The rhetoric of Turkey’s leadership has gone much farther than the discomfort the Mavi Marmara incident would suggest. Turkey on one hand, declares that it is working for a world, or at least a region, that is without confrontations (the zero-conflict theory), but on the other hand it quarrels crudely and unwisely with one of the critical players in the conflict—Israel. Even Assad has called upon the Turks to become more moderate. Ankara has for now stabilized its relations with Israel in a state of crisis at varying levels and it is the one that determines the intensity as such, the relationship between the countries has become asymmetrical and unstable.
The Mavi Marmara arrived at the Istanbul port on the 26th December 2010. “We saw the tens of thousands who came to applaud it. We did not see the tens of thousands who did not come. Last week I visited Istanbul. In the religious Fatih neighborhood, I heard harsh statements against Israel, but in the western area where Taksim Square is located, I heard just the opposite. It is easy to know from which area yesterday’s demonstrators came to the port”.
Turkey is currently searching for a direction. Erdogan will apparently continue this summer to a third term, not because the Fatih neighborhood is stronger than Taksim Square, but simply because he has no opposition. Turkey is not Iran, and Erdogan, even if he has crossed the line, is not an ayatollah. We can hope for a future improvement in the relations, if not with Erdogan then at least with his successor.
How do I view this?
Israel is perceived in the West as either arrogant bully pushed aside by newly assertive Turkey or the first victim of its transformation from soul-less and secular to fundamentalist. Turkey was once a state loyal to NATO. It was once a close friend and ally of Israel. But Turkeys’ secular Islamic line was always predicated on the material advantage that accrued to it while Turkey integrated into the West. Up to eight million of its citizens live in North America and Europe. Turkey in its turn has received tens (if not hundreds) of billions of dollars of cash transfers into its economy.
It’s almost decade long re-integration into the Islamic fold is not unique in its methodology. Nations with large Muslim minorities fear for their internal stability and almost universally appease them. Flirting with radical forces and demonizing Israel is hardly new! South America has persecuted its own people for as long as the Arab world has maltreated its people. Discriminating against Jews is not always as personal as it may seem to us but the Islamic cultural world-view is discriminatory in its essence and therefore misunderstood in the West.
The Justice and Development Party (AKP) has ruled Turkey since 2002. Islamic solidarity reignites Ottoman aspirations of conquest, colonies and the capitulation of its rivals in the region. Turkish Foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu is motivated by Islam; as such he has no ethical dilemma when faced with Islamic regimes that we find wholly unpalatable. His policy and doctrine is to see no evil and speak no evil – unless it is against the infidel in which case, like his Prime Minister, Mr. Erdogan his emotional pain for the outrage of his failure to demonstrate his natural superiority can and does know no bounds and it is this characteristic that we must beware.
Erdogan has said that “It is not possible for those who belong to the Muslim faith to carry out genocide” and of course the murder of up to three million Christians in Sudan in the 1970’s and the murder of three to four hundred thousand black, non-Arab Muslims in the first decade of the 21st century is a minor detail to be excused. That is Islamic solidarity.
The extermination of the Kurds and persecution of Christians and Jews in Turkey is similarly ignored, just as the reporting by Germany of Turkish use of chemical weapons against the Kurds in 2010 elicited no response from the Western Left wing liberal elite. The ends do justify the means in Islam. It is central to Islamic society even when it is against ones own people.
Any Turkish gestures towards the Israeli people will be based solely on the potential cost it fears it may pay, unless that is, it can convince the West to ditch Israel. No evidence exists to a contrary strategic policy.