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Old 23.05.2005, 13:51   #1
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Talking Armenian Anti-Semitism in the Ottoman Period

Quote:
Armenian Anti-Semitism in the Ottoman Period

Dr. Sedat LACINER
The Ottoman experience proves that anti-Semitism is an 'old Armenian habit'. The main reason for anti-semitism among the Ottoman Armenians was mainly religious biases. For the Christian Armenians the Jews were in great sin. It was a common belief among the Armenians that the Jews slaughter young Christian Armenians and use their blood at the Passover feast. In Amasya province for instance local Armenian priests and notables claimed that an Armenian woman had seen Jews slaughter a young Armenian boy and use his blood for religious purposes. Stanford J. Shaw describes the following events:

"Several days of rioting and pillaging and attacks on Jews followed, with Armenian mobs devastating the Jewish quarter of the city, beating men, women and children alike. The Armenian notables convinced the local Ottoman governor to imprison several Jewish leaders, including Rabbi Yakub Avayu, who was accused of having supervised the blood letting. They were said, after undergoing severe torture, to have confessed to their crimes and were hanged. Later, however, the Armenian boy who supposedly had been murdered was found and a new Ottoman governor punished the accusers, though nothing could be done about the Jews who had suffered in the process."
[3]

As Abraham Ben-Yakob put it, the Armenian and Greek attacks against the Armenians continued in the following years:

"There were literally thousands of incidents in subsequent years, invariably resulting from accusations spread among Greeks and Armenians by word mouth, or published in their newspapers, often by Christian financiers and merchants who were anxious to get the Jews out of the way, resulting in isolated and mob attacks on Jews, and burning of their shops and homes."
[4]

Apart from the religious prejudices, the Jewish community in the Empire dramatically rose in numbers and their influence over the administration and economy increased, and this development made the Christian subjects (Armenians, Greeks etc.) worried. Unfortunately this competition between the Jews and Christians resulted in a long series of attacks against the Jews by the Armenians and Greeks, who simply did not want to lose their influential position in terms of politics and economy. In these assaults many Jews were assassinated. When the Europeans increased their economic and political influence over the Ottoman Empire they publicly supported the Ottoman Christians and the Armenians and Greeks gained a clear privilege in trade, which was unfavourable to the Jews. The local Armenians and Greeks had the American and the European diplomats and businessmen with them, while the Jews had to rely on their own sources and their good relations with the Ottoman bureaucracy. In addition, as the Armenians and Greeks got richer and more influential, harassments and the constant attacks against the Jews increased as witnessed in Izmir during the 19th century. The competition between the Armenians and the Jews was severe in Palace and the financial system in particular. When the Armenian bankers sustained monopoly over the Ottoman financial system they did everything to get the Jews out of the Palace, and even libelled Jews by accusing the Jews of not being loyal to the Sultan. As a result of these slanders, many Jews lost their life.[5]

Another dramatic development for the Jews was the impact of the European military victories and conquests of Ottoman territories by the European armies, because when the Christian European armies occupied the Ottoman possessions they were supporting their Christian ‘brothers’, Armenians, Greeks and Bulgarians, and punishing the Jews and Muslims alike.[6] Consequently the Jews became the most loyal ones to the government in the 19th century and this also worsened the relations between the nationalist Armenians and the Jews. The radical Armenians perceived the Jews as the agent of the state against their ‘revolutionary’ movement. Even some Armenians would claim that some of the responsible officers for the 1915 events, which the Armenians see these events as ‘genocide’, were Jews, freemasons or supported by the Jews or freemasons. Although this kind of claims cannot be considered as serious or scholarly, they are useful to understand the degree of the Armenian anti-semitism.

The fourth negative development for the Ottoman Jews was the nationalist-separatist movements in the Arab territories, the Balkans and in Anatolia. The only protector of the Jews in these regions was the Ottoman state and its governor because the Arabs and the Christians hated the Jews due to the tradition and religion. That is why the Jews became more and more loyal to their state, and this more annoyed the nationalist groups, particularly the Greeks and the Armenians. In many Greek uprisings for instance the Jews supported the Ottoman State against the rioters as witnessed in the Ottoman – Greek War in 1897 for Crete island. The Ottoman security forces had to intervene to protect the Jews from the Armenians, Greeks and the Arabs especially in the 19th century. In Syria in particular the Christian Arabs and Armenians hated the Jews as a result of the religious biases.
[7]

In summary, the Armenians continually attacked the Jews for the religious reasons and for personal and ethnic interests. In the words of Shaw, ‘the attacks were brutal and without mercy. Women, children, and aged Jewish men were frequently attacked, beaten and often killed’.[8] These attacks inevitably caused a severe tension and nourished mutual hate between the Armenians and the Jews. As a result the Jews sometimes co-operated with other ethnic groups against the Armenians as Shaw puts it:

"Jewish resentment against the continued persecution and ritual murder attacks by Greeks and Armenians led to such hatred that, for example, many Jews actively assisted the attacks of Kurds and Lazzes on the Armenian quarters of Istanbul in 1896 and 1908, showing the Kurds where Armenians lived and where many of them were hiding and joining them in carrying away the booty. The result was even greater Armenian hatred for Jews than had been the case before, leading to further persecution and attacks in subsequent years’"
[9]


In addition to the assaults against the Jewish people the Armenians and Greeks made enormous efforts to keep the Jews out of the Palace and other important official places. Furthermore they tried to prevent constructing new synagogues in Istanbul. Guleryuz’s research on Turkish Jewry’ gives an example:



"Greeks and Armenians agitated widely to prevent Jews from constructing new synagogues when needed in the Empire. The best example of this came with Greek and Armenian opposition to the construction of a new Jewish synagogue at Haydarpasha in 1899. Sultan Abdul Hamid II allowed the synagogue to be built, and assured its opening despite the protests by sending a contingent of soldiers from the nearby Selimiye barracks, leading the contregation to adopt the name Hemdat Israel synagogue, but also the word Hemdat was close to the name of their benefactor, Sultan Abdul Hamid."[10]

In conclusion, anti-Semitism was a strong tradition among the Ottoman Armenians, and as will be seen it would be revived in the modern ages.

http://www.turkishweekly.net/comments.php?id=1132
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Old 23.05.2005, 15:15   #2
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