Turkey's Jewish narrative: tolerance and dark side


As Turkey welcomes Syrians fleeing violence, the anniversary Friday of the deaths of more than 750 Jewish refugees who were denied shelter by Turkey in World War II was a reminder of perennial tension between pragmatic and humanitarian impulses.

The SS Struma, whose passengers fled Romania and docked in Istanbul, was denied entry to Palestinian territory by colonial power Britain. On Feb. 23, 1942, Turkey towed the vessel to the Black Sea and set it adrift. A Soviet torpedo sank it the next morning, and only one person survived.

The episode is a stain on an upbeat narrative of the Jewish experience in the mostly Muslim country, even if Jews are treated with far more tolerance than elsewhere in the region. Turkey dwells on the legacy of Ottoman rulers who welcomed Jews fleeing Christian persecution in Spain in the 15th century....

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