Erdogan's policies push Turkish Jews to emigrate - analyst

Ties between Turkey and Israel will persist, despite the policies of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, said Dr. Aykan Erdemir, a former Turkish parliamentarian and senior director of the Turkey Program at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD).

Erdemir made the remarks during a conference Thursday by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in partnership with FDD titled "From Pastor Andrew Brunson to Osman Kavala: Rethinking Prisoners of Conscience in Turkey and Beyond." The conference was aimed at drawing attention to the plight of Turkish political prisoners including philanthropist Osman Kavala and American pastor Andrew Brunson.

Erdemir highlighted that Turkey was the first Muslim majority nation to recognise Israel in 1949 and the two once had very close political relations. Ties strained progressively in the last decade, something Erdemir attributes to the policies of the Erdogan government in Ankara. 

Turkey-Israel relations deteriorated sharply in 2010 following Israel’s violent raid on the Turkish aid ship Mavi Marmara, in which 10 people were killed. The incident dealt a serious blow to their bilateral ties, leading to the recalling of diplomatic envoys on both sides. Moreover, Erdoğan has in recent years has dialled up his criticism of the Israeli government.

Despite being hopeful for Turkey-Israel relations, Erdemir said the damage has been done to young Turkish Jews who he says are looking to emigrate from Turkey. The reasons include systematic discrimination and anti-Jewish prejudice.

"The greater risk happens to Turkey's indigenous Jewish community. We see an alarming exodus especially of Turkey's younger Jewish individuals as they seek better opportunities for education and their career abroad." said Erdemir.