June 3, 2010
Turkey didn’t pull the triggers that led directly to the deaths of nine pro-Palestinian activists on the Mavi Marmara, Israeli soldiers did. But Turkey recklessly started a process that ended it tragedy. In legal terms, this would be manslaughter.
When I awoke on monday morning I couldn’t believe the news: How could Israel kill activists like this? It seemed inexplicable.
However hostile the activists might have been towards Israel they should all be alive today. As David Grossman writes, their opinions “do not deserve the death penalty”.
As more footage was released we saw Israel’s botched operation in full flow.
One by one soldiers descended from a helicopter totally exposed and vulnerable to what was below. The Israeli navy had just asked the Mavi Marmara to direct itself to Israel’s Ashdod port to inspect the cargo. Such warning allowed the ship’s activists to fully prepare.
We’ve all seen the beatings and stabbings that took place, reminiscent of the Ramallah lynchings when two Israeli soldiers lost their way and were beaten to death with a Palestinian participant proudly showing-off his blood drenched hands.
Israel had a right to inspect the cargo, even in international waters, and when the boat refused Israel took the fateful decision to land soldiers on it. In hindsight it was the wrong decision. Anything would have been better than what than took place, even allowing the boat to reach Gaza.
But once the decision was taken to seize the boat for inspection of its cargo the Israeli soldiers were attacked and they defended themselves. They were beaten with metal bars, stabbed and shot at. Seven were injured, two critically.
The Israeli government’s naivety was in not knowing what it was up against. The seven ship flotilla painted itself as a mercy mission. But time and time again we have seen how violent many self-styled human rights activists actually are.
In January last year during Operation Cast Lead activists rampaged through London causing physical destruction and violently attacking and injuring the police. So what does Israel do? It drops soldiers one-by-one to a potential lynching by similar people.
It was a recipe for a tragedy. However many good-intentioned people were on board the seven ship flotilla it cannot obscure the fact that many thugs were also on board; thugs that have no care whatsoever for human life on either side. For them the cause is all.
But the real criminal in all this is Turkey’s Prime Minister, Recep Erdogan.
Last time round when a Viva Palestina convoy tried to enter Gaza via Egypt an Egyptian border guard was killed by a Palestinian sniper. This loss of life did not justify a repeat performance but this is what Erdogan authorised to depart from his country’s shores yet again.
Now more deaths but this time at the hands of Israeli soldiers, not Palestinians, hence the worldwide condemnation.
Erdogan’s intentions have been suspect for a while. He met with Hamas leader, Khaled Mashaal, in 2006, claimed Israel deliberately kills children in Gaza and has called on his people to learn to make money like Jews do. Erdogan also supports Hezbollah.
In 2008 Erdogan met Sudanese President al-Bashir with full honours. Bashir has since been indicted on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur where the UN alleges that 300,000 people have been killed by Bashir’s regime.
A recent series on Turkey’s state-controlled television depicted Israeli soldiers kidnapping children, shooting babies and old men and lining up groups of Palestinians to execute them.
There is little press freedom in Turkey. Jewish groups have reported hundreds of anti-Semitic articles in the Turkish press recently. There are 23,000 Jewish Turks among a population of more than 70 million Muslims.
With this kind of government-sponsored rhetoric it is easy to see how the population can be so easily whipped up into an anti-Israel, even anti-Jewish, frenzy.
The spirit of openess in Turkey, which was created as a modern, secular democracy in 1923 by Kemal Ataturk, is now on the wane.
Turkey is quickly becoming an Islamist state just like Iran after 1979, but in a less violent, more incremental way.
Turkey has long mirrored Iran in its oppression of its Kurdish population. There are 20-25 million Kurds in Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria. Calls for a unified Kurdistan have fallen on deaf ears.
12 million of these Kurds live in southeast Turkey and a 15 year civil war left 35,000 people dead.
A recent Turkish parliamentary vote (507 for, 19 against) endorsed a Turkish invasion of Iraqi Kurdistan, the Kurdish autonomous enclave, after cross-border raids into Turkey have left soldiers and civilians dead.
Turkey’s Kurdish problem virtually mirrors Israel’s Palestinian one.
But for Turkey there is still no Kurdish people and it is forbidden to teach in Kurdish in Turkey.
If Turkey continues on the path taken by Iran it will be a tragedy for all its people.
There is one hope; Kemal Kilicdaroglu, who now heads the main secular opposition party, CHP, which was founded by Kemal Ataturk, himself.
Kilicdaroglu could rid Turkey of being governed by Erdogan’s corrupt Islamist AKP party, which has been in power since 2002, in next year’s elections.
The election of Turkey’s “Ghandi” could be a positive move for many, including Israelis and Palestinians.