Subproject 3: The Turkish-Dutch community

Annemarike Stremmelaar

This project examines the role of Turkish communities in the Netherlands in the dynamics of contemporary antisemitism. The first reported instances of anti-Jewish attitudes among the Turkish-Dutch population date back from the 1980s and 1990s. In the first decade of the 21st century, antisemitism in the Netherlands came to be identified with the Muslim population, Turks and in particular Moroccans. The past ten years have witnessed numerous anti-Jewish incidents involving Moroccan migrants, but relatively few such incidents have been reported for the Turkish community. The common assumption that antisemitic attitudes are less prevalent among Turks than among Moroccans still remains to be tested.

Incidents and themes

Those incidents that did involve the Turkish-Dutch population included downgrading the number of Holocaust victims in a Turkish-language journal, questioning the authenticity of Anne Frank’s Diary, selling and showing Iranian and Turkish films in which Jewish characters deprive people of their organs, and carrying antisemitic slogans and symbols in pro-Palestinian demonstrations.

These examples point to the Holocaust and Israel as recurring themes in expressions of antisemitism. Furthermore, an examination of printed publications and websites produced by and for Turkish communities in the Netherlands suggests that representations of Jews figure in a number of competing but co-existing frames.

Turkish-Jewish relations

In representations of Turkish history both the Ottoman Empire and the Turkish Republic serve as models of tolerance where Jews could live and practice their religion freely. Nevertheless, prevailing understandings of Turkish identity identify Turkishness with having Muslim credentials, thus excluding Jews from the Turkish nation.

Islam

In another setting of interreligious tolerance, representatives of Turkish Muslim communities have presented Islam as a religion acknowledging Jews as people of the book and promoting interfaith understanding between Muslims and Jews. These accounts exist side by side with opposing interpretations of Islam which justify hostility towards Jews.

Holocaust

Inherent in depictions of Ottoman and Muslim tolerance towards Jews is often an implicit or explicit comparison with a history of Jewish persecution in Europe. The Nazi persecution of the Jews resulting in the Holocaust may furthermore serve as a framework to understand issues as diverse as the discrimination of Turks and Muslims in Dutch society and the Middle-East conflict.

Israel

The Middle-East conflict, finally, may trigger expressions of antisemitism. In manifestations of solidarity with the Palestinians and in reactions to Israeli policies, stereotypes of Jews as bloodthirsty and vengeful conspirators have been used to characterise the state of Israel.

Approach

Through archival and Internet-based research, observations at meetings, and interviews, the project explores the varieties of antisemitic imagery and the channels of transmission within the Turkish-Dutch communities. It examines how images are reproduced in social settings and through media, books, websites, television programmes and films. Locating images in a Dutch, Turkish or global context may help in disentangling the dynamics of contemporary antisemitism, in which images derived from diverse sources are ultimately intertwined.