Erdogan’s Double Standards
Al-Monitor Israel Pulse
March 3, 2013
By: Shlomi Eldar
`Turkey and Israel are both vital allies of the United States. We want
to see them work together in order to be able to go beyond the
rhetoric and begin to take concrete steps to change this relationship,’
said new U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at a news conference in
Ankara on Friday [March 1]. Kerry also condemned Turkish Prime
Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for his verbal attack two days earlier,
when he compared Zionism to fascism and called it a `crime against
humanity.’ These two sentences by Kerry express the vast distance
between hope for rehabilitating the relations with Ankara – and
In the past, I had thought that it would be possible for Israel and
Turkey to consider their joint interests and restore their
relationship in the near future. The leaders of the two countries, I
had reckoned, would be forced to swallow their pride, if only out of
Middle Eastern logic. After all, friends are friends, all hell broke
loose in the Middle East and this is the time to make up and bury the
But then along came Erdogan’s statement this week in the United
Nations — which was uttered, by the way, at a U.N. forum, established
to `improve understanding and cooperative relations among nations and
peoples across cultures and religions.’ This statement certainly
proved how far off the mark I had been.
Erdogan is a serial troublemaker. Two-and-a-half years ago he
quarreled with Israel over the Marmara episode; a year ago he
quarreled with France; and over the past year he quarreled with
Damascus, almost to threat of war. If we can rely on commentaries and
evaluations of the situation, Erdogan’s crass verbal exchanges with
his old friend Syria is meant to help ingratiate him with Cairo,
Tehran, Baghdad, Qatar and in effect the entire Arab world, in order
to actualize his megalomaniac aspirations to become the Mukhtar of the
I believed that one day, Erdogan would understand that he could fill
the tremendous void left by the leaders of the Arab world that were
deposed or weakened – and diplomatic wisdom would dictate to him to
soften his position vis-a-vis Israel.
This `path of wisdom’ seemed tangible, attainable, logical and even
self-evident to me. True, no one believes that a new friendship
between the two countries could reemerge; a relationship as close and
courageous as in the past. But even a cold friendship could be
useful. These hopes/assessments were strengthened when I’d
occasionally hear leaks about secret contacts between Israeli and
Turkish representatives regarding an end to the crisis. We even
received news recently in the Turkish press that Israel supplied
Turkey with advanced electronic warfare systems for aircraft systems,
that significantly upgrade the Turkish Air Force’s Airborne Warning
and Control System (AWACS). This happened last month.
So, I asked myself, if that’s not a sign portending well for the
future, if that doesn’t bode well, how else can we explain it? Two
countries that were friends and became enemies are now taking
confident steps toward reconciliation.
But then Erdogan rose to the speaker’s rostrum at the U.N. Alliance of
Civilizations in Vienna, leaving his listeners in shock and causing me
to feel baffled with myself over my naiveté. `The international
community should consider Islamophobia a crime against humanity like
Zionism or anti-Semitism or fascism,’ said Erdogan at the stand of the
startled U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
`Crime against humanity,’ he said.
That is the moment when the penny dropped. Erdogan’s conduct vis-Ã
-vis Israel is not a reaction or a result of anything. It has no
connection to diplomatic mishaps or to the failures connected to the
tragic takeover of the Mavi Marmara ship. It is not connected to the
various operations of the IDF in the Gaza Strip; it’s not even about
Erdogan’s megalomaniac aspirations to lead the Muslim world, for which
he is willing to sacrifice the long-standing friendship between Turkey
and Israel. It’s not about the impasse in negotiations between Israel
and [Palestinian Chairman] Abu Mazen and not even connected to the
ridiculous conduct of former Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, who
subjected Turkey’s ambassador to Israel to the humiliating ceremony of
placing him on a low seat.
It is hatred.
Erdogan simply hates Israel. If we listen carefully to his words at
the Vienna convention, we realize that he doesn’t even try to hide
it. He simply hates the Israelis and everything they represent with
such deep, built-in, dark hatred that nothing will help. We should
have understood this a long time ago, but better late than never.
`Obviously, we not only disagree with it. We found it
objectionable. We denounce Erdogan’s statement,’ Kerry said at that
same press conference in Ankara during the weekend [March 1], and it
was good that he said what he did.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who also recently expressed
opinions similar to those of the prime minister, fixed his gaze on
Kerry without batting an eyelash.
And since Erdogan started all this, since he was the one to hurl the
`crime against humanity’ hot potato, the time has come for us to turn
the history-book pages and consider an item that all Turkish leaders
in the past attempted to hush up, and even forced those surrounding
them to deny. Again, I raise the subject here with the requisite
caution, only because Erdogan himself felt free to run off at the
mouth. I am referring to something that can only be labeled a `crime
against humanity,’ meaning genocide, that Turkey was connected
to. Does this sound familiar to anyone?
A few months ago, I visited Armenia. I went on a tour of the genocide
museum in Yerevan, the capital city. A million and a half Armenians
were murdered in what is called the =80=9CArmenian Genocide’ that was
carried out during World War I in the Ottoman Empire period, before
the founding of the modern Turkish state. The museum is located in the
heart of the capital city, longingly overlooking the Ararat Mountain
that is holy to the Armenians but located in Turkish territory. The
museum is full of appalling testimonies and photographs that clearly
answer to the description of `crime against humanity.’
Despite the tremendous efforts invested by Turkey in the last hundred
years to prevent this, dozens of democratic countries in the world
have acknowledged the Armenian genocide. Dozens of countries – bur not
Israel, which has avoided recognizing the genocide for years, when
relations with Turkey were close and even after the crisis with Turkey
erupted. It seems that some small spark of hope for repairing the
relations between the countries, prevented Israel from officially
acknowledging the genocide of the Armenian nation.
I have no intentions of settling accounts with the Turkish nation, or
pouring more oil on the fire of the ongoing conflict. But to throw out
into the air that `Zionism is a crime against humanity’ and continue
to deny the Armenian genocide =80′ that’s impossible.
So Erdogan, with your permission, one friendly piece of advice: The
one who searches for justice must come with his hands clean. Otherwise,
his search might wake up undesirable ghosts from the past – ghosts
that you have tried to keep dormant.
Shlomi Eldar is a contributing writer for Al-Monitor’s Israel
Pulse. For the past two decades, he has covered the Palestinian
Authority and especially the Gaza Strip for Israel’s Channels 1 and
10, and has reported on the emergence of Hamas. In 2007, he was
awarded the Sokolov Prize, Israel’s most important media award, for
this work. He has published two books: Eyeless in Gaza (2005), which
anticipated the Hamas victory in the subsequent Palestinian elections,
and Getting to Know Hamas (2012).