Saturday, September 10, 2011


Rebuffed in its efforts to join the European Union, Turkey under President Erdegon decided to turn toward the Arab and Moslem world.  Among Erdogan's first moves in credentialing himself as a Moslem leader was a very public verbal assault on Israeli President Shimon Peres at the annual gathering of big shots and wanna-be big shots at Davos, Switzerland, a few years ago. 

It is noteworty that this attack occurred several years before the incident on the Mavi Marmara, where Israeli Navy personnel enforcing the Israeli blockade on Gaza were attacked and killed nine blockade-busters in self-defense.

Erdegon's next major move was to cozy up in a big-time/big brother way to Syria.  We know how that  worked out.  President Assad, every bit his father's son, has proven to be a ruthless, murderous tyrant, and a total embarrassment to President Erdogan.

When Erdogan counseled Assad that the kind of repression that his father employed to keep the lid on his people might not be acceptable in the new world of the Arab "Spring," the not too subtle response was machine gun fire and old-fashioned torture a la the Ottoman Empire.  So much for counseling.

So, insulted by the West, ignored and humiliated by his hoped for protege, and seeing a pan-Moslem leader everytime he looked in the mirror, the Turkish President, ably assisted by Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, has taken the next logical step:  position himself as the new savior of the Palestinian people and pick a major fight with Israel.

At the speed of light for the diplomatic world, the Erdogan government has moved from a staunch ally of Israel to a huge problem.  Turkey has thrown out Israel's ambassador and other high-level diplomats.  It has recalled its ambassador and left in his place a low-level functionary who probably has less authority than the office custodian. 

Suddenly becoming the greatest champion of the Palestinian cause, Turkey has become a leading voice against the "occupation," deploring Israel's asserted lack of morality at every turn.  It has announced that it is cutting all military ties and that it will use its navy to protect the next flotilla aimed at breaking the Israeli blockade of Gaza. 

Some question whether the cutting of military ties will really happen, while others wonder if the sudden interest in leading the flotilla is tied more to an effort to assert jurisdiction over waters found by Israeli and U.S. companies to contain natural gas fields that could alter the entire geopolitical/economic landscape in the region.  Shocking, indeed, that sudden heartfelt concerns for Palestinians would really be cover for a blatant economic power grab. 

President Erdogan next engaged in verbal and logical acrobatics to discount the U.N.'s Palmer Report (named after the former New Zealand prime minister that headed the investigation) that found that Israel's blockade of Gaza was legal and that Turkey bears some responsibility for the incident.                   .   

According to Erdogan, the Palmer Report has no legitimacy or effectiveness because it has not been adopted by the U.N.   Never mind that the Palmer Report was commissioned by the U.N. Secretary-General and that no vote to approve it is required. 

Erdogan now says that he is going to take his case to the International Court of Justice.  He also points to pronouncements of the U.N. Human Rights Council laying the blame on Israel.  The Human Rights Council appears to serve  Erdogan's new agenda well.  Dominated by some of the world's worst human rights offenders and Jew-haters, it engages in the convenient practice of finding Israel guilty when it opens investigations.  Why wait until the facts are in when you know your conclusion beforehand? 

Turkey should get a medal of some sort for chutzpa. All of this new-found righteousness and indignation from a country with a sterling history of respect for human rights, particularly those of minorities.

This concern for the victims of occupation comes from the descendants of the Ottoman Empire that for about 300 years occupied a good part of Europe, Asia, and North Africa, often employing with gusto some of the cruelest tools of oppression.  When it wasn't engaging in some of the worst oppression imaginable, it was taking corruption to new heights.

This concern for national rights from the same folks who crush any semblance of nationhood or assertion of independence by the Kurds.

This contempt for transgressors from the country that invaded Cyprus close to 40 years ago, occupied 37% of the country, evicted 180,000 Greek Cypriots, and brought in 150,000 settlers from Turkey in violation of the Geneva Convention and several U.N. resolutions.

This compassion for the underdog from the country that slaughtered 1.5 million Armenians in the early part of the 20th century (demonstrating to Hitler that you can get away with it) and that has spent decades and much political capital denying its murderous behavior and evading responsibility for it. 

The U.S. Administration, the U.N. Secretary-General, many Israeli leaders, and a host of Western diplomats and politicians are understandably very concerned with the deterioration of relations between Turkey and Israel.  Predictably, many are encouraging Israel to take actions and make gestures that will hopefully calm the Turks down and restore good relations. 

The unfortunate truth is that there is no positive action or gesture that Israel can take that will restore the calm.  The Turkish move away from the West and toward the East, and Erdogan's often rash and seemingly irrational behavior, have little to do with Israeli policies or actions, including the Mavi Marmara incident. 

Israel is simply a useful tool for Erdogan to use to earn his bona fides as a Moslem leader and a champion of the Palestinian cause, and for Turkey's move to realign itself with those it believes will provide greener pastures than the Europeans. 

The only thing that will dissuade Erdogan and Turkey from their new approach is if they determine that the negative consequences outweigh the possible gains.  The murderous conduct of President Assad proved an embarrassing disaster for Erdogan.  He has now distanced himself from Assad. There is much the U.S. and the Europeans, particularly Germany, can do to punish Turkey for its bad behavior.  The question is whether there is the will and the stomach to take action.

And, there are a few things that Israel can do, such as:

--Take Turkey at its word when it says it is cutting off military relations.  Provide no more hi-tech weaponry and support.  Stop servicing and re-supplying all of the equipment previously sold.  Share no intelligence.

--Be the first country in the world to recognize the independent state of Turkish Kurdistan. 

--Become the champions for the Greek Cypriots in efforts to reunite Cyprus.  Call for the elimination of the  borders between Greek and Turkish Cyprus.  Demand the "right of return" for the 180,000 Greek Cypriots driven out of their homes.  Call for the removal of the 150,000 Turks who moved into Cyprus and for the dismantling of all of their "settlements."

--Join with the world's Armenian population at every possible opportunity in calling for recognition of the Turkish genocide of Armenians and for reparations.  This could be one of those rare times where national interest lines up perfectly with doing the righteous thing. 

--And the icing on the cake:  Declare that Israel is prepared to share with Greece all of the nuclear technology that it has not developed from the nuclear arms development program that it does not have.

My wife and I and another couple visited Istanbul in August of 2008.  Interestingly, although our friends were native English speakers, the Turkish merchants somehow guessed that they were Israelis.  No problems; all friends and fun, and sales. 

The Turks were fascinated by the fact that the U.S. was on the verge of electing its first African-American president.  Many could not believe that Americans would vote for a black man for president. 

I was interested in their politics.  While our wives were in looking around in one store, my friend David and I chatted with the owner just outside the door.  He had lived in Ohio for over 20 years before moving back to Turkey at his wife's insistence. 

I remarked that despite the Islamist origins of his party, President Erdogan and his team seemed to be quite moderate and respectful of democracy and that Turkey seemed to be a pluralistic, secular society.  The shopkeeper looked at me sternly.  To paraphrase him, he said "Don't be fooled.  Go outside of Istanbul two hundred kilometers and you will see another country.  They are moving slowly and methodically and will, when the time is right, move toward an Islamist country aligned with enemies of the U.S." 

That was one wise Ohioan Turkish secular businessman.                                                        

In addition to finding that Israel's blockade of Gaza is legal, the Palmer Report also found that the Israeli Navy personnel's use of force was "excessive." One wonders what is "excessive" force when thugs acting illegally but purporting to be peace-loving humanitarians are beating you with knives, bars, and other assorted weapons. 

A few days ago a Sacramento police officer shot a mentally unstable man using a baseball bat to smash windows who turned and appeared to be about to use the bat on the officer.  Unlike the Israeli sailors, the deranged man had not yet hit the officer.  Was his shooting the man the use of "excessive" force?  Should he have waited until his head took a good clobbering?

One wonders if the force used would have been considered excessive if one of the Navy commandos had been a son or daughter of Mr. Palmer.

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