The Turkish Government’s Journey Down The Rabbit Hole

July 18, 2014 § 9 Comments

If Prime Minister Erdoğan is to be taken at his word, we can officially declare Israeli-Turkish rapprochement dead. Speaking this morning, Erdoğan announced that under no circumstances will Turkey’s relationship with Israel improve as long as he is in power – which after the presidential elections next month, will be for a long time – and that the West can protest all it likes to no avail. Erdoğan also accused Israel of committing genocide and of knowing best how to kill children, which was a repeat performance from yesterday when he alleged that Israel has been committing systematic genocide against Palestinians during every Ramadan since 1948. This comes after more delightful outbursts earlier this week, during which Erdoğan claimed that there have been no rockets fired into Israel since there have been no Israeli deaths and compared Israeli MK Ayelet Shaked to Hitler, among other things.

Never one to be left out of the action, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu accused Israel of crimes against humanity and revealed that he has never taken Israel Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman seriously (although to be fair, that last point bolsters the case for Davutoğlu’s good sense). Ankara’s mayor Melih Gökçek, fresh off the heels of tweeting out pro-Hitler sentiments, urged his government yesterday to shut down the Israeli embassy in Ankara, referring to it as “the despicable murderers’ consulate” and stating that “they are 100 times more murderous than Hitler.” Not to be outdone, Bülent Yıldırım, the odious head of the “humanitarian relief NGO” IHH – the same NGO that organized the Mavi Marmara flotilla – warned Jewish tourists (yes, he said Jewish rather than Israeli, and yes, that was deliberate on his part) not to show their faces in Turkey and threatened Turkish Jews that they would pay dearly for Israel’s actions in Gaza.

While Yıldırım may have come to the conclusion of collective Jewish guilt on his own, he also could have been influenced by Yeni Akit reporter Faruk Köse. Köse wrote an open letter in his newspaper on Tuesday to the chief rabbi of Turkey in which the phrase “Siyonist/Yahudi Terör Üssü” – which translates to Zionist/Jewish terror base and is his oh-so-clever term for Israel – appeared seven times while he demanded that the rabbi and his flock apologize for Gaza because Turkey’s Jews have lived among Turks for 500 years and gotten rich off them and now support the terrorist Israeli state. Or perhaps Yıldırım is a dedicated reader of Daily Sabah, the English language AKP propaganda organ where Melih Altınok argued yesterday that not only Turkish Jews but Jews everywhere need to, in his words, “make a historic gesture” and denounce Israel publicly. According to his logic, Israel’s actions are solely responsible for increasing anti-Semitism in the world, and “hence, nationalist Jews as well as the humanist and anti-war Jews have to calculate the situation” and do what is necessary in order to stem the inevitable backlash against them. Lovely, no?

What a surprise and shock it must have been then when last night, mobs that included MPs from the AKP attacked the Israeli embassy in Ankara and consulate in Istanbul, leading Israel to reduce its diplomatic staff in the country and to send the families of diplomatic staff home. The police in Ankara, who are never hesitant to break out the tear gas, truncheons, and water cannons against Turkish civilians protesting things like government corruption, were mysteriously somehow powerless this time as they stood on the sidelines and watched. Of course, there can’t possibly be a connection between the rhetoric of high government officials lambasting Israel as a genocidal terror state and mobs attacking Israel’s diplomatic missions and chanting for murder, right? This is clearly all a misunderstanding and emanates not from Erdoğan using ugly and hateful tactics to improve his political standing but completely and entirely from Israel’s actions. Now please excuse me while I go wash off the sarcasm dripping from my keyboard.

I understand why Turks are upset about the images and news reports coming out of Gaza. Just as Diaspora Jews feel a deep sense of kinship and brotherhood with their Jewish brethren in Israel, there is a genuine sense of pan-Muslim solidarity between Turks and Palestinians. While I believe that Israel tries in good faith to minimize civilian casualties, not only do mistakes happen but sometimes Israel makes intentional decisions – like every other country in the history of the world that has ever fought a war –  that it knows will lead to civilian deaths. I get the anger and frustration, and I see it personally from Turkish friends on my Facebook feed and my Twitter stream, who are furious with Israel not because they are Jew-hating anti-Semites but because they deplore the mounting civilian death toll in Gaza, which they see as disproportionate and excessive. And it isn’t just the AKP; anger at Israel is widespread among all segments of the population, as evidenced by the multiple leftist Gaza solidarity rallies taking place in Turkey today and by joint CHP/MHP presidential candidate Ekmeleddin Ihsanoğlu bashing Israel’s actions in Gaza and the CHP generally trying to score points over the last few days by absurdly trying to paint the AKP as in bed with Israel and complicit with its actions. Israel isn’t exactly popular in Turkey, to make the understatement of the decade, and to expect Turkish politicians to hold their tongues completely or to support Israel’s actions in Gaza is unreasonably naive.

But there is a world of difference between criticizing Israel out of a deeply held difference of opinion versus comparing Israelis to Hitler, equating Israel with Nazi Germany, throwing around the term genocide, openly advocating violence against Israeli nationals and property, and threatening Jews over Israel’s behavior. It is completely beyond the pale, and anyone who cares a lick about liberal values should be denouncing it loud and clear without qualification. Erdoğan is appealing to the darkest forces imaginable in order to win a presidential election and bolster his laughably pathetic standing in the Arab world, and let’s not forget that he said straight out today that he will never normalize or even improve relations with Israel while he is in office. He has dropped the charade that this has anything to do with the Mavi Marmara or even a set of fulfillable demands that Israel is not meeting, so let’s all remember that the next time someone blames Israel for the impasse in the bilateral relationship. Erdoğan is anti-Israel because he does not like Israel, full stop. If Israel withdrew its forces from Gaza, stopped responding to Hamas rockets with missiles, ended the blockade, and awarded Khaled Meshaal the Israel Prize, Erdoğan and Davutoğlu would just find some other reason not to normalize relations. Yes, the situation in Gaza undoubtedly plays a big role in all of this – just look at Israeli-Turkish relations under the Erdoğan government between 2002 and 2008, which were cordial and cooperative – but it’s about more than that at this point. Erdoğan and the AKP have gone too far down the garden path of anti-Israel rhetoric at this point to ever turn back.

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§ 9 Responses to The Turkish Government’s Journey Down The Rabbit Hole

  • Denise says:

    Another great article. As a non-muslim Turkish citizen who is fortunate enough to move out of Turkey some years ago, it is making me very happy to see that at least some people outside of Turkey knows about how ridiculous the actions of that government. Because inside of Turkey, almost all media coverage is racing to put erdogan and his crew to pedestal. There are two, maybe three opposition media organs, and even they have to speak very pastel-colored, in order to avoid the wrath of government. Since they came to power, they limited social choices and personal freedoms greatly, destroyed relationships with pretty much any non-muslim country, and step by step they are turning turkey into an arabic country. I remember when I was a child, which is like 15-17 years ago, we had sex-ed class in 7th grade. Now you can’t even talk about having that kind of thing. In our schools we were able to wear school uniforms with skirt & shirts that actually fit to our bodies, now it is forbidden and girls has to wear long skirts and baggier clothes. Not to mention the amount of “religion lessons” they added to curriculum starting from earliest grades. And these are not even the tip of the iceberg, as I am sure you very well know. I can’t possibly write for pages and pages the things they forced on people. Unfortunately for Turkey, majority of people are very happy with these “reforms”. And there are very small amount of people like me, who actually loved her country once, who was raised with Euro-centric values, and now hopelessly getting heartbroken of all these stuff. I stopped following turkish news months ago, I am only getting e-mail notifications from your blog, which is the only dose of “reality in turkey” I can handle anymore.

    • pfunk725 says:

      “Unfortunately for Turkey, majority of people are very happy with these “reforms”.”
      Why do you think this is?? It boggles my mind.

      • Denise says:

        Because majority wants to live as “devoted to islam” as possible. They think only “right way to live” is following islamic teachings. It is a very simple explanation. There is really no logical reason behind it, it is just how they are taught they should live.

  • Raja M. Ali Saleem says:

    I am sorry but I find this article partial. What has been said about Erdogan and his friends is true and I agree with all of it. But when we are criticizing someone for being unjust, I believe we should be extra careful not to be unjust ourselves. This article almost completely absolves Israel. To not talk about occupation and what Netanyahu has been doing and to believe Israel is doing all it can do to mitigate the situation is really astounding. Why does Israel not end occupation and thus not allow innocent civilians to get killed? Why it has to put millions in prison_like situation and then collectively punish them after every few years? Erdogan and others are using this situation but who has created this situation? Look around, Turks and Muslims all around the world are angry. Try to find one politician in the Muslim world, not just in Turkey, who can say something good about Israel. Erdogan may not like Israel but what Erdogan has been able to say has as much to do with Israel as with Erdogan. So, bad or absence of relations of Israel with the Muslim world and Turkey has everything to do with Israel’ occupation and sub_human treatment of Palestinians. Erdogan’s bias has little power in itself. Erdogan could not succeed if Israel didn’t keep killing Palestinians. Yes, what Erdogan is doing is deplorable but compare it to what Israel is doing for the last forty years. I hope I soon see an article on Netanyahu and what he is doing to his country. Please don’t wash the sarcasm dripping from your keyboard yet. Use it to show how Netanyahu and his friends are taking their country to hell.

  • Uncle Spike says:

    Interesting and informative as always.

    Just wondered if you planning a write up on the presidential candidates, perhaps a comparison of RTE, Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu and Selahattin Demirtaş?

  • […] Ottomans and Zionists blog judges Israeli-Turkish rapprochement dead, and reports on why a Gaza ceasefire is so difficult: no good brokers for a truce, fractured Hamas […]

  • […] This article was originally posted in Ottomans and Zionists. […]

  • Hooey says:

    @ Denise— Your comment was a pleasure to read. Honest, well written, and entirely from the heart.

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