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Author(s): Benhabib, Seyla
Date: 2015
Abstract: This article is an autobiographical contribution recounting the entanglement of Turkish, Jewish and Armenian memories in contemporary Turkey. The ‘special friendship’ between Turkey and the Sephardic Jews, who were given refuge by the Ottoman Empire after escaping the Inquisition in Spain in 1492, has always been used as evidence of the generosity and toleration of Ottoman and subsequent Turkish rule. Recent historical research shows that these claims are both historically inaccurate and politically instrumental. Nevertheless, the Sephardic-Jewish sense of gratitude towards their Turkish protectors, as well as their continuing sense of vulnerability, is acute. Particularly in the year of the centenary of the Armenian Genocide (2015), the tangled memories of Jews, Turks and Armenians have been on display with official commemorations of the tragedy of the vessel Struma carrying Jewish refugees from Romania to Palestine (1942) and the battle over Gallipoli (1915). The Battle of Gallipoli is presented by the Turkish authorities as the beginning of the Turkish war of independence (1919–23) against imperial powers, thus emphasizing that the Armenian Genocide was part of a complex history, the purpose of which was to liberate Turkey from foreign domination. The article analyses the symbolic connections among these events and concludes by looking at the geopolitics of contemporary Turkish–Israeli relations and their impact on Armenian Genocide recognition attempts in the USA.