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Sunday, January 9, 2011

Turkey - one view of history

Europe had de-facto control over the Islamic world from the 19th century onwards.  Europe arguably created all of the modern states of the Arab world.  Perhaps we should ask what would have happened if the European nations had created Israel when they created the Arab nations or, what would have happened if the Arab nations had remained colonies while Israel did not?  Why is there selectivity in condemning Israel for its “creation in modern times” when the Islamic world was corrupt, feudal and racist, long before Israel’s creation made it a convenient excuse for Arab nations’ incompetent administration and Islamic bigotry?  Why this European and Western intellectual selectivity?

The State of Israel may indeed have created a focus for Islamic nationalists but Islamic colonial aspirations have been murderously successful since their Koranic inception in the 7th Century CE.  A dubious reputation for bloodthirsty and thuggish brutality is not undeserved but perhaps because of Christianities similarly terrifying religious history of bloody persecution we now display a breathtaking tolerance for the resurgence of this primitive Islamic Crusader movement.  How else to explain the difference in treatment afforded Israel and Turkey or Israel and any other Muslim nation?

Why is Zionism almost universally reviled while Islamism and its associated bigotry and violence erupts like a cancerous boil in a thousand localities around the world to threaten peace in every corner of the planet but without a single UN resolution or word of anger from the Global political order?

After Mohammed’s army conquered the Land of Israel missionary activity became the provenance of Islam and persecution an inevitable consequence of the failure to acknowledge its superiority.  Then followed rule by Caliphs, Crusaders and Mameluke (the Mameluke were mostly Turkish slave soldiers).   In Israel they destroyed the coastal cities as they captured them – the coast lands were reduced to desert.  Peter I (King of Cyprus 1359-69) tried to arouse another Crusade and failing to do this, in 1367 he destroyed that which the Mameluke's had earlier omitted from their destructive orgy.

Osman Bey (1291-1326) – founded the Ottoman Empire.  He took a peripheral fiefdom in the far west of the Islamic empire, on the border between the Islamic and Byzantine (Christian) empires, and made much of it his dominion. It was the Ottoman empire (1299-1923) that incorporated the colonial with Jihad justifying conquest and slavery, centuries before White Europe did the same as a religious imperative (or Machiavellian excuse).

Constantinople was the Capital of the Byzantine Empire and the Center of Eastern Orthodox Christianity. It fell to the Ottoman Empire in 1453 after which Ottoman expansion into Europe continued until the end of the 17th Century. 18th Century Turkey retained its territorial integrity mainly because of divisions within Europe.  In the 19th Century the Europeans consolidated their national aspirations through their colonial enterprises in Africa and the Far East.

In January 1821 a newly convened National Assembly adopted a constitution and elected its first President. It then issued a Declaration of Greek Independence. Massacre and retaliation became the pattern of resistance to Muslim rule and the Islamic response to any challenge. On February 3, 1830 an international conference in London declared the guarantee of territorial integrity for the new and independent state of Greece. Britain, France and Russia were its guarantors. It was the Ottoman empires first loss of territory.

It is more than a curiosity of modern history that two of the bookends of colonial independence were Greece (1830) and Israel (1948), both having suffered under Turkish misrule. Yet when we rage against colonialism it is understood to mean Western (Christian?) colonialism and not Islamic colonialism.

While The Crimean war of 1854-56 ensured that Turkey was formally recognized as equal to the great European powers, its alliance with Germany’s losing side in World War One lost it control of all its imperial possessions.  The signing of the armistice on 31st of October 1918 saw Turkish misrule formally ended in Israel / Palestine.

Europe made several attempts to prop up the corrupt Ottoman Empire even when it was clearly not to its advantage to do so.  Nevertheless modern day Turkey was a huge Muslim empire. Its failure simply whet the appetite of potential and actual Arab dictators across the Middle East and if anything can be attributed to the dissatisfaction and enmity that now infuses the Arab people it is the disintegration of the Ottoman empire that left local leaders baying for blood and power.

The Greek civil war (1946-1949) and Turkish proximity to other states in danger of failure necessitated aid in order to prevent the ideological conquest of Southern Europe by communism.  Congruence of interest vis-à-vis Turkey started and finished with containment and the prevention of the domino effect.  In 1947 a communist takeover in Greece and Turkish political alignment with the USSR was feared.

The Truman Doctrine and the Cold War started when in 1947 Congress approved $400m for Greece and $100m for Turkey.  The passage through Congress of these measures can be delineated as the starting point for the Cold War. 

The US Turkey partnership was a product of the cold war without any special affinity except that both shared a common (Communist) enemy. A more moral approach in Foreign Policy would have brought an understanding that pragmatism is ultimately doomed unless it brings with it lasting benefits that are shared by all and not just the victors. 

What about Israel?

During the Ottoman period Turkey ignored the Holy Land and left it to be ruled by gangs of brigands and religious societies – none of which protected the Jewish poor from religious persecution.  Trade provided the wealth to develop and maintain control.  By first destroying and then neglecting Israel, the country remained desolate until the end of the 19th Century when a renewal of mass Jewish immigration stopped the stagnation.

Turkish misrule precipitated economic havoc, administrative decay and the destruction of all social order.  Successive regimes created total geographical and social degradation in Israel. It is therefore difficult to view through the eyes of the Jewish or any other captive minority, any period of Turkish imperial rule, as worthy of praise.

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