Until Jerusalem is the capital of
a Palestinian state and Israel is pushed back to its pre-1967 borders,
it will be "halal" for Erdogan to blame Israel for global warming, the
Ebola virus, starvation in Africa and every other misfortune the world
On the press freedoms index 2014 of Reporters without Borders, Turkey
ranks an embarrassing 154th, a score worse than Burundi, Myanmar,
Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Afghanistan, Libya, Uganda and
Kyrgyzstan, among others. Once again, Erdogan corrupted facts and
figures in order to bash Israel.
Holy struggle against Israel is a prerequisite for Erdogan's
pro-Hamas Islamism, and the cold war and Erdogan's explosive rhetoric
around it have yielded a treasure-trove of votes in a country that
"The Jewish lobby has lost much of its mythical power. Our prime
minister's rhetoric and actions have largely caused this. The way he
[Erdogan] walked out of the Davos meeting [in 2009] has substantially
tarnished Israel's regional charisma. Despite all that, Israel has been
unable to harm Turkey." This quote was from former senior diplomat and
member of parliament Volkan Bozkir, of Turkey's ruling Justice and
Development Party [AKP], in an interview with the daily Hurriyet
on March 18, 2013. In Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu's mini-cabinet
reshuffle last month, Bozkir became Turkey's European Union Minister and
chief negotiator with the club for Turkish membership.
then Prime Minister (now President) Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a 2009 a
panel in Davos, Switzerland, tells Israel's then President Shimon Peres,
"when it comes to killing, you know well how to kill."
Since Turkey downgraded its diplomatic relations with Israel four
years ago, the Jewish state has tried, in vain, to normalize ties.
Efforts have included a 2013 move by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
to phone then Prime Minister (now President) Recep Tayyip Erdogan to
apologize for the Mavi Marmara incident of 2010. Since the Israeli raid
on the Turkish flotilla that aimed to break the "illegal siege" of Gaza,
Turkey has repeatedly said that normalization would never come before:
a) Israel apologized for Mavi Marmara, b) Israel compensated for the
families of the nine Turks killed aboard the vessel, and c) Israel
altogether removed the blockade on Gaza. News of a potential
breakthrough has never been absent on newspaper pages in both countries.
Most recently, Verda Ozer, a columnist with Hurriyet
, quoted a
"top official in Ankara" telling her: "We are ready for normalization
with Israel." She wrote in her column on Oct. 25:
My question was this: Is Turkey considering normalizing
its relations with Israel and Egypt, which are the only countries
offering stability in the region other than Iran? The official
continued: "There is only the compensation issue remaining. After this
is solved, we could send back our ambassador and relations would be
Is normalization possible? Theoretically, it is. In reality, it is a near impossibility.
Since Netanyahu's apology, Turkey, both governmentally and publicly,
has reached peak after peak in exhibiting anti-Semitism unseen before. A
year-and-a-half after Netanyahu's initiative to apologize for the Mavi
Marmara, Erdogan ordered the Turkish Ambassador to Washington, DC,
Serdar Kilic, to write on his behalf to the American Jewish Congress to
express his willingness to return a 2004 "Profile of Courage Award" the
New York-based organization had awarded him. Shortly before that, the
organization had said that Erdogan had become the world's "most virulent anti-Israeli leader
and demanded that he return the award. During Operation Protective Edge
in July 2014, Erdogan commented that "Israel had surpassed Hitler in
Erdogan (and Davutoglu, for that matter) has both pragmatic and
emotional reasons to challenge Israel publicly, and to maintain Turkey's
"cold war" with Israel. Emotional, because a holy struggle against
Israel is a prerequisite for his pro-Hamas Islamism. And pragmatic,
because the cold war and his explosive rhetoric around it have yielded a
treasure-trove of votes in a country that champions anti-Semitism. The
critical parliamentary elections scheduled for June 2015 will most
likely be another setting for his new verbal assaults on Israel.
In a speech last week, Erdogan defended Turkey's press freedom record
by claiming that 16 journalists were killed during Israel's military
offensive against Gaza, Operation Protective Edge, this summer.
"Unfortunately, some politicians in Turkey and some international
media outlets are harshly criticizing Turkey, saying there is no press
freedom in the country," he said. "But the 16 journalists who were
killed by Israel during the Gaza attacks have never been brought up."
That was Erdogan's account of press freedoms in Turkey and Israel. As
always, reality is different from fabrication.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists [CPJ], 16
journalists have been killed in Israel since 1992, but NOT during
Operation Protective Edge. And the CPJ's database puts the number of
journalists killed in Turkey since 1992 at 20!
On Freedom House's press freedoms index, Turkey belongs to the "not
free" group of countries, ranking 134th globally, and sharing the same
score as South Sudan, Libya, Ecuador and Armenia. Israel belongs to the
"free" group of countries, ranking 62nd and scoring better than EU
member states Italy (64), Hungary (71), Bulgaria (78) and Greece (92).
On the 2014 press freedoms index of the Reporters Without Borders,
Turkey ranks an embarrassing 154th, a score worse than Iraq, Bangladesh,
Myanmar, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Burundi, Jordan, Chad, Libya, Tunisia,
Afghanistan, Angola, Mali, South Sudan, Uganda and Kyrgyzstan. On the
same index, Israel ranks 96th.
Once again, Erdogan corrupted facts and figures in order to bash
Israel -- while his diplomats are speaking of "Turkey's readiness to
normalize its ties with Israel." In reality, with or without the
normalization of diplomatic relations between Ankara and Jerusalem, the
Turks have never hidden their broader goals in the Arab-Israeli dispute:
that Jerusalem should be the capital of a Palestinian state; and that
Israel should be pushed back to its pre-1967 borders. Until then, it
will be 'halal' [permitted in Islam] for Erdogan to blame Israel for
global warming, the Ebola virus, starvation in Africa and every other
misfortune the world faces.
Burak Bekdil, based in Ankara, is a Turkish columnist for the Hürriyet Daily and a Fellow at the Middle East Forum.