Haber Vakti, a Turkish website known for its pro-government stance, has launched a targeted campaign against Mendy Chitrik, the rabbi to Turkey’s Ashkenazi community.
The campaign began after the unexplained cancellation of a seminar titled “Judaism and Jews”, which had been intended to feature theologian Nuh Arslantaş and Rabbi Mendy Chitrik as speakers at the Taksim Mosque Cultural Centre, who had organised the seminar.
The website accused Chitrik of being the “illegal representative in Turkey” of the Orthodox Jewish Chabad movement, which it described as “the world’s most dangerous mafia structure”. These unfounded allegations have stirred up antisemitic feeling in the country. Chabad is a global Hasidic movement which has a network of institutions providing outreach to unaffiliated Jews, humanitarian aid, and religious, cultural and educational activities.
In a series of articles, Haber Vakti falsely claimed that Chitrik had stolen historical parchments from a synagogue in Antakya affected by the earthquake of 6 February this year. In reality, these parchments were taken for their protection by the Israeli first aid organisation ZAKA, and later returned by Chitrik. The parchments hold only religious significance and are not of material or historical value, contrary to the claims of the website.
The website also criticised Chitrik and questioned whether he could be considered a religious leader because of a fancy dress costume he wore at the Jewish celebration of Purim, using derogatory language that revealed its complete lack of understanding of Jewish culture.
Haber Vakti also published an interview with Abdurrahman Dilipak, a Turkish pro-government journalist, who praised the cancellation of the seminar, propounding various conspiracy theories and spreading prejudice. He even questioned Rabbi Chitrik’s Jewishness and used clichés to cast further aspersions against various communities including Armenians, Kurds, Jews and the LGBTI+ population.