Turkey’s wrong turn
Modified: Nov 23, 2012 02:23AM
looking for hopeful signs of the role democratically elected Islamist
governments might play in international affairs will find disappointment
in how Turkey irresponsibly exploited the Israel-Hamas fighting with
bluster, lies and fanatical characterizations of the Jewish state.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called Israel a “terrorist state”
and accused it of “ethnic cleansing” when its only offense is
defending its citizens against rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip by the
terrorist organization Hamas.
baseless accusations are evidence of how far Turkey has descended from its
once worthy role as a moderate player in the Middle East and a power
broker in the region. Before Erdogan’s Islamist Justice and Development
Party won and then cemented its power with increasingly authoritarian
actions, the country enjoyed amiable political relations with Israel and
the two nations were allies. It was a favorite travel destination for
Turkey is a
member of NATO and once sought membership in the European Union, a drive
it bitterly saw opposed by some European nations suspicious of its
commitment to Western values, suspicions that, as it turns out, are being
proved well founded.
began spouting anti-Israel bilge, notably after previous Israel-Hamas
fighting in the winter of 2008-09. More egregiously, Turkey backed the
notorious 2010 flotilla of ships that tried to break Israel’s sea
blockade of Gaza preventing arms smuggling to terrorists. That ended badly
when Israeli forces boarding one ship were attacked by militants on board
and several of them were killed. Now comes Erdogan’s irresponsible
bombast in the latest crisis.
think Turkey’s turn for the worse is limited to Israel. The ascendancy
of Islamist politics there has unleashed anti-Western and anti-American
sentiments. A few years ago the most popular movie in the country was
“Valley of the Wolves: Iraq,” a nasty bit of propaganda accusing U.S.
soldiers of murder and mayhem in Iraq and, in a replay of an infamous
anti-Semitic libel, portraying a Jewish doctor taking the organs of the
dead to sell to rich Westerners. Recall that Turkey blocked one route the
U.S. military wanted to use in the Iraq invasion.
anti-Western sentiment has come rejection of Western values of free
speech, right of dissent and the rule of law. Thousands of people —
lawyers, politicians, military officers and journalists — have been
rounded up in waves of arrests in what frequently looks like persecution
of political opponents. Last month, the New York-based Committee to
Protect Journalists said that Turkey “has waged one of the world’s
biggest crackdowns on press freedom in recent history” with repressive
laws imprisoning more journalists than such familiar human-rights
violators as Iran, Eritrea and China.
is looking for an ethnic group in need of aid, he need not look to Gaza
but to his own backyard. Kurds in Turkey have long sought civil rights, at
times even their own nation, only to be violently put down as terrorists.
Now Erdogan embraces the genocidal terrorists of Hamas. That resonates
with a dark chapter of Turkey’s history — the Ottoman extermination of
as many as 1.5 million Armenians during World War I.
proving to be a cautionary tale for those optimists who hope for
moderation from Islamist governments elevated to power by the turmoil
across the Middle East.
2012 — Sun-Times Media, LLC