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May 1, 2016 / 23 Nisan, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Cyprus’

Before The Deluge: Jews Of The Mediterranean Islands (Part I)

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

The stories in this column are translations by Mr. Nollet from Die Juden In Der Welt (The Jews in the World) by Mark Wischnitzer, a long out-of-print book published more than seven decades ago in Germany. The book examines Jewish communities, one country at a time, as they existed in 1935 – a time before the Nazis began their extermination campaign against the Jews and before there was a state of Israel.

 

Jews Of The Mediterranean Islands

Cyprus (continued from last month)

Cyprus is about half the size of today’s Palestine and is mainly mountainous. A smaller chain of mountains stretches along the north coast; the main mountain range in the southwest of the island reaches to more than 2,000 meters above sea level and is covered with various species of pine trees. Between these two mountain ranges lies a high plateau with only minor changes in elevation, and makes up about a third of the island’s total surface.

There is a lot of wine produced, and various kinds of fruits, such as red currants, and olives. On the plateau grows wheat, barley, hops, wine, oranges, pomegranates, flax, cotton, and vegetables, particularly potatoes and onions.

Animal husbandry is practiced, with cattle, sheep, and donkeys exported to Palestine and Egypt.

Cyprus has a population of about 350,000, four-fifths of which is Greek and the other fifth Turkish. The native language is Greek but the language of government is English. The conditions of health are generally good, though there are spots of malaria.  The big harbors are Famagusta, Larnaca, and Limassol. The capital of Nicosia (25,000 inhabitants) lies not far from Larnaca.

Some 200,000 people feed themselves from agriculture, and there are mining activities in the southwest mountains. The wooded highlands are sought out for recreation purposes in the summer by people from Palestine, Syria, and Egypt. Over a third of the people live in cities, mainly as merchants. Attempts have been made to launch tanning and silk industries.

Rhodes

Rhodes is in the Aegean Sea, currently under Italian control. [Translator’s note: Rhodes was awarded to Greece after WWII and today remains Greek, though it lies within eyeshot of the Turkish mainland.] As early as the second century BCE it counted Jewish inhabitants. There was a count in the year 1170 of around 500 souls. A hundred years later, Jews from Tarragona in Spain fleeing persecution found refuge in Saracen-controlled Rhodes.

In 1309, knights of the Christian order of St. John Hospitallers conquered Rhodes, but before this time the presence of the “Evriaka Street” in the village of Mallona, not far from the main city of Rhodes, proves the existence of an already-established Jewish settlement.

The Jews from Spain brought with them the knowledge of cloth manufacturing. Tanning of animal hides was also a Jewish specialty.

Obadja Bertinoro, after his journey of 1488 to Jerusalem, visited Rhodes, and made the following observations: “After vigorous fighting between the Turks and the knights of the Hospice of St. John’s, the number of Jews left remaining on Rhodes was not large.  There were about 22 families, all poor. They feed themselves carefully with vegetables, and never consume bread or meat which they have not themselves slaughtered, and never buy any wine, for fear of having unpleasantries with the Greeks.

“When they visit the market to go shopping, they touch nothing which belongs to the Greeks, and observe prohibitions against wine just as they do prohibitions against swine.  They are well educated and trained, speak a clean language, are moral and ethical, and hospitable. Even the tanners are always cleanly dressed and speak soberly. [The women] all let their hair grow long, and are comely of form. They do all kinds of artwork for the lords of the land, and this is how they feed their menfolk.”

Ezra James Nollet

The Illegal Occupation That Must End

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

Famagusta, Cyprus: The ghost town lies near the very center of the city, just outside the Venetian walls. It is home only to snakes, scorpions, and rats of a hundred varieties. Signs on the fences around the ghost town show armed Turkish soldiers threatening those taking photographs with arrest or worse. The crumbling buildings inside the perimeter are frozen in time in 1974, as if in an episode of “The Twilight Zone.”
 
Nothing has changed since central Famagusta was converted into a ghost town – called Varosha – by the invaders. It is said that the car distributorships in the ghost town even today are stocked with vintage 1974 models. For years after the rape of Famagusta, people told of seeing light bulbs still burning in the windows of the abandoned buildings. Hollywood studios could clothe whole movie sets with the 1974 fashions still in the closets of the homes.
 
Three years after the invasion, the scene was described by Swedish journalist Jan-Olof Bengtsson: “The asphalt on the roads has cracked in the warm sun and along the sidewalks bushes are growing. Today – September 1977 – the breakfast tables are still set, the laundry still hanging and the lamps still burning. Varosha is a ghost town.”
 
The Turks currently at the forefront of the assault against Israel for its “illegal occupation” of its own Jewish homeland, and for supposedly mistreating Palestinians, are the very same people who continue the massive crime against humanity in the form of the Famagusta ghost town. Born in ethnic cleansing, it is the enduring testimony to the illegal land grab on Cyprus by Turkey, the mass expulsion of the ethnic Greek Cypriots from the northern 40 percent of the island, the theft of their property, and an unknown number of murders of Greek Cypriots by Turkey.
 
The illegal “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” is recognized by not a single country besides Turkey itself. Since its brutal invasion, Turkey has moved countless thousands of its citizens/troops onto northern Cyprus. This is the same Turkey that venomously denounces Israel when it builds “settlements” in the suburbs of Jerusalem for Jewish civilians on lands they have purchased legally.
 
Famagusta was first erected in the 13th century BCE. Phoenicians came and went, as did the Assyrians and Persians. Greek settlers came to dominate its population. Some Jews migrated in from their homeland, producing the wine used in the Jerusalem Temple described in the Talmud, and later learning to manufacture silk.
 
The Venetians gave the center of Famagusta its defining character, with its massive defensive bulwarks, gates and towers. Shakespeare’s mythical Othello served as ruler of Famagusta, and the largest Venetian fortress in the wall is obligingly called Othello’s Tower even today.
 
In 1571 the Ottoman Turks took control, relinquishing control to Great Britain in 1878. After an armed campaign by Cypriots, the Brits left in 1958 and Cyprus became a republic. Things were not well, however, in the inter-communal relations between Cypriot Greeks and Cypriot Turks. Atrocities were committed by both sides. After a particularly horrific set of attacks, and partly in response to attempts by some radical Greek nationalists on the island to seek amalgamation with Greece, the Turks invaded the island in the summer of 1974.
 
Within two days they had taken Famagusta. The Turkish air force bombed the helpless town. The entire Greek population, fearing massacres at the hands of the invaders, fled south. Meanwhile, Turkish tanks rolled onward until Turkey had conquered half the Cyprus capital of Nicosia. There it erected a wall running through the center of the city.
 
The wall of occupation does not attract “solidarity” protesters or leftist professors from the West. They are too busy denouncing and attacking Israel for building a security fence around Jerusalem, a fence to keep the Palestinian suicide bombers from murdering Jewish children. No Rachel Corries go to Nicosia to defy the Turkish occupation army. They know they would instantly be jailed in a typically barbaric Turkish prison.
 
Countless UN resolutions since 1974 have demanded that Turkey leave the island and restore stolen property to Greek Cypriots. The same Turkish government that regularly denounces Israel for daring to defend its civilians from Arab terrorists and for otherwise disregarding anti-Israel world opinion has never paid those UN resolutions any mind.
 
Turkey insists that Palestinians be granted statehood and “self-determination” while refusing to allow Turkish Kurds, Armenians, Assyrians, Greeks, Bulgarians, Azeris and others to exercise any of it, even in the form of limited language autonomy. While Arabs living in Israel enjoy levels of freedom a hundred times better than do Turks living in Turkey, the Turkish government continues to denounce Israel for its alleged suppression of Arab “human rights.” On the very day that Turkey recently murdered 120 Kurds, it denounced Israel for committing “war crimes.”
 
Respect for human rights in Turkey is notably absent. The Turkish military police routinely kill civilians. Journalists have been assassinated. Islamofascism is growing stronger and local Islamic fundamentalist terrorists filled the Gaza “peace flotilla” sponsored by Turkey. Those are the terrorists whose suppression by Israel has now become the focus of Turkey’s demand for an Israeli apology.
 
When Israel invaded Gaza to put a stop to massive rocket attacks against its civilians by Hamas terrorists, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan denounced Israel for “massacring innocent women and children.” He accused Israel of “mass murder” in Gaza, ranting at length about how Israel had turned the Gaza Strip into an “open-air prison.”
 

But, in fact, the largest ongoing “open air” human-rights violation and crime against humanity is on display for all to see behind the barbed wire and fences of the ghost town of Famagusta.

 

 

Steven Plaut is a professor at Haifa University. His book “The Scout” is available at Amazon.com. He can be contacted at steveneplaut@yahoo.com.

Steven Plaut

Talking Turkey

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

          Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had a temper tantrum at the Davos forum on world economics. He foamed at the mouth about Israel “massacring innocent women and children” in its recent military operations against the genocidal Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip. He walked out in demonstrative contempt when Israel’s president, Shimon Peres, arose to speak to the delegates. He repeatedly accused Israel of “mass murder” and ranted at lengthabout how Israel had turned Gaza into an “open-air prison.”

 

            What can be said in response to Erdogan? Plenty. For one thing, in Turkey, unlike in Israel, Islamists are routinely taken out back and shot. When Turkey invaded the Kurdish areas of northern Iraq, its soldiers mowed down any Kurds who got in their way – Kurds whose provocations never came anywhere near those of the Hamas savages who fired thousands of rockets into Israel from Gaza.
 
          If someone were to describe Israel in the following words, Erdogan would surely agree:
 
Its occupation is entirely illegal and is not recognized as legitimate by a single country on earth other than the occupying power. The occupier carried out acts of mass expulsion and ethnic cleansing when the illegal occupation was imposed on its victims. It transferred thousands of its own citizens illegally as settlers into the territories it continues to occupy. Its human rights record in the occupied territories has been atrocious. It continues to defy all world opinion while imposing military control and suppression on the hapless residents of the illegally occupied territories. Moreover, its human rights record at home is almost as atrocious. It is an apartheid regime in which minorities are discriminated against and openly harassed.
 
It is a militarist entity that came into existence through perpetration of a set of massive crimes against humanity, including ethnic cleansing and mass murder. There are serious doubts as to whether it even has any moral right to exist as an independent state. Certainly its capital, a city considered holy by many religions, may not rightfully even belong to it at all.
 
But of course the above two paragraphs refer not to Israel but to Turkey. Erdogan’s Turkey.
 
Turkey illegally invaded Cyprus, an independent state (now part of NATO and the EU), in 1974, and seized about a third of the island. It then expelled the entire Greek population from those occupied territories. Hundreds of thousands of innocent Greek Cypriots were made homeless refugees due to the military aggression of Turkey. Not a single country on earth recognizes the puppet “republic” Turkey still operates there. To maintain its hold on northern Cyprus, Turkey transferred many thousands of its own citizens to northern Cyprus as illegal settlers.
 
Northern Cyprus is not the only set of occupied territories seized and held by modern Turkey. In 1939, Turkey simply marched into the Alexandretta area of Syria, then a French protectorate, and annexed it. The ethnic Turks in the area were a minority of the population. The Turkish conquest was based on nothing more than Turkey’s desire to take charge of the excellent port facilities there.
 
Turkey is a semi-democracy in which the military exercises an enormous degree of political power. Respect for human rights in Turkey is notable for its absence. Kurdish, Armenian, and other ethnic minorities have been forcibly Turkified. Religious minorities are persecuted. Censorship is common. Kurdish areas have been subjected to martial rule.
 
Brutal force has been used against Kurdish separatists and other political groups. Indeed, the operations of the Turkish military against the Kurds make Israel’s recent incursion into Gaza look like a May Day picnic. Until 2003, it was forbidden to speak Kurdish on radio or television; the Kurdish alphabet still cannot be used.
 
But today’s abuses are nothing compared to the mass murders and ethnic cleansings that accompanied the birth of modern Turkey. As the Ottoman Empire collapsed during World War I, ethnic Turks led by Ataturk seized control of most of Anatolia. The infamous mass murders of ethnic Armenians accompanied the Turkish campaign for independence.
 
Somewhat less well known in the West is the fact that Turkey’s creation was also accompanied by the mass expulsion of almost the entire Greek population of Anatolia. The Greeks had been living in Anatolia for thousands of years before the first Turk even stepped foot in the place. Homer was an Anatolian.
 
Western Anatolia at the beginning of the twentieth century held large areas with Greek ethnic majorities. As the Ottoman Empire fell apart, the large Greek populations declared their own independence from Turkey and their union with Greece. The areas around Smyrna and parts of Thrace, with their large Greek population, were supposed to come under Greek sovereignty in the name of self-determination.
 
             Between 1919 and 1922, Greece and Turkey fought a bloody war for Western Anatolia. No one knows how many Greeks were butchered by the Turks during the war. But the Greeks lost, and virtually the entire Greek population, many hundreds of thousands of people, were expelled en masse by Turkey from their ancestral homelands. The number of Greeks expelled from Anatolia was almost four times higher than the number of Palestinians who fled the territory that became Israel in 1948.
 
Then there is Constantinople. Greek claims to Istanbul are many times more legitimate than are any Arab claims to Jerusalem. Constantinople was always a Greek city, conquered by the Turks only in 1453. Its Greek churches were turned into mosques, and some today are Turkish museums. Turkey has never offered to internationalize the city or turn half of it over to the disenfranchised Greeks.
 
Meanwhile, an entire section of Athens consists of Greek families expelled from Smyrna (Izmir). Other residents of Athens are ethnic Greeks expelled from illegally occupied northern Cyprus.
 

Given Turkey’s history, one might think a Turkish official would think long and hard before making allegations against a country with an infinitely better track record of democracy and respect for human rights.

 

Steven Plaut is a professor at Haifa University. His book “The Scout” is available at Amazon.com. He can be contacted at steveneplaut@yahoo.com.

Steven Plaut

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/talking-turkey/2009/02/04/

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