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Turkey’s Anti-Semitic, Anti-Democratic, Pro-Erdogan Hit Television Drama

One of Turkish television’s most popular series, The Last Emperor, tells of the final years of Sultan Abdulhamid II—before he was overthrown in 1909 by advocates of constitutional monarchy. While Abdulhamid is still remembered by many in Turkey as the ruler who revoked the Ottoman empire’s short-lived first constitution, instigated bloody pogroms against Armenians and other minorities, and cultivated a pan-Islamist ideology, the show makes him its hero. Aykan Erdemir and Oren Kessler describe its depiction of his opponents:

Of all the series’ villains, none are more sinister than the Jews. Two minutes into its very first scene, Abdulhamid is riding in a procession in Istanbul when a mustachioed onlooker flips a coin into the hand of one of the royal guards. The soldier opens his hand to find the coin is etched with a Star of David surrounding a squat cross in the style favored by Crusaders and Freemasons. The signal thus received, dozens of his fellow guards turn around and open fire on the royal carriage. The screen fades to black—and to the crescent moon that accompanies the mournful opening theme.

Later in the episode we learn that underneath the coin-flipper’s Ottoman fez is the black skullcap of a Catholic priest, for he is a Vatican emissary working for none other than Theodor Herzl, the Jewish Austrian journalist who founded modern Zionism. Herzl, his beguiling assistant Sarah, and their various co-conspirators are forever haunting Istanbul, meeting with wayward members of the sultan’s family who are themselves intoxicated by deviant, imported ideas such as popular sovereignty. Herzl is the series’ arch-villain, so perfidious as to hold his penniless father imprisoned without his mother’s knowledge — all because the old man opposes Zionism. . . .

As with much of The Last Emperor, most of [what involves Jews is inaccurate]. . . . . [But] this revisionism would be less egregious if the show portrayed itself—accurately—as historical fiction. Instead, a split-second screen at the start of each episode declares that the program is “inspired by real historical events.” . . . President Erdogan [praised the show himself], telling state TV, “The same schemes are carried out today in the exact same manner. . . . What the West does to us is the same; just the era and actors are different.”

Read more at Washington Post

More about: Anti-Semitism, Arts & Culture, Ottoman Empire, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Television, Turkey

Israel’s Success Has Surprised Everyone

April 20 2018

On the eve of Israel’s decision to declare statehood, 70 years ago, the CIA estimated that a Jewish state couldn’t hold off its Arab enemies for more than two years, while the famed Haganah commander Yigael Yadin told David Ben-Gurion that their chances of victory were fifty-fifty. Daniel Gordis describes just how wildly the country has managed to outpace expectations:

In 1948, there were some 650,000 Jews in Israel, who represented about 5 percent of the world’s Jews. Today, Israel’s Jewish population has grown ten-fold and stands at about 6.8 million people. Some 43 percent of the world’s Jews live in Israel; this population overtook American Jews several years ago and is now the world’s largest Jewish community. . . .

Beyond mere survival, the other challenge that the young Jewish state faced was feeding and housing the hundreds of thousands of Jews who were flocking to its borders. At times, financial collapse seemed imminent. Food was rationed and black markets developed. Israel had virtually no heavy machinery for building the infrastructure that it desperately needed. Until Germany paid Holocaust reparations, the young state’s financial condition was perilous.

Today, that worry also feels like a relic from another time. Israel is not only a significant military power, but also a formidable economic machine. A worldwide center for technology that has more companies listed on the Nasdaq than any country other than the U.S., Israel’s economy barely hiccupped in 2008. The shekel, its currency, is strong. Like other countries, Israel has a worrisome income gap between rich and poor, but fears of an economic collapse have vanished.

Israel has become an important cultural center, vastly disproportionately for a country whose population approximates that of New York City. When the five finalists for the Man Booker literary prize were announced last year, two were Israelis who write in Hebrew: David Grossman and Amos Oz. Grossman won. . . . Today, Americans and Europeans alike wait hungrily for new episodes of Israeli shows like Fauda, while others (like Homeland and The A-Word) have been remade into American and British series.

On the occasion of Independence Day, Israelis are fully conscious—and deeply proud—of the fact that their country has exceeded the ambitions of the men and women who founded it seven decades ago.

Read more at Bloomberg

More about: David Ben-Gurion, Israel & Zionism, Israeli economy, Israeli Independence Day, Israeli literature, Israeli society