Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Erdogan's Gritted-Teeth Peace with Israel - Burak Bekdil




by Burak Bekdil

Equates IDF with Hitler

  • In Istanbul, where a majority of Turkey's 17,000 Jews live, unknown people recently started hanging posters in a posh district. The posters call on Muslims "not to be fooled by the missionary activities of Jew-servant Jehovah's Witnesses." They say: "These people are trying to destroy the religion of Islam." Signed: Sons of Ottomans.
  • Erdogan's ideological hostility to the Jewish state and his ideological love affair with Hamas have not disappeared.
  • Erdogan thinks that Israel's military action in response to Hamas's rockets indiscriminately targeting Israeli citizens is no different than the murder of six million Jews by a lunatic. "There is no point in comparing and asking who is more barbaric," Erdogan concluded. In other words, Erdogan thinks that Hitler and the Israel Defense Forces are "equally barbaric."
  • Yes, blessed are the peacemakers. Nevertheless, the Turkish-Israeli "peace" may not be easy to sustain.
Modern Turkey has never been so disconnected from its Western allies. Its Islamist president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, recently accused the West of helping the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). His evidence? Because, he said, ISIS is fighting with Western weapons -- overlooking, of course, that they were probably captured or stolen.

This dislike and hostility is not unrequited. On November 24, the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly for a motion calling to suspend Turkey's membership talks with the European Union (EU), citing "disproportionate, repressive measures" taken by Erdogan's government. The motion, although non-binding, passed 479 to 37 in favor. In retaliation, Erdogan threatened that "if the EU goes further," Turkey will open its border gates and let refugees stream toward Europe.

The Turks, too, are distancing themselves from the idea of EU membership. According to a survey by the pollsters ANDY-AR, 75.3% of Turks believe that their country is drifting away from accession, while only 19.9% believe it is not. Forty-four percent think freezing membership talks would be a positive development.

Confirming the growing anti-Western mood, Erdogan's spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, wrote in a newspaper column: "With its internal problems, micro-nationalisms and the Brexit process, Europe is narrowing down its strategic outlook and losing its relevance."

Against this backdrop, Turkey is normalizing its relations with Israel -- in theory, at least. Ankara and Jerusalem agreed to appoint ambassadors to each other's country after an absence of more than six years. Two prominent career diplomats, Kemal Okem and Eitan Na'eh, will struggle to improve ties in Tel Aviv and Ankara, respectively. They will have a hard job. The diplomats may be willing, but with Erdogan's persistent Islamist ideological pursuits, they would seem to have only a slim chance of succeeding.

Turkey's dwindling Jewish community is uneasy over increasing signs of anti-Semitism in an increasingly Islamized country. In Istanbul, where a majority of Turkey's 17,000 Jews live, unknown people recently started hanging posters in a posh district. The posters call on Muslims "not to be fooled by the missionary activities of Jew-servant Jehovah's Witnesses." They say: "These people are trying to destroy the religion of Islam." Signed: Sons of Ottomans.

Feeling unsafe, more than 2,500 Turkish Jews have recently applied for Spanish citizenship, and hundreds applied for Portuguese citizenship. Only last year, 250 Turkish Jews emigrated to Israel. That being the case, Islamist Turks are warning their fellow Muslims against missionary activities of Jehovah's Witnesses who are, according to them, "servants of Jews."

This is not surprising. Erdogan has pragmatically agreed to shake hands with Israel, but his ideological hostility to the Jewish state and his ideological love affair with Hamas have not disappeared.


The ups and downs of Turkey's relations with Israel. Left: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (then Prime Minister) shakes hands with then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, on May 1, 2005. Right: Erdogan shakes hands with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh on January 3, 2012.

Only a week after Turkey and Israel officially resumed full diplomatic relations, in an interview with Israel's Channel 2 television, Erdogan refused to back down from his earlier comments equating Israel's military action in Gaza in 2014 to Hitler's atrocities.

Erdogan said: "I don't agree with what Hitler did and I don't agree with what Israel did in Gaza." Erdogan thinks that Israel's military action in response to Hamas's rockets indiscriminately targeting Israeli citizens is no different than the murder of six million Jews by a lunatic. "There is no point in comparing and asking who is more barbaric," Erdogan concluded. In other words, Erdogan thinks that Hitler and the Israel Defense Forces are "equally barbaric."

What else? Erdogan said that he is in constant contact with Hamas officials and that he does not believe Hamas is a terrorist organization. What, then is Hamas? According to Erdogan, Hamas is a "political movement born from the national resurrection."

During the interview, Erdogan was asked if he was aware of the shock his reference to Hitler caused among Jews. He replied: "I'm very well aware ... But is the Jewish community aware of what is done (in Gaza)?"

Much of Erdogan's hostile sentiment over Israel is religious. So is his admiration of Hamas. There is a point of irony, too, in this equation. The total amount of humanitarian aid Turkey has ever sent to Gaza is worth about half of the value of goods, measured at about 400 trucks, that Israel sends to Gaza each and every day.

In other remarks, Erdogan accused Israel of restricting Muslim worship. He called on all Muslims to embrace the "Palestinian cause and protect Jerusalem" -- which he seems to think is a Muslim city.


Yes, blessed are the peacemakers. Nevertheless, the Turkish-Israeli "peace" will not be easy to sustain.
Burak Bekdil, based in Ankara, is a Turkish columnist for the Hürriyet Daily and a Fellow at the Middle East Forum.
Source: https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/9484/erdogan-turkey-israel

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