This article explores the responses of Sephardi Jews to two moments of heightened tension and politicized violence in the Ottoman Empire during the late 19th century—the massacres of Armenians in Istanbul in 1896 and the Greco–Ottoman War of 1897. It argues that many of the strategies of representation that Jewish elites employed during these moments speak to their ability and willingness to work within a framework of Islamic Ottomanism. Recognizing this pattern complicates scholarly assumptions about the relationship of religious minorities to the deployment of state religion in general and about the responses of non-Muslims to the Hamidian regime's mobilization of Islam more specifically. Identifying the pattern is not to celebrate it, however. Sephardi Jews' relationship with Islamic Ottomanism was in many cases deeply ambivalent. Finding themselves torn between civic and Islamic forms of imperial identification during this period, Ottoman Jews soon learned that both positions could entail uncomfortable choices and disturbing consequences.
(Online publication April 16 2012)