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Sunday, January 9, 2011

Anti-Semitism, Israel and Self-Interest

In “Occidentalism” (Ian Buruma & Avishai Margalit) the authors describe Jabilyya as barbarism (P105), the conventional meaning being idolatry or religious ignorance.  They proceed to link this with “Jahili,” the distinction between ‘us and them’, those ‘not quite human’ (those who have not known Islam, or worse, rejected it).  It is the Islamic justification for every unimaginable evil; it is a demonstration of the consequence of Dhimmitude.  Religious Occidentalism becomes not just a fight between good and evil but between the beast and salvation.

Nations survive because they look at the world, both internally and externally through a prism wholly based on self interest. 

If you want to see where Israel’s self interest lies walk into any bookshop in Ankara or Istanbul and you will have no difficulty finding a veritable cornucopia of anti Jewish literature. It has always been thus.  We have eyes but do not see. Out of misguided self interest, we have mouths but do not speak.  I have discussed this outrage with Secular Turks.  The hate filled literature that adorns almost every book shop and library is justified by the secular as a means to “keeping an open mind”.  They see no issue with anti-Semitic literature but of course would find it intolerable if the reverse were to occur.  If anti-Islamic literature were to become central to Western popular culture and education how comfortable would our Muslim brothers and sisters feel then?  Tolerance is neither conditional nor selective except, it appears, when we attempt to criticize an Islamic nation.  And what is the excuse my Turkish friends provide, without displaying a hint of embarrassment around their ugly racism, and with flirting or even embracing religiously bigotry? It is that it connects them to what people are thinking, irrespective of whether or not there is any truth to what they read.  But there is a reality in the adage that you repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth.  Of course radical bigotry is uni-directional. So it is safe.

An intellectual and theological Berlin Wall divides Turkey from Europe. Go into any Turkish book store and racist tomes, religious incitement and narratives that encourage hatred towards minorities are a mainstay of Turkish and Muslim enlightenment.  Peace does not come at the tip of a pen when from that pen hate and discrimination erupts like a fountain of blood, staining everything it touches. Peace cannot be celebrated when violence and militancy is proudly acknowledged as central to a Turkish (or Muslim) identity.

Self interest should be based on long term considerations or it is superficial and will ultimately fail.  If Turkey is entitled to its anti-Semitic heritage and its anti-Semitic (and profitable) hate industry then Israel is entitled to question to where this all leads; and as a test should recognize, in the Knesset, the Armenian Genocide and fight for recognition for Kurdish independence at the UN and in every international forum. As so many so called left wing friends of Israel have pointed out, confronting the past is the only way to a healthy future.

A quote from Ha’aretz’s Zvi Bar’el (on 18th October 2009) asks, “How do Turkey and Israel measure each other’s love? Love and betrayal have replaced the correct terminology of interests and strategic partnerships.”

Turkey would like to reassert its old colonial ambitions by participating in regional diplomacy. But it is two states; the first political and the second, military. And these are traditionally the twin sisters of Islamic expansionism of which experience and history demonstrate a severely restricted and circumscribed tolerance of other faiths or other ethnic identities.  By politically aligning itself with Israel’s enemies and attacking it at every opportunity it makes friends with countries such as Syria, Iran and Lebanon.   Militarily, like Egypt, it will maintain frosty ties with Israel as long as arms and superior weapons systems continue to flow to it.  But the hatred that Islam inspires must inevitably lead to a rupture between the State that is motivated by Islam and any Jewish or Christian state.  Hatred is incompatible with peace.

Turkey views Israel as facilitating admittance to a Western club with which it is itself increasingly uncomfortable.  It will not prevent Turkey from pursuing an independent, increasingly anti-Jewish, anti-Christian and ultimately anti-Western agenda if it is within its national or Islamic interest to do so. Its international pretensions may take a reformist Western agenda; a puritanical Islamic or even an eclectic eastern totalitarian agenda but whatever path is envisioned, Israel will continue to occupy both a peripheral and incidental place, for as long as it suits Turkey to do so.   For Turkey to gain prominence in the region it must isolate its rivals and that means partially or totally emasculating them.  Israel is, for Turkey, a foil to occasional Arab and Persian resurgent hegemonic regional pretensions and it will periodically reprise its imperial ambitions just as Iraq, Syria, Iran, and Egypt, have done.

Israel should initiate an independent foreign policy that rewards virtuous behavior towards the Jewish State as a continuous and long term measure of intentions.  Turkey, by dictating the measure of what constitutes reasonable discussion dictates the limits and the standards of that discussion and thus denies Israel recognition of its inalienable right to sovereignty. 

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