Turkey is trying to coerce Israel by essentially holding the country's Jewish community hostage, according to foreign policy experts and Turkish Jews living beyond the country's borders. The warnings come in the aftermath this week of an announcement that Turkey's National Intelligence Organization (MIT) was opening criminal investigations regarding at least five Turkish citizens accused of collaboration with Israel.
Michael Koplow, program director of the Israel Institute and an expert in Turkish and Israeli affairs, described the move as "a not so subtle effort to intimidate Turkish Jews" and criticized the Turkish government for "threatening an entire minority community for nothing more than being Jews." Rafael Sadi, a spokesperson for the Association of Turkish Immigrants in Israel, described the investigations as intimidation efforts designed to coerce Israel into accepting Turkish diplomatic demands.
The announcement of the investigations quickly generated anti-Jewish rhetoric and accusations by a Turkish Islamist group which is tied to terrorism and which analysts have linked to Turkey's ruling Justice and Development (AKP) party. Huseyin Oruc, Deputy Chairman of the I.H.H. organization that in 2010 dispatched three ships to break Israel's legal blockade of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, declared that "everyone will know who the Turkish Jews are that served in the Israeli army and killed Turkish civilians on the Mavi Marmara."
The Mavi Marmara was one of the ships in the flotilla, and its passengers attacked Israeli commandos sent to intercept the boats. Nine passengers died in the ensuing violence, and the MIT appears ready to partly blame the incident on Turkish Jews.
The possibility has raised fears that Turkey will pursue tactics similar to those Iran employs to terrorize its Jewish community. The Iranian government has been criticized by human rights groups for intimidating Iranian Jews via periodic arrests and accusations of Israeli collaboration. Reports emerged yesterday that the MIT - the Turkish intelligence agency conducting the Marmara investigations - is actively monitoring and targeting the country's Jewish population.
This is not the first time that top Turkish officials have tried to blur the line between Turkish Jews and the Jewish State. Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was criticized last month for asserting that his country's Jews "had connections" in Israel and demanding that they "use them" to urge Israel to halt its Operation Pillar of Defense in the Gaza Strip.