Friday, January 30, 2009


My really great friend, Bryce Kaufman, wrote this in a Facebook note: 

Erdogan and Davos
One of the more recent news items in the past couple of days has been how Turkey's Prime Minister Erdogan walked off the stage at Davos, ostensibly angry at the moderator, for not giving him an equal amount of time to talk as Israeli President Peres. I watched a clip on CNBC where a commentator praised Erodgan as one of the world's shrewdest politicians in walking off the stage and made comments to the effect that it would help Turkey's regional importance.

I won't dispute the fact that Erdogan made a shrewd political move. The most immediate effect will largely be on the domestic side, and the consequences in my mind are not for the better. For one, in walking off the stage, Erdogan won key domestic political points in the eyes of the Turkish electorate. There can be little doubt that in recent years, with the rise of the AKP and an increasingly assertive religious conservative movement, coupled with the intractable Israel-Palestine conflict, means that Turks' views of Israel and Jews overall have become increasingly negative. 

Although President Peres himself said that the incident wouldn't affect relations between the two countries, I can't help to disagree. In the mid-1990's relations with Turkey were the warmest relations Israel had with any country in the region (see, for instance, unsubstantiated rumors that Israel's Mossad helped supply information that led to the capture of Abdullah Ocalan, the head of the Kurdish terrorist PKK, and the fact that Israel and Turkish military cooperation and exchange were deep and comprehensive). Erdogan's comments about the Israel-Palestine conflict, his consistent haranguing of Israel's actions (I leave the decision up to you, the reader, to decide if the criticism is justified or not; I have my own feelings, but I'm not here to discuss Israel's recent campaign in Gaza), as well as his disturbing invitation of Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal in 2006, means that the act of walking off the stage is one is a series of moves that leave little doubt about the tenor of the relationship between the two countries, at least on the level of high politics.

Before I touch upon the issue of what this all means about Turkish domestic politics, I think that it would be worthwhile to think a bit more about the incident itself. A NY Times article mentioned that the overall discussion at Davos was supposed to be 1 hour ( UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon talked for 8 minutes; I didn't see the debate itself, but given his comments about the Gaza campaign, I hardly expect that his comments were in defense of Israel. Apparently also on stage was Amr Moussa, the Arab League’s secretary general; again, I think we can safely say that his comments were not going to be pro-Israeli. Erdogan apparently was given 12 minutes earlier in the talk to comment and then Peres was given about 25 minutes to provide Israel's side of the story. 
I'm not mathematician, but 60 minutes minus 25 is 35 minutes, and 35 minutes which were likely highly critical of Israel. Also, 12 minutes is more than the 8 minutes given to Ban Ki-Moon. 

Basically what it comes down to is that I think Erdogan doesn't quite understand, ultimately, how stupid this whole debacle is. Peres was given 25 minutes because it was 3 against 1. Erdogan was given 12 minutes because he was one of three panelists criticizing Israel. He got more talking time than the UN Secretary General and presumably as much as, if not more, than the Arab League Secretary General. So, let's just get one thing straight: when Erdogan declares that the moderator was being "unfair" in only letting him get 12 minutes as opposed to Peres' 25 minutes, let's be clear what "fairness" actually means. Forgive me if I'm wrong, but Erdogan seems to have been given more than his fair shot at talking during the panel, and rather than keep his peace, let his ego overcome rationality.

I would also like to take some issue with Erdogan's comments about Israel's actions over the years, and although I am likely to cause some of my Turkish friends to bitterly complain, I feel it more important to discuss this rather than be silent. I in no way condone the way in which Israel has gone about attempting (or not) to resolve the long-standing Palestinian conflict, but listening to Erdogan criticize Israel rings oh-so-hollow in my ears. Erdogan's invitation of the leader of Hamas? Inexcusable. I can only imagine the fury and outrage Turkey and Turks would have expressed if Israel decided to invite PKK leadership like Ocalan to meet with the Israeli Prime Minster. But that is the exact parallel to inviting Hamas to Ankara. Turkey would find an Israeli meeting with PKK leaders an outrage of unbelievable proportions and the meeting with Hamas should have been understood as the same kind of meeting.

Secondly, Turkey's criticism of Israel about civilian and human rights abuses rings hollow. I do not list myself as an expert on the Kurdish conflict, but from what I have read, it is pretty clear that the conflict in Turkey for much of the 1980s and 1990s was a scorched-earth campaign against the Kurdish population of Turkey, with associated human rights abuses and forced internal migration. It is also clear that Turkey and the Turkish government has hardly owned up to the practices and methods it employed during its fight against the PKK and any attempted discussion of what exactly went on is stomped out as treasonous, disloyal, and unpatriotic. I no doubt open myself up to accusations that I don't know what terrorism is like or the necessity of meeting terrorism with violence, and how I am an naive American telling Turkey what it should or should not be doing without any understanding of the violence and fear that the PKK bestowed upon Turkey for much of the 1990s. That I would rather have Turkey pander to terrorists and their demands, rather than allow Turkey to defend its nation and soil.
And in fact, I will admit, I probably have no business sticking my nose into something I have not experienced myself. I am not qualified to tell people how to run anti-terrorism campaigns. But, nonetheless, I am firm in my belief that no matter how terrible the PKK is (and I will be the first to tell anyone that the PKK is a group of terrorists who have done great and terrible disservice to Turkey and more importantly, to the plight of Kurds in Turkey), terrorist violence never justifies the mass human rights abuses and tactics that were undoubtedly employed by the Turkish military in its fight. And so, when Erdogan criticizes Israel for its also inappropriate use of force, perhaps he should focus more on making amends for Turkey's human rights abuses against its own population and make sure that he has the moral high-ground before he accuses another country of acting inappropriately. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone, or so the saying goes, and to be quite frank, Turkey's past actions against its Kurdish minority are more than a minor blemish.

Although my comments on this next point will be brief, since I have wasted far too much time blathering in this note, it is, for those who are interested in my concerns about Turkish society, the most important point to understand. The modern Turkish Republic was built upon the success of the nationalist movement and to this day, Turkish nationalism remains the most important unifying force in the country. The ways in which Turkish nationalism is expressed today is hardly new, but in an age where xenophobic nationalism is something that should be seen as dangerous, I view Erdogan's actions and words with respect to Israel indicative of a larger, more systemic problem with Turkey: its inability to accept difference in its people. I have far too little time and space to fully flesh out things here, but to put it succinctly, the increasing nationalist rhetoric in Turkey and Turks' antagonism towards the minorities within its borders, whether they be Jewish, Orthodox Christians, Armenians Christians, or Kurds, is worrisome. Erdogan may have come out and said that he does not mean to be anti-Semitic, but his words against Israel are reflected in increasing anti-Semitic behavior in Turkey. (For a good article on this, see:

I love Turkey, but the nationalist movement as it is expressed today is not beneficial for Turkey. It appears to silence freedom of debate and expression, prevents the full integration of vast numbers of Turkish citizens into society, and holds Turkey back from being a more open and tolerant society. I remember talking to a Jewish Turk this past year who told me that she hated the word 'tolerance.' She wished that instead of being "tolerated," she wanted to be thought of as the same; rather than being thought of as solely a Jew, she wanted to be thought of as a Turk whose faith is Judaism. So long as Erdogan and Turkish politicians and society continue to espouse the nationalist line that views minority populations as suspicious foreigners within the midst, a rhetoric which was hinted at in his conduct and words at Davos, Turkey will be held back from its full potential.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


"We can never solve our significant problems from the same level of thinking we were at when we created the problems."
-- Albert Einstein

"It's not a question of how much you know or what you can do...all that matters is that you're right"

"We all live with the objective of being happy; our lives are all different and yet the same."
- Anne Frank

"It is the duty of every cultured man or woman to read sympathetically the scriptures of the world. If we are to respect others' religions as we would have them respect our own, a friendly study of the world's religions is a sacred duty.”
- Gandhi

"Everyone is entilted to their own opinion, but not their own facts"
- Daniel Moynihan


So I got some new fish, there are four total now...but the one-eyed fish is still alive...amazing...and there is a picture of the best coffee mug in the world, thanks to my sister! 

Monday, January 26, 2009

Turkish Jews fearful of anti-Semitism after Gaza

By Alexandra Hudson

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkey's centuries-old Jewish community says it is alarmed by anti-Semitism that emerged during protests at Israel's Gaza assault, and is questioning how this reflects its status in the predominantly Muslim republic.

Although Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan condemned anti-Semitism, Jews in Turkey and beyond believe the language he employed during the conflict gave some a licence to translate their outrage at Israel's action into racial hatred.

Heightened anti-Jewish sentiment comes at a time of rising nationalism in Turkey, blamed for the murders of several Christians in the last few years, as hardliners fight against those struggling for a more plural, multi-ethnic society.

Some 24,000 Jews live in Turkey, making them one of the world's largest Jewish communities in a Muslim country, and their relations with the state, like those of other minorities, are a litmus test for Turkey's readiness to join the European Union.

"I feel worried, sad and scared for myself and for my country's future, which is leaning towards racism," Turkish-Jewish academic Leyla Navaro wrote in Radikal newspaper.

While Turkey is officially presented as a mosaic of cultures and peoples, Navaro said this was an empty tourist slogan in a country where a rigid definition of Turkishness has been imposed from above since the state's inception in 1923.

Turkey's Jewish community, which issued a typically impartial statement as the Gaza conflict began, said it has never seen anything like the anti-Semitism which emerged as public fury over the plight of the Palestinians soared.

Intensifying their fear is the fact Jews have been attacked in Turkey before. In November 2003 truck bombs exploded outside two Istanbul synagogues killing 24 people, mainly Muslims. A Turkish cell with links to al Qaeda claimed responsibility.

As Turks protested en masse, many with Hamas headbands, placards showing mutilated Palestinian children or baby dolls covered in fake blood, virulently anti-Jewish articles began to appear in some Turkish newspapers, and openly anti-Semitic graffiti became common.

Erdogan called Israel's operations, launched with the aim of ending Hamas's cross-border rocket attacks, "a crime against humanity," deploring what he saw as excessive force, and he suggested Israel be barred from the United Nations.

His rhetoric shocked Israel, usually a close ally, and has been interpreted by some as an attempt to shore up support ahead of local elections in March with an electorate deeply sympathetic to Palestinians.

In a recent open letter to Erdogan a group of five U.S. Jewish organisations told him Turkish Jews felt besieged and threatened, adding: "A connection is clearly perceived between the inflammatory denunciation of Israel by Turkish officials and the rise of anti-Semitism."

While Turkey's Jewish community says the daubing of a giant swastika opposite Istanbul's Israeli Consulate or the trampling and burning of Jewish symbols is probably the work of extremist provocateurs, it adds it is particularly unnerved by the messages given by the government and the thinking this reflects.

One example they give is an Education Ministry decree that schools should hold a silence for the dead children of Gaza.

"The Education Ministry saw fit to implant the idea in children's heads that Israel is evil. Children of Turkish citizens of Jewish faith who have nothing to do with Gaza are now being targeted by other children," said a community member, who said she was too anxious to be named.

Some Jewish parents fear taking their children to school.

Turkey's ruling AK Party has Islamist roots and draws its constituency from the pious Anatolian heartland. It has incurred the wrath of the secularist establishment for what critics say is a hidden campaign to Islamise the country of 70 million.

Although the AK Party has made concessions to minority rights, including a national television station broadcasting in Kurdish, those of non-Muslim faith or non-Turkish heritage say they face discrimination.


Turkey's Jews are mainly the descendants of Sephardi Jews who fled the Spanish Inquisition some 500 years ago for the multi-ethnic Ottoman Empire. Thousands left amid political instability as the secular Turkish Republic was founded, but those who stayed are active in all walks of life.

In Istanbul's historic Galata district, small synagogues nestle alongside mosques and churches in the warren of tiny backstreets. Muslim staff work in a kosher restaurant which has operated for 50 years.

But Jewish buildings have long had a police guard and tight security, and people are wary of drawing attention to themselves. An elderly Jewish man smiles as he demonstrates how he hides his Jewish skull cap beneath a flat cap on the street.

The allegations of anti-Semitism have stung the government.

"Since the 15th century Turkey has been a safe haven for all religious groups... there is not a single case of anti-Semitism in Turkey," Erdogan's foreign policy adviser Ahmet Davutoglu told journalists during a recent briefing on Gaza.

Yet repetitions by officials of the Ottoman Empire's welcome to Jews ring hollow to today's community.

"Am I still indebted because my ancestors were accepted by the Ottoman Sultan? Am I still a guest in this land where I grew up, fulfil my duties as a citizen and actively contribute to its development?," wrote Navaro.

The article moved Turkish President Abdullah Gul to assure Navaro he understood her anxieties and was sensitive to them.

"We love this country and would not want to be anywhere else," said a Turkish Jewish woman, adding precisely because of this emotional attachment there is such concern for the future.

"I am trying to keep my faith in the open-minded majority of the Turkish people."

Thursday, January 22, 2009

2nd Semester

So, second semester started.  It started Tuesday instead of Monday because we didn't have school last Friday because it was too cold for people to go outside.  In US History I have a lot of new students, it's exciting actually, I miss some of the people students, but it's nice to have so new people, spices things up.  We are reviewing WWI and then moving on, but it's important that all the students are at the same place before we go on.

In geography and history of the world, we started the Holocaust, the students are really into it.  We're reading a short story tomorrow from a survivor, I think they'll like it. Even though it's obviously sad! 

Sunday, January 18, 2009


I always thing it's interesting what I come to regret and what doesn't bother me. I've made mistakes, and G-d will forgive me and judge me accordingly, but I have to somehow forgive myself, and that seems to be more difficult.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


I am sick. and I am not pleased by it. 

Saturday, January 10, 2009

If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is part of yourself. What isn't part of ourselves doesn't disturb us.
  - Hermann Hesse

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Turkey ultranationalist probe widens

By Delphine Strauss in Ankara

Published: January 8 2009 02:00 | Last updated: January 8 2009 02:00

An investigation of ultranationalists suspected of plotting to destabilise Turkey's government widened yesterday as police detained more than 30 people, including retired generals, serving officers, a former mayor of Istanbul and a previous chairman of the higher education board.

Eighty six people, many of them known for their secularist views and opposition to the ruling party, are already on trial charged with planning bombings and assassinations to provoke a coup against the Justice and Development party (AKP), which has its roots in political Islam.

Liberals initially hailed the investigation as a breakthrough in uncovering Turkey's so-called "deep state", believing that a network of nationalists with connections in the military and bureaucracy have long been willing to act outside the law to pursue political aims.

Turkey's military chiefs held a meeting at the general staff headquarters yesterday evening, Turkish television reported, raising the possibility of a reaction from the powerful armed forces.

Gareth Jenkins, a security analyst based in Istanbul, said the detention of more retired generals risked provoking a reaction.

Yesterday's detentions and police searches will redouble criticism by those who say the case is a witch-hunt against government opponents. Among those held was Tuncer Kilinc, former chairman of the national security council involved in the 1990s in military intervention against political Islam, according to Turkish media reports

Opposition party leaders said the police action breached human rights and called it a "revenge operation" - although the AKP has previously been at pains to stress that it has no role in the investigation.

UN school

Israel bombed the UN School in Gaza.... =( 

They said Hamas was hiding bombs there. The attack killed 40 people.  And now Hizbollah is firing on Israel from Lebanon.  =( 

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Silent Sunlight

La ilaha illallah
La ilaha illallah

Silent sunlight welcome in, there is work I must now begin, 
All my dreams have blown away. 
And the children wait to play, 
They'll soon remember things to do, 
When the heart is young and the night is done and the sky is blue. 

La ilaha illallah
La ilaha illallah

Morning song bird sail away, 
Lend a tune to another day, 
Bring your wings and choose a roof, 
Sing a song of love and truth. 

We'll soon remember if you do, 
When all things were tall, 
And our friends were small, 
And the world was new. 

La ilaha illallah
La ilaha illallah

Sleepy horses heave away, 
Put your backs to the golden hay, 
Don't ever look behind at the work you've done, 
For your work has just begun. 

Ther'll be the evening in the end, 
But till that time arrives, 
You can rest your eyes, 
And begin again. 

La ilaha illallah
Silent sunlight
La ilaha illallah
Morning sun
La ilaha illallah
Silent sunlight welcome in. 

Friday, January 02, 2009

We saw Mary Poppins on Broadway!
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Times Square

In the Jewish, Mr. Broadway, restaurant.

My Jewish brothers. ;-)

Times Square again.
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Me and Bryce!!!!!!

Sevgi, Fatih, Beria, me, Bryce, Sinan, Yelda. =)
(Second Subway in NYC.)
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For Jack!

Matt Lauer

Peanut M&M

My favorite, of course.
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Hanukkah at Portage High School!!

Central Park

Sevgi, me, and Fatih at the MET

Van Gogh Irises...a print of this painting is in my house and I finally saw it in person. =)
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I took Sinan to the airport today. It was sad. We had a really fun two weeks together.  He knows lots of the ins and outs of my family now. I'll see him soon. =)

I love this sound.

Hey there Delilah
What's it like in New York City?
I'm a thousand miles away
But girl, tonight you look so pretty
Yes you do
Times Square can't shine as bright as you
I swear it's true

Hey there Delilah
Don't you worry about the distance
I'm right there if you get lonely
Give this song another listen
Close your eyes
Listen to my voice, it's my disguise
I'm by your side

Oh it's what you do to me
Oh it's what you do to me
Oh it's what you do to me
Oh it's what you do to me
What you do to me

Hey there Delilah
I know times are getting hard
But just believe me, girl
Someday I'll pay the bills with this guitar
We'll have it good
We'll have the life we knew we would
My word is good

Hey there Delilah
I've got so much left to say
If every simple song I wrote to you
Would take your breath away
I'd write it all
Even more in love with me you'd fall
We'd have it all

Oh it's what you do to me
Oh it's what you do to me
Oh it's what you do to me
Oh it's what you do to me

A thousand miles seems pretty far
But they've got planes and trains and cars
I'd walk to you if I had no other way
Our friends would all make fun of us
and we'll just laugh along because we know
That none of them have felt this way
Delilah I can promise you
That by the time we get through
The world will never ever be the same
And you're to blame

Hey there Delilah
You be good and don't you miss me
Two more years and you'll be done with school 
And I'll be making history like I do
You'll know it's all because of you
We can do whatever we want to
Hey there Delilah here's to you
This one's for you

Oh it's what you do to me
Oh it's what you do to me
Oh it's what you do to me
Oh it's what you do to me
What you do to me.