Tensions remain high in Turkey following the July 15 failed coup attempt, with the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan focusing most of its wrath on the exiled imam Fetullah Gulen and the purge of his Gulenist followers. But could Erdogan's reaction backfire?
ISTANBUL â€" You don't want Fethullah Gulen to be deported back to Turkey? Just start a campaign to bring the death penalty back. You don't want his Gulenist followers to be deported back to Turkey? Brush off the pictures of beaten up prisoners in the media as just "a few slaps." Don't look into the claims of torture. And anyone making such claims should be labeled as traitors.
Do you want the world to talk about the subsequent government crackdown more than the attempted coup? Do you want some questions on the coup attempt to remain permanent? Don't ever talk about what was going on during daytime hours of July 15. Don't ever talk about the intelligence failure, the absence of the force commanders or the conflicting statements on that day.
You don't want social peace after the coup attempt? Alienate the legal Kurdish party HDP; raid their buildings with helicopters after midnight.
You don't want the political support for the coup to be revealed? Hide the politicians who have helped them organize it at every level of the state. Protect the community lawyers you made parliamentary deputies. Who would be in the cabinet if the coup had succeeded? Who would be the general chief of staff? Keep these questions away from the public agenda.
You want the threat of the coup to be permanent? Open the doors to the other religious communities currently loyal to you since they are now so excited that they know the military can be infiltrated. Make the education system more religious so that those other Muslim communities can organize well. Transfer the education infrastructure of the Gulen community to other Muslim communities. Pave the path of officers, judges and prosecutors who would take their orders not from Master Fethullah but some other master. Assign them to the positions emptied of all Gulenists.
And, since you do not want any trouble to come of your past support to the Gulen Community ... You be the one who shouts the loudest, who accuses the quickest, who snitches on one and all.
Fetullah Gulen earlier this year â€" Photo: Alphax News
Be sure that, as long as neither Gulen nor the Gulenists will be deported back to Turkey, the oppressive government is talked about more than the bloody coup attempt. And so the country will grow ever more divided, the political leg of the coup remains hidden and the threat of a coup remains constant.
What more could the Gulen community ask for? They couldn't have concocted a better failed coup Plan B themselves. Congratulations.
A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.
BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.
Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.
The incident at the cemetery
They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."
There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.
It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.
The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.
The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender
Crimes against Jews are rising
Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.
Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.
Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.
Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.
And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?
Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously
This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.
That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.
Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.
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