Israel screwed up in its response to the ships attempting to break its blockade of Gaza. Anything it might have gained by preventing the entry of material it chooses to exclude from Gaza is far outweighed by the international opprobrium it has garnered. But this is not at issue except by extreme spinners of pro-Israel policy. What’s more interesting for Armenians is Turkey’s role and position in all of this, and what doors are open to us as a result.
Certainly, no one doubts that Turkey’s, and its ruling AK Party’s, involvement in all this is nothing but a cynical, Machiavellian, realpolitik ploy in its devilishly competent Foreign Minister’s bag of tricks to expand the genocidal state’s international stature, and particularly among the peoples and states of the Arab and Muslim worlds. The Turkish group cooperating with the efforts may also have connections to unsavory outfits, but more on this if and when I can get details. I’m told it was very well organized and funded, and delivered the biggest ship in the relief flotilla, which suggests the possibility of state involvement. It was also the ship on which the violence occurred.
Erdogan’s and Davutoglu’s statements have received wide coverage. Clearly, this is part of their neo-Ottomanist efforts to become a player in the Islamic world, much of which shuns Turkey for the brutality and misrule heaped upon fellow Muslims under Ottoman rule and Kemalism’s anti-Islamic bent. Official Ankara seems to be making the calculation that there’s more to be gained by clashing with Israel than further developing a decades-long positive relationship.
Among the fruits of the positive relationship has been help in the halls of U.S. power, fighting passage of the genocide resolution, and other anti-Armenian efforts emanating from Azerbaijan and Turkey. The question is, after the last few incidents, are those Jewish lobby elements in the U.S. that have worked against us (and even against their more right-minded and conscience-driven colleagues) ready to come around? Do they see yet that there’s no long-term benefit to supporting a genocide-denying state? Are they irate enough to downgrade or sever the relationship? It seems to me this is a very opportune moment for our efforts in the U.S. It’s time for some renewed outreach.
Simultaneously, our colleagues in the Middle East should be conveying to their governments how untrustworthy, back-stabbing, and cynical Turkey’s recent ploys demonstrate it to be. On the non-diaspora front, Armenia’s government should be playing up similar themes with their negotiating partners, whether the issue is economics, Artsakh, or actual relations with Turkey.
But this is all short-term gain. If Turkey’s efforts bear fruit, then we will have serious problems in the long term. Remember where Armenia is situated. If Turkey pulls Iran into its orbit, it’s a problem. If the Arab countries become enamored of Turkey’s pseudo-heroics, our communities in there may become constrained. They may even get some traction in Europe with their faux-humanitarianism. It is imperative and timely to publicize the irony (and the underlying temerity) of Turkish comments about occupation (think Armenia and Kurdistan) and human rights abuses (think coddling Darfur’s butcher, abuse of its own minorities, massacres, etc.).
We have to play very hard. For the last three centuries, the Ottoman Empire/Turkey has survived through very skillful diplomacy, playing off against one another powers far greater than it, using Asia Minor’s pivotal geography. They’re using our lands to our, and the world’s, detriment. Since we’ve been deprived of statehood for all but the last century or so (and a very shaky, mostly Soviet-subservient statehood at that) we don’t have the same depth of diplomatic/political history, experience, skills, and culture to draw on. But this is a perfect time to learn by doing and pushing to the edge. There’s not much to be lost, but tremendous potential for gain.
I hope we, the diaspora and Armenia’s government (especially after the protocols fiasco), are up to the challenge. Let’s expose Turkey for the fraud that it is.