salonika and lost his father when he was young. There is no proof of the belief, widespread among both Jews and Muslims in Turkey, that his family came from the Doenme. As a boy he rebelled against his mother’s desire to give him a traditional religious education, and at the age of 12 he was sent at his demand to study in a military academy.”

Secular Father

The Doenme were an underground sect of Sabbetaians, Turkish Jews who took Muslim names and outwardly behaved like Muslims but secretly believed in Sabbetai Zevi, the 17th-century false messiah, and conducted carefully guarded prayers and rituals in his name. The encyclopedia’s version of Ataturk’s education, however, is somewhat at variance with his own. Here is his account of it as quoted by his biographers:

“My father was a man of liberal views, rather hostile to religion, and a partisan of Western ideas. He would have preferred to see me go to a lay school, which did not found its teaching on the Koran but on modern science.

“In this battle of consciences, my father managed to gain the victory after a small maneuver; he pretended to give in to my mother’s wishes, and arranged that I should enter the (Islamic) school of Fatma Molla Kadin with the traditional ceremony. …

“Six months later, more or less, my father quietly withdrew me from the school and took me to that of old Shemsi Effendi who directed a free preparatory school according to European methods. My mother made no objection, since her desires had been complied with and her conventions respected. It was the ceremony above all which had satisfied her.”

Who was Mustafa Kemal’s father, who behaved here in typical Doenme fashion, outwardly observing Muslim ceremonies while inwardly scoffing at them? Ataturk’s mother Zubeyde came from the mountains west of Salonika, close to the current Albanian frontier; of the origins of his father, Ali Riza, little is known. Different writers have given them as Albanian, Anatolian and Salonikan, and Lord Kinross’ compendious 1964 “Ataturk” calls Ali Riza a “shadowy personality” and adds cryptically regarding Ataturk’s reluctance to disclose more about his family background: “To the child of so mixed an environment it would seldom occur, wherever his racial loyalties lay, to inquire too exactly into his personal origins beyond that of his parentage.”

Learning Hebrew

Did Kinross suspect more than he was admitting? I would never have asked had I not recently come across a remarkable chapter while browsing in the out-of-print Hebrew autobiography of Itamar Ben-Avi, son of Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, the leading promoter of the revival of spoken Hebrew in late 19th-century Palestine. Ben-Avi, the first child to be raised in Hebrew since ancient times and later a Hebrew journalist and newspaper publisher, writes in this book of walking into the Kamenitz Hotel in Jerusalem one autumn night in 1911 and being asked by its proprietor:
‘Do you see that Turkish officer sitting there in the corner, the one with the bottle of arrack?’ ”
‘Yes.’ ”
‘He’s one of the most important officers in the Turkish army.’ ”
‘What’s his name?’ ”
‘Mustafa Kemal.’ ”
‘I’d like to meet him,’ I said, because the minute I looked at him I was startled by his piercing green eyes.”

 

Ben-Avi describes two meetings with Mustafa Kemal, who had not yet taken the name of Ataturk, ‘Father of the Turks.’ Both were conducted in French, were largely devoted to Ottoman politics, and were doused with large amounts of arrack. In the first of these, Kemal confided:

 

“I’m a descendant of Sabbetai Zevi – not indeed a Jew any more, but an ardent admirer of this prophet of yours. My opinion is that every Jew in this country would do well to join his camp.”

 

During their second meeting, held 10 days later in the same hotel, Mustafa Kemal said at one point:

 

” ‘I have at home a Hebrew Bible printed in Venice. It’s rather old, and I remember my father bringing me to a Karaite teacher who taught me to read it. I can still remember a few words of it, such as –‘ “

 

And Ben-Avi continues:
“He paused for a moment, his eyes searching for something in space. Then he recalled:

 

” ‘Shema Yisra’el, Adonai Elohenu, Adonai Ehad!’

 

” ‘That’s our most important prayer, Captain.’

 

” ‘And my secret prayer too, cher monsieur,’ he replied, refilling our glasses.”

 

Although Itamar Ben-Avi could not have known it, Ataturk no doubt meant “secret prayer” quite literally. Among the esoteric prayers of the Doenme, first made known to the scholarly world when a book of them reached the National Library in Jerusalem in 1935, is one containing the confession of faith:

 

“Sabbetai Zevi and none other is the true Messiah. Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.”

 

It was undoubtedly from this credo, rather than from the Bible, that Ataturk remembered the words of the Shema, which to the best of my knowledge he confessed knowing but once in his adult life: to a young Hebrew journalist whom he engaged in two tipsily animated conversations in Jerusalem nearly a decade before he took control of the Turkish army after its disastrous defeat in World War I, beat back the invading Greeks and founded a secular Turkish republic in which Islam was banished – once and for all, so he thought – to the mosques.

Ataturk would have had good reasons for concealing his Doenme origins. Not only were the Doenmes (who married only among themselves and numbered close to 15,000, largely concentrated in Salonika, on the eve of World War I) looked down on as heretics by both Muslims and Jews, they had a reputation for sexual profligacy that could hardly have been flattering to their offspring. This license, which was theologically justified by the claim that it reflected the faithful’s freedom from the biblical commandments under the new dispensation of Sabbetai Zevi, is described by Ezer Weizman’s predecessor, Israel’s second president, Yitzchak Ben-Zvi, in his book on lost Jewish communities, “The Exiled and the Redeemed”:

‘Saintly Offspring’

“Once a year (during the Doenmes’ annual ‘Sheep holiday’) the candles are put out in the course of a dinner which is attended by orgies and the ceremony of the exchange of wives. … The rite is practiced on the night of Sabbetai Zevi’s traditional birthday. … It is believed that children born of such unions are regarded as saintly.”

Although Ben-Zvi, writing in the 1950s, thought that “There is reason to believe that this ceremony has not been entirely abandoned and continues to this day,” little is known about whether any of the Doenmes’ traditional practices or social structures still survive in modern Turkey. The community abandoned Salonika along with the city’s other Turkish residents during the Greco-Turkish war of 1920-21, and its descendants, many of whom are said to be wealthy businessmen and merchants in Istanbul, are generally thought to have assimilated totally into Turkish life.

After sending my fax to Batya Keinan, I phoned to check that she had received it. She had indeed, she said, and would see to it that the president was given it to read on his flight to Ankara. It is doubtful, however, whether Mr. Weizman will allude to it during his visit: The Turkish government, which for years has been fending off Muslim fundamentalist assaults on its legitimacy and on the secular reforms of Ataturk, has little reason to welcome the news that the father of the ‘Father of the Turks’ was a crypto-Jew who passed on his anti-Muslim sentiments to his son. Mustafa Kemal’s secret is no doubt one that it would prefer to continue to be kept.

Awakenedgoyim : All the so called “Young Turks” That led the revolution against the Sultan were Jewish. The Genocide against the Armenians was also led by these Jewish rulers of Turkey. The Muslim Turks have been used as pawns just as Americans and Europeans today are being used as pawns.

Jewish involvement in Turkish life continues to date through it’s military, since many of it’s Generals are of Jewish descent,and through the media and finance, biggest daily newspapers and many large industrial companies and banks are Jewish owned.

 


 

The Turkish – Israeli Connection and Its Jewish History (1999)

Joseph Hantman

 

“One of the most significant developments in recent Middle East affairs is the close relationship which now exists between Turkey and Israel in military, political, economic and intelligence matters. This change in the power structure is usually attributable to the old Arab maxim “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Since both Turkey and Israel count Syria and Iraq as their strongest threats, the close ties between Turkey and Israel are quite logical.

However, there is good evidence of a less widely known but absolutely fascinating story behind this relationship. Turkey, which has a population almost exclusively Muslim, has a government which by law is committed to being totally secular. This goes back to modern Turkey’s founding father, Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk), 1881-1938, leader of the Young Turk Movement which took over after World War I and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.

Ataturk and his followers moved rapidly to end religious domination and many religious practices in the daily life of the country. They decreed a change from the Arabic alphabet to the Roman, and they outlawed the fez and the veil. They opened schools to both boys and girls, and their main goal was to Westernize Turkey and secularize its practices. The Turkish army has been the main enforcement agent of this secular policy in times of rising fundamentalism among some groups.

Some Background Data:

In the 18th and early 19th century Salonika (now Thesalonika), under Turkish rule in Greece, was the unofficial capital of Sephardic Jewry. Of the three groups in the city, the Jews were larger than the combined Greek Orthodox and Muslim population.

The Jews dominated the commerce of the city and controlled the docks of this major seaport. There were great synagogues and academies of rabbinic study. Moslem shops closed on Friday, Greek Orthodox on Sunday, and most shops and businesses were closed on Shabbat. Ladino, the beautiful mix of Spanish and Hebrew, was the lingua franca of the city and “Shabbat Shalom” was the universal Saturday greeting among all. In the late 19th and early 20th century the city declined as a result of conflict between Greek Orthodox and Muslims, and Jewish dominance of the city decreased.

Fall of the Ottoman Empire:

With the fall of the Ottoman Empire after World War I and the decision at the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923 to create an independent Greek state, the decision was made to transfer populations. All Muslims  in Greece had to move to Turkey and all Orthodox Greeks in Turkey had to move to Greece. In all, about 350,000 Muslims  and one million Greeks were involved in the move. Jews were permitted to remain wherever they lived.

At this time a group of Muslims  went to the authorities supervising the population shift and explained that they were not really Muslims  but were in fact really Jews posing as Muslims . The authorities would not entertain such a claim so the group then went to the Chief Rabbi, Saul Amarillo, to verify their Jewish status. Rabbi Amarillo states, “Yes, I know who you are. You are momzarim (very loosely translated as [Edited Out]s) and as such not acceptable in the Jewish community.” These people were the Doenmeh, the Turkish word for converts, and their existence had been known for over 200 years. They were called momzarim because of the bizarre sexual practices that were part of their religious rituals, which made it impossible to trace parentage and lineage. The Doenmeh were forced to leave Salonika for Turkey, which, considering the tragic fate of Salonika’s Jews during the Holocaust 20 years later, undoubtedly saved their lives.
Atatürk’s Jewish Atatürk’s Jewish Atatürk’s Jewish Atatürk’s Jewish Atatürk’s Jewish

Atatürk’s Jewish Family – Who Were the Doenmeh? (Dönme):

One of the best known names but least known historical figures in Jewish history is Shabbtai Zvi, the “false messiah” (1626-1687). Born in Smyrna, Turkey, of a Sephardic father and an Ashkenazi mother, he was a brilliant child and Talmudic student, and an ordained rabbi in his mid teens. He went on to study and became a master in Kabbalah and other Jewish mysticism. His oratory was captivating and he soon acquired a following. However, he exhibited odd characteristics, including periods of illumination where he was believed to be communicating with God and periods of darkness when he was wrestling with evil. Soon he began to hint that he was the Messiah. This blasphemy caused him to be expelled from a number of congregations. He took up a pilgrim’s staff and with some followers roamed the Middle East, gathering many to his messianic preaching, especially during his periods of light. In Gaza he was welcomed by Rabbi Nathan, who had for years been preaching that the arrival of the Messiah was imminent. This combination led to a great outpouring of belief in Shabbtai Zvi as the Messiah. Word spread throughout the Jewish world, from Poland, Amsterdam, Germany, London, Persia, and Turkey to Yemen. Multitudes joined his ranks – educated rabbis, illiterates, rich and poor alike were swept up in the mass hysteria.

Among his inner core, they accepted his theory that all religious restrictions were reversed. The forbidden was encouraged and the commandments of the Torah were replaced by Shabbtai’s 18 (chai) commandments. This led to feasting on fast days, sexual relations with others than one’s spouse, and many more. The high point was in 1665-66, when Shabbtai, with his followers, marched on the Sultan’s palace expecting to be greeted as the Messiah. This of course did not happen. To shorten this story, Shabbtai was given the choice “convert to Islam or die.” To the consternation of his followers, he chose conversion. Most of his followers return to their homelands where, after penitence and sometimes flagellation, they were received into the congregations. However, some hundreds of families of his inner circle considered his apostasy as part of his overall plan of reaching the depth before attaining redemption. They too converted to Islam, although for about 200 years they lived as Muslims but secretly passed on their secret quasi-Jewish Shabbatean beliefs and practices to their children. They continued learning and praying in Hebrew and Ladino. As the generations passed, the knowledge of Hebrew was reduced to reciting certain prayers and expressions by memory in a barely understood Hebrew. They were known in Turkish as Doenmeh, meaning “converts”; to the Jews they were Minim, meaning “heretics.” They referred to themselves as Ma’aminim, the “believers.” They were never really accepted by the Turks nor by the Jews.

As we get into the middle and late 1800′s and education and enlightened thinking spread through parts of the region, young Doenmeh men who were dissatisfied with their status as “neither-nor” turned to secular nationalism to establish their identity. They neglected all forms of religious belonging and saw in the “Young Turk movement” their emancipation.

Atatürk’s Jewish Roots:

In 1911 in the Hotel Kamenetz in Jerusalem, Itamar Ben Avi, a newspaperman and writer who was the son of Eleazer Ben Yehudah (credited as the main proponent of the establishment of Modern Hebrew) met with a young Turkish Army officer. After enjoying a good quantity of Arak, the officer, Col. Mustafa Kemal, turned to his drinking partner and recited the “Shema” in fluent Hebrew and indicated that he came from a Doenmeh family. They met again on a few occasions and Kemal filled in more of his background. This man was of course to become General Kemal Ataturk, founder of modern Turkey.

Remnants of Doenmeh still exist. There is an unidentifiable building known as the Jewish Mosque where Doenmeh still meet. During World War II, when Turkey was close to Germany, there were separate tax lists for different religious categories, and the “D” list was for Doenmeh. During his lifetime and continuing today, there have been whispered rumors among Islamic activists that Kemal Ataturk and other Young Turks were of Jewish origin.

However, there is little doubt that 300 years after the death of Shabbtai Zvi, his influence and twists and turns of his Doenmeh followers provided the activist secular basis which is one of the underlying principles of modern Turkey – without which the Turkish-Israeli connection would have been most unlikely.

To bring this story up to date and possibly complete the circle, we now learn that some Doenmeh living in Turkey have made inquiry of American Jewish religious organizations about the possible re-entry of Doenmeh into today’s Jewish world.”

 

 


 

Mustafa Kemal and Jewish History: Quotes

 

Mustafa Kemal, (the Turkish nationalist leader) whom the great vizier presents as a Jew, was born a Turk and his parents were from Saloniki and were Deonmes, that is converts, as were the parents of Talat  and Djavid [The Associated Press news agency, citing the Grand Vizier of Turkey, mentions in an item of the 3rd of July, 1920]

Among the leaders of the revolution which resulted in a more modern government in Turkey were Djavid Bey and Mustafa Kemal. Both were ardent doenmehs. Djavid Bey became minister of finance; Mustafa Kemal became the leader of the new regime and had adopted the name of Ataturk. His opponents tried to use his doenmeh background to unseat him, but without success. Too many of the Young Turks in the newly formed revolutionary Cabinet prayed to Allah, but had as their real prophet Shabtai Zvi, the Messiah of Smyrna. [Joachim Prinze (1902-1988), who was president of the American Jewish Congress from 1958 to 1966, writes]

Scholars have firstly pointed out the fact that Mustafa was born and raised in a city, Salonika, the majority of the population of which was Jewish in the mid-nineteenth century. Actually, Salonika was the only city in the world at the time (until Tel-Aviv was founded in 1909) with a majority Jewish population. If we add to the city’s Jews the dönmeh population, who were traditionally counted among the Muslims, then the Jews and converted Jews (the dönmeh) would make up an absolute majority of the population. This is why Salonika was called the Jerusalem of the Balkans then. [Vivendi Centre Publications, 2011.

 


 

Ataturk’s Turkey Overturned (2007)

 

Hillel Halkin

Some 12 or 13 years ago, when I was reporting from Israel for the New York weekly, the Forward, I wrote a piece on Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern secular Turkey, that I submitted to the newspaper with some trepidation.

In it, I presented evidence for the likelihood of Ataturk’s having had a Jewish — or more precisely, a Doenmeh — father.

The Doenmeh were a heretical Jewish sect formed, after the conversion to Islam in the 17th century of the Turkish-Jewish messianic pretender Sabbetai Zevi, by those of his followers who continued to believe in him.

Conducting themselves outwardly as Muslims in imitation of him, they lived secretly as Jews and continued to exist as a distinct, if shadowy, group well into the 20th century.

In the many biographies of Ataturk there were three or four different versions of his father’s background, and although none identified him as a Jew, their very multiplicity suggested that he had been covering up his family origins.

This evidence, though limited, was intriguing. Its strongest item was a chapter in a long-forgotten autobiography of the Hebrew journalist, Itamar Ben-Avi, who described in his book a chance meeting on a rainy night in the late winter of 1911 in the bar of a Jerusalem hotel with a young Turkish captain.

Tipsy from too much arak, the captain confided to Ben-Avi that he was Jewish and recited the opening Hebrew words of the Shema Yisra’el or “Hear O Israel” prayer, which almost any Jew or Doenmeh — but no Turkish Muslim — would have known. Ten years later, Ben-Avi wrote, he opened a newspaper, saw a headline about a military coup in Turkey, and in a photograph recognized the leader that the young officer he had met the other night.

At the time, Islamic political opposition to Ataturk-style secularism was gaining strength in Turkey. What would happen, I wondered, when a Jewish newspaper in New York broke the news that the revered founder of modern Turkey was half-Jewish? I pictured riots, statues of Ataturk toppling to the ground, the secular state he had created tottering with them.

I could have spared myself the anxiety. The piece was run in the Forward, there was hardly any reaction to it anywhere, and life in Turkey went on as before. As far as I knew, not a single Turk even read what I wrote. And then, a few months ago, I received an e-mail from someone who had. I won’t mention his name. He lives in a European country, is well-educated, works in the financial industry, is a staunchly secular Kemalist, and was writing to tell me that he had come across my article in the Forward and had decided to do some historical research in regard to it.

One thing he discovered, he wrote, was that Ataturk indeed traveled in the late winter of 1911 to Egypt from Damascus on his way to join the Turkish forces fighting an Italian army in Libya, a route that would have taken him through Jerusalem just when Ben-Avi claimed to have met him there.

Moreover, in 1911 he was indeed a captain, and his fondness of alcohol, which Ben-Avi could not have known about when he wrote his autobiography, is well-documented.

And here’s something else that was turned up by my Turkish e-mail correspondent: Ataturk, who was born and raised in Thessaloniki, a heavily Jewish city in his day that had a large Doenmeh population, attended a grade school, known as the “Semsi Effendi School,” that was run by a religious leader of the Doenmeh community named Simon Zvi. The email concluded with the sentence: “I now know — know (and I haven’t a shred of doubt) — that Ataturk’s father’s family was indeed of Jewish stock.”

I haven’t a shred of doubt either. I just have, this time, less trepidation, not only because I no longer suffer from delusions of grandeur regarding the possible effects of my columns, but because there’s no need to fear toppling the secular establishment of Kemalist Turkey.

It toppled for good in the Turkish elections two days ago when the Islamic Justice and Development Party was returned to power with so overwhelming a victory over its rivals that it seems safe to say that secular Turkey, at least as Ataturk envisioned it, is a thing of the past.

Actually, Ataturk’s Jewishness, which he systematically sought to conceal, explains a great deal about him, above all, his fierce hostility toward Islam, the religion in which nearly every Turk of his day had been raised, and his iron-willed determination to create a strictly secular Turkish nationalism from which the Islamic component would be banished.

Who but a member of a religious minority would want so badly to eliminate religion from the identity of a Muslim majority that, after the genocide of Turkey’s Christian Armenians in World War I and the expulsion of nearly all of its Christian Greeks in the early 1920s, was 99% of Turkey’s population? The same motivation caused the banner of secular Arab nationalism to be first raised in the Arab world by Christian intellectuals.

Ataturk seems never to have been ashamed of his Jewish background. He hid it because it would have been political suicide not to, and the secular Turkish state that was his legacy hid it too, and with it, his personal diary, which was never published and has for all intents and purposes been kept a state secret all these years. There’s no need to hide it any longer. The Islamic counterrevolution has won the day in Turkey even without its exposure.