Preserving Records of Ottoman Jewish Cemeteries, Thanks to Bernard Lewis

On July 1, an Israeli organization for the study of the bygone Jewish communities of the Ottoman empire announced the launch of a database of Turkish Jewish cemeteries. Michael Curtis writes:

A key figure in the development of this project was Bernard Lewis, the British-American scholar who died in 2018 aged one-hundred-and-one, who can be considered the most erudite and influential historian and analyst of Islam and the Middle East in modern times. . . . The idea of the database started in a conversation in the mid-1980s between Bernard Lewis and a Turkish friend, Nuri Arlasiz, a collector of Ottoman art who wanted to save the Jewish cemeteries of Istanbul from being plundered or destroyed by natural causes. . . . . Arlasiz asked Lewis for help to save them.

Lewis [supported] the idea but had a different point of view, proposing that the Jewish cemeteries should be documented since they would have little chance of surviving without a living Jewish community.

Lewis consulted with Professor Minna Rozan, then head of the Diaspora research center at Tel Aviv University, [who] went to Istanbul in 1987 to examine whether Lewis’s idea was feasible. [Then] Rozan, taking a sabbatical from her position at Tel Aviv University, spent two years . . . documenting the Jewish cemeteries in Turkey with a research team who sorted through over 100,000 photos of 61,022 tombstones to establish the database. Emphasis was put on the most ancient tombstones and those threatened by neglect or urban expansion. Some cemeteries have been destroyed, wholly or partially, by construction of the ring road around Istanbul.

The research covers 28 different cemeteries, including Karaite and Italian ones in Istanbul, as well as those from communities in Western and Eastern Anatolia which ceased to exist after 20th century wars and immigration.

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Read more at New English Review

More about: Bernard Lewis, Jewish cemeteries, Ottoman Empire, Turkish Jewry

 

How European Fecklessness Encourages the Islamic Republic’s Assassination Campaign

In September, Cypriot police narrowly foiled a plot by an Iranian agent to murder five Jewish businessman. This was but one of roughly a dozen similar operations that Tehran has conducted in Europe since 2015—on both Israeli or Jewish and American targets—which have left three dead. Matthew Karnitschnig traces the use of assassination as a strategic tool to the very beginning of the Islamic Republic, and explains its appeal:

In the West, assassination remains a last resort (think Osama bin Laden); in authoritarian states, it’s the first (who can forget the 2017 assassination by nerve agent of Kim Jong-nam, the playboy half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, upon his arrival in Kuala Lumpur?). For rogue states, even if the murder plots are thwarted, the regimes still win by instilling fear in their enemies’ hearts and minds. That helps explain the recent frequency. Over the course of a few months last year, Iran undertook a flurry of attacks from Latin America to Africa.

Whether such operations succeed or not, the countries behind them can be sure of one thing: they won’t be made to pay for trying. Over the years, the Russian and Iranian regimes have eliminated countless dissidents, traitors, and assorted other enemies (real and perceived) on the streets of Paris, Berlin, and even Washington, often in broad daylight. Others have been quietly abducted and sent home, where they faced sham trials and were then hanged for treason.

While there’s no shortage of criticism in the West in the wake of these crimes, there are rarely real consequences. That’s especially true in Europe, where leaders have looked the other way in the face of a variety of abuses in the hopes of reviving a deal to rein in Tehran’s nuclear-weapons program and renewing business ties.

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Read more at Politico

More about: Europe, Iran, Israeli Security, Terrorism