In recent decades moderate secularists governed Turkey. The nation that once called itself the Ottoman Empire and conquered much of the Middle East, has tried to convince the west that they were now a democratic, secular republic. Turkey is a member of NATO and has for some years now been seeking full membership in the European Union.
Obviously, previous Turkish governments believed that the future of their country would be shaped by political and economic ties to the western democracies of Europe and the Americas. That is, until recent years when the right-wing, Islamic Justice and Development Party was able to take control of Turkish Parliament and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, became Prime Minster.
Erdogan and his Party have made it clear that they are determined to firmly reestablish Turkey’s historical, tribal ties to the Muslim world in general and the Arab world in particular. A definitive way of affirming those relations has been to make a sacrificial-lamb out of Turkey longstanding friendship with Israel, which is after all, the most common enemy in the Arab world.
In May, 2010 Erdogan’s government not only approved, but encouraged the now infamous “Gaza Freedom Flotilla” which was intended to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza. Since the Hamas terrorist organization took control of the Gaza Strip, Israel has blocked all open trade between Gaza and the outside world to insure that no weapons or building materials that might be used for military purposes were being delivered.
Turkey and the “human rights” organizations who sponsored the Flotilla billed it as a humanitarian effort to bring basic necessities to the beleaguered Palestinians of Gaza. In point of fact, the people of Gaza have all the food they need and whatever economic hardship they are facing at the moment has more to do with the renegade terrorist organization they elected to be their government.
The Freedom Flotilla was nothing more than a propaganda ploy intended to embarrass Israel and provide the right-wing Islamic government in Ankara with a cheap, heroic act.
Unfortunately, Israel’s heavy handed efforts to block the Freedom Flotilla involved deploying massive military force for what could have been accomplished with a proverbial fly swatter. The violent confrontation that ensued left 9 Turkish citizens dead.
The United Nations investigated how Israel stopped the Flotilla and in their report, which was issued last week, concurred that Israel had the right to maintain and naval blockade of a hostile neighbor that is committed to its destruction. That said, the report also affirmed what much of the world already knew: the Flotilla could have been stopped without the significant loss of life.
Ankara rejected the UN report because it validated the Israeli blockade and demanded that Israel apologize for the 9 people killed. For its part, the right-wing Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu has expressed regret for the loss of life but feels that Israel was within their rights to stop the Flotilla which it saw as a hostile challenge to its sovereignty.
In recent days, Ankara has recalled its ambassador to Israel, sent the Israeli ambassador packing; canceled all trade between the two countries and put an end to all joint-military cooperation.
Trying to identify right and wrong in this squabble is like trying to figure out why a nice kid who just joined a violent neighborhood street gang is suddenly acting like a jackass and is dissing anyone and everyone who crosses his path.
If government in Ankara is so concerned with suffering humanity, they can put together emergency relief for the starving people of Somalia. If the Islamic right-wing government in Turkey is so concerned about human rights, they can bring an end to their own government’s sometimes violent oppression of their Kurdish minority.
Turkey’s very deliberate dissolution of ties with Israel has more to do with Ankara’s determined efforts to prove their Islamic-machismo. Does Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his government really believe that in order to earn respect and credibility in this world, they need to sign on to all the tribal idiosyncrasies of backward, third world Arab nations?
Surrendering your common sense and moral fortitude just to be accepted as a member of dysfunctional gang that tells you who to trust and who to hate, is a poor character reference for an individual or a nation. If Turkey’s government believes that it is more important for them to now side with groups like Hamas who promote Islamic theocracies and seek the destruction of Israel, Turkey’s own membership in NATO and political ties to the west should be subject to reconsideration as well.