Thursday, 10 June 2010

Israel and Turkey: it's complicated

This article by Christopher Hitchens is from Slate Magazine.

I hope that by now the state of Israel regrets its past collaboration with some of the worst elements in modern Turkey. It's not so long since American Jewish lobby groups, and reportedly even the Israeli ambassador in Washington, were successfully lobbying Congress to vote down the resolution condemning the genocide of the Armenians. (The narrow passage of the resolution this year seems to have contributed to the increasingly evident paranoia and megalomania of Turkey's thuggish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.) And, even as Turkish troops occupied one-third of Cyprus and expelled one-third of its Greek population, as well as mounted illegal incursions into Iraq in pursuit of rebel Kurds, the Israeli armed forces happily embarked on joint exercises with them. If this era of unseemly collaboration is over, then so much the better. Even so, there's something slightly hypocritical about the way in which Israeli crowds have suddenly discovered the human rights record and the regional imperial ambitions of their former ally.

Talking of hypocrisy, though, how do you like the way that the words activist and humanitarian have suddenly made their appearance in our media? Activist is employed to describe a core group of Turks and Arabs, very many of them identifiable by name as affiliates or members or emulators of the Muslim Brotherhood. (I suppose in fairness it also covers such figures as the credulous Irishman Denis Halliday, who used to campaign so loudly for the lifting of sanctions on Saddam Hussein.) And humanitarian is used to describe the materials that these worthies are seeking to donate to Hamas. But is it really humanitarian to make contributions to a ruling party that has a totalitarian and racist ideology and is in regular receipt of nonhumanitarian aid from Syria and Iran, two of the most retrograde and aggressive dictatorships in the world?

Those who care about justice and self-government for the Palestinians might want to be helping Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad as they build up the institutions of an embryo state on the West Bank. And those who worry about the conditions of the Gazans might want to send convoys of aid to the many United Nations and NGO operations in the Strip that have a proven record of transparency and efficiency. But, from a Muslim Brotherhood or activist perspective, where would the fun be in that? It is only Hamas, with its thrilling violence and hysterical rhetoric, that is truly "authentic." Incidentally, in a little-noticed statement last week, U.N. special regional coordinator Robert Serry denounced a series of raids and lootings mounted by Hamas supporters on the offices of genuinely humanitarian operations in Gaza City and Rafah.

The near-incredible stupidity of the Israeli airborne descent on the good ship Mavi Marmara, by troops well-enough equipped to shoot when panicked but not well-enough prepared to contain or subdue a preplanned riot, has now generated much more coverage and comment than Erdogan's cynical recent decision to become a partner in the nuclear maneuvers of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It has also generated much more coverage and comment than Erdogan's long-term design to de-secularize Turkey, a design in which his recent big-mouth grandstanding on Gaza is a mere theatrical detail. What on earth are self-proclaimed humanitarian activists—as they will soon enough be called at this rate—doing in such an open alliance between one cruel and bankrupt Iranian theocracy, one religio-nationalist Turkish demagogue, and Hamas?

Israeli self-pity over Gaza—"You fire rockets at us! And after all we've done for you!"—may be incredibly unappetizing. An occupation that should never have been allowed in the first place was protracted until it became obviously unbearable for all concerned and then turned into a scuttle. The misery and shame of that history cannot be effaced by mere withdrawal or healed by the delivery of aid. It can only really be canceled by a good-faith agreement to create a Palestinian state. But Hamas is a conscious obstacle to this objective, as it shows by its dependence on foreign dictatorships and by the criminal and violent methods it has used against Fatah and the PLO.

Let me give another case in point: Hamas' charter and many of its official proclamations announce that it endorses the so-called Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a dirty anti-Semitic fabrication produced by Christian and czarist extremists and adopted by the Nazis. Would you, if you wanted to help Gaza and the Gazans, knowingly augment the power of such a flat-out racist organization by helping make it the proud and exclusive distributor of food and medicine?

Staying with this fascinating point for a moment: What if the international community put one simple question to the Hamas leadership? We will consider lifting the sanctions if you will renounce a barbaric and discredited concoction of lies that identifies all Jews everywhere as targets for murder. (The name notwithstanding, the Protocols have nothing to say about Palestine.) And what if the journalistic community—just once—was to ask a similar question of the "activists"? Do you endorse the Protocols: Yes or no? We would instantly be much closer to understanding what was meant by humanitarian.

While we wait for this puncturing of the current balloon of propaganda, we might as well savor the ironies. As well as being the two most intimate allies of the United States in the region, Turkey and Israel possess large and educated populations that want in their way to be part of "the West." They also both suffer from mediocre and banana-republic-type leaders, who are willing prisoners of clerical extremists in their own second-rate regimes. Turkey cannot be thought of as European until it stops lying about Armenia, gets its invading troops out of Cyprus, and grants full rights to its huge Kurdish population. Israel will never be accepted as a state for Jews, let alone as a Jewish state, until it ceases to govern other people against their will. The flotilla foul-up, pitting former friends against each other, only serves to obscure these unignorable facts.


lastgreek said...

Bravo to Hitchens for bringing up the "unignorible facts"--Turkish occupation of northern Cyprus, Turkish ethnic cleansing of Greek-Cypriots, Turkish refusal to acknowledge the Armenian genocide, etc.--that have been shamelessly ignored by the international media as the Turkish fuckers portray themselves to the world as giving a shit about human rights and international law.

Some interesting commentary follows Hitch's article in Slate. A few Mongols took issue with Hitch's mention of Turkey's criminal actions in Cyprus. No problem--Nikolaos Taneris, Press Officer, Cyprus Action Network of America (CANA), put the Mongols in their place.

I liken this incident between Turkey and Israel as nothing more than a passing tussle between two whores in a brothel. I hope I am wrong on this. But, when all is said and done, the Madam--the U.S.--will reign in her whores.

John Akritas said...

I tend to agree with you, LG, that Israel and the Turks will eventually make up – especially once the AK party is ousted – but let's see what happens when Israel, with US consent, bombs Turkey's new best friend Iran's nuclear facilities.

lastgreek said...

From US Defense Secretary Robert Gates on the "deterioration in the relationship Between Turkey and Israel":

"I think the two had a pretty constructive relationship and one that contributed to stability in the region, and I hope that, over time, that kind of constructive relationship can be reestablished.

I personally think that if there is anything to the notion that Turkey is, if you will, moving eastward, it is, in my view, in no small part because it was pushed, and pushed by some in Europe refusing to give Turkey the kind of organic link to the West that Turkey sought.

Of course, it's Europe's fault! Bad Europeans.

PS: Game's on at 07:30 EDT!

Hermes said...

Turkey has played itself into a corner. When the Zionist regime and the US bomb Iran and others such as Hezbollah, Turkey will have to make some tough decisions. Either they support the Persians and Turkey separates itself from the Axis of Deceit, which I see as very improbable. Or they do nothing other than utter words of sympathy, which the Arab world will quickly realise that the Turks are not the saviour. Note, the Persians are much more reticent of supporting Turkey.

As for Robert Gates, let's hope he makes more statements like that. The new "normalised" Germany and France will further harden their positions regarding Turkey and shift even closer to Russia.

John Akritas said...

And let's not forget that if the Israelis bomb the Iranians, the Arabs – who cannot stand the Iranians and vice versa – will not be that bothered, and the Turks will find themselves even more isolated if they rush to defend the ayatollahs.

Hermes said...

John, have you read the latest email from CANA regarding the possible coming together of the Greek and Israeli lobbies? What are your thoughts?

John Akritas said...

Well, H. we were forever complaining about the pernicious influence of the Israeli lobby and its brazen promotion of Turkish interests – so, if it works out that we can come to some agreement with them and that they use their abilities in Washington to change American policy towards Turkey, Greece and Cyprus, then all well and good.

However, not only do I doubt that the Israelis will want to burn all their bridges with Turkey – not unless they've come to the conclusion that Turkey is now, long-term, a hostile country to Israel – but I don't believe that internationalist Papandreou or the communist Christofias have the intelligence or guile to take advantage of any new such arrangements. What will Papandreou and Christofias offer the Israelis (and Americans) to make it worth their while to enter into partnership with us?

I also suspect that a lot of what Israel and its lobby is doing at the moment is flirting with us in order to send a message to the Turks, showing them what they have to lose if they keep up with this Hamas and Iran nonsense. The Turks can't be so dumb as to ditch Israel and America for Hamas and Iran, and, indeed, when we look at what's happening between the Kyrgyz and Uzbeks, that should also make Davoutoglu think about the chances and value of his plot to extend Turkey's hegemony into Central Asia. What do you reckon?

Hermes said...

John, I agree that it is unlikely the Zionist regime will burn all their bridges with Turkey nor will the US follow in lockstep (there are some stresses in the US-Israeli relationship). Actually, apart from rhetoric as yet very little has happened between the Zionist regime and Turkey. The defence contracts are still in place. Also, sometimes we underestimate the impact of internal politics on the Israeli and Turkish relationship - which can change with the next election or coup - bringing the two sides together again. And I agree we do not have the personnel to exploit the situation.

However, the Turks and Israelis have been moving apart for a number of years. And both Turkish parties are courting the Islamic tide within Turkey. This suggests there may be more permanence to Turkey's anti-Israeli posture. Also, the Kurdish situation is not going away making Turkey a less stable partner. Perhaps Israel would trade Turkey for a Greece-Cyprus axis. As someone said recently Cyprus-Crete-mainland Greece would provide the Zionist regime with strategic depth that it so badly needs.

I agree the Zionist lobby in the US is probably flirting with us to send a signal. Again there, it does not appear like we have the personnel to exploit the situation in our favour. PSEKA is useless.

I think the situation in Kyrgistan shows how nonsensical Davutoglu's Neo-Ottoman presuppositions are. There is no Pan-Turkism; and therefore, there is limited strategic depth.

On a personal front, I train at a gym run by Shia Lebanese who are supporters of Hezbollah. It is conveniantly close to home and cheap. I also work with many Jews. Obviously, as a Greek they are all our friends but we must keep an appropriate distance from these people unless they serve our interests. But maybe I'll have to cancel my gym membership soon.

lastgreek said...

When the Zionist regime and the US bomb Iran and others such as Hezbollah, Turkey will have to make some tough decisions.-

H, the Zionist rogue state may have the desire to bomb Iran, but the US will not allow it. No can do. An attack on Iran is just too dangerous, not to mention insane.

Now, why did you bring up Hezbollah? Why would the US ever consider bombing Hezbollah? Whom exactly do they threaten? They are a defensive force (the military wing) whose existence is solely to defend their territory against Zionist aggression.

Hermes said...

LG, everyone knows the US use the Zionist regime as a proxy in the Middle East. When Israel hits Hezbollah, they are in cahoots with the US.

If I was you, I would not get too infatuated with Hezbollah as we may, although unlikely, be on opposite sides shortly. I only sympathise with the Greek Orthodox in southern Lebanon if that turn of events came about.

lastgreek said...

LG, everyone knows the US use the Zionist regime as a proxy in the Middle East.-

Everyone, it seems, except the American public . . . and that's the problem.

H, I the favour the term "CIA outpost" for the Zionist regime.

Hermes said...

20 more Turkish soldiers dead in fighting against Kurdistan. Where is Davutoglu's Strategic Depth now?