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

Is the Attempt on Salman Rushdie’s Life Part of a Broader Iranian Strategy?

Aug. 18 2022

While there is not yet any definitive evidence that Hadi Matar, the man who repeatedly stabbed the novelist Salman Rushdie at a public talk last week, was acting on direct orders from Iranian authorities, he has made clear that he was inspired by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s call for Rushdie’s murder, and his social-media accounts express admiration for the Islamic Republic. The attack also follows on the heels of other Iranian attempts on the lives of Americans, including the dissident activist Masih Alinejad, the former national security advisor John Bolton, and the former secretary of state Mike Pompeo. Kylie Moore-Gilbert, who was held hostage by the mullahs for over two years, sees a deliberate effort at play:

It is no coincidence this flurry of Iranian activity comes at a crucial moment for the hitherto-moribund [nuclear] negotiations. Iranian hardliners have long opposed reviving the 2015 deal, and the Iranians have made a series of unrealistic and seemingly ever-shifting demands which has led many to conclude that they are not negotiating in good faith. Among these is requiring the U.S. to delist the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in its entirety from the State Department’s list of terror organizations.

The Biden administration and its European partners’ willingness to make concessions are viewed in Tehran as signals of weakness. The lack of a firm response in the shocking attack on Salman Rushdie will similarly indicate to Tehran that there is little to be lost and much to be gained in pursuing dissidents like Alinejad or so-called blasphemers like Sir Salman on U.S. soil.

If we don’t stand up for our values when under attack we can hardly blame our adversaries for assuming that we have none. Likewise, if we don’t erect and maintain firm red lines in negotiations our adversaries will perhaps also assume that we have none.

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Read more at iNews

More about: Iran, Terrorism, U.S. Foreign policy