Like a surgeon’s scalpel, the events of Mavi Marmara (Blue Marmara) lanced the abscess that had formed in the Turko-Israeli relationship since 2002, when Erdogan and his AK Party came to power. It spewed putrid political pus relieving both countries of their insincere political stances toward each other, since both countries were delusional in counting on each other for support and defense under the umbrella of the United States. The rapprochement was both artificial and insincere, for Turkey did it to please Israel’s guardian angel, the United States, and Israel did it to have a Muslim ally in a sea of hostile Arabs and Muslims, and to protect the 50,000 or so Jews who led a prosperous life in Istanbul.
Ataturk made sure that these Jews were given rights as a minority (Millet), unlike the Kurds whose ethnicity he denied, calling them “Mountain Turks.” The Jews were grateful for this protection, which cost them their moral capital in supporting every human rights violation—institutionalized by Ataturk and his regime.
They were further grateful when Kemalist Turkey, unlike its Muslim sister states, recognized Israel at the instant of its inception, then cooperated with them in every aspect at the expense of the Arabs, including in the military arena—the latest of which was the recently canceled three-pronged military exercises.
Turkey’s action may have had many reasons, one of which could have been to avenge the Arab states that collaborated with the western powers to carve their territories out of the flesh of the Ottoman Empire, the forefathers of the present Islamist entity. The other may have been the philosophical teachings of Ataturk. I am sure there were other motives (more on that some other time).
These actions alienated the Arab masses, whose nationalist movements had originated in Hijaz under the leadership of the Hashimite King Hussein Bin Ali, the great grandfather of King Hussein Bin Talaal of Jordan, had matured into pan-Arabism. The movements extended to Bilaad arRafidayn (which later became Iraq), Syria, Palestine, Lebanon, Egypt, and North Africa.
The armed duel between the Palestinian Arabs and Jewish settlers, which was followed by the newly formed Jewish state, was at its peak. And Turkey was, to put it mildly, oblivious to the dispute; it let the Arabs down and recognized Israel. The Arabs felt betrayed. Turkey had already lost credibility; after its Kemalist secular orientation, it was no longer considered to be the seat of the Islamic Caliphate. There was a spiritual disconnect, and it ceased to rule the entire Islamic Arab world.
In lieu of Turkey’s friendly stance, Israel returned the favor by shafting us, Armenians, in Washington. The Israeli Embassy, in conjunction with AIPAC (American Israeli Public Affairs Committee), did their utmost to block, year after year, our genocide resolutions in Congress—and they succeeded. Not only that, but then-Israeli president Shimon Peres, standing with Turkish president Suleyman Demirel in front of the Cankaya presidential palace, denied the genocide, stating, “There is no such thing as Armenian Genocide.” Yes! He said it with a straight face and without batting a lash, and I saw it on the screen. His host couldn’t be more pleased. Here it was, a Nobel laureate for peace, a Holocaust child himself, supporting an outright lie advanced by his host.
Yes, there was a Jewish Holocaust, but no, there had been no Armenian Genocide.
Now that Israel has been shafted by none other than their Turkish friends, the day of atonement has come: The Knesset has decided to debate the Armenian Genocide in committee and the rumor has it that AIPAC is not going to block a congressional vote this time around. Mazel Tov!
Erdogan’s decision to send Mavi Marmara to defy the Israeli block of Gaza was a brilliant stroke of publicity, and Israel’s mishandling it was further affirmation of Israel’s foreign policy rigidity.
The entire operation was but another link in a chain of Erdogan’s and his party’s Islamist designs to resurrect the caliphate—not necessarily the Ottoman Caliphate but something similar to it—and gather the entire Arab region under one tent in Istanbul. The idea was born of a variety of political situations headed by the issue of Palestine, specifically Jerusalem, which would be rescued by the gutsy leader Erdogan. Given the vacuum in Arab leadership, the plan appealed to the Arab masses. Their situation had been pathetic. Since the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire and the formation of Arab states according to the Sykes-Picot arrangement of 1917, there have been no conditions conducive to the establishment of democracy. Arab states have since been ruled by a king or an individual and his clique denying thepopulation the freedom and means to achieve prosperity and a democratic lifestyle. In Iraq, there was instability, British rule, then a coup and Saddam. Syria had numerous military coups, until finally they had a monopoly, that of the Ba’ath Party. Egypt had its Nasser, and Libya its Qadhafi, the Sudan its Bashir, not to mention the Saudis, Kuwaitis, Lebanon, and the Gulf Emirates. All these countries have created a sorrowful situation in the life of the man on the street. Millions of highly educated and not-so-educated men and women live in despair. They blame, amongst other things, the ineptitude of their governments in raising a finger to help the people of Gazza. They blame the Arab League, and they of course blame Israel. They feel that their future has been left adrift.
Now comes Erdogan with his overt opposition to Israel to fill a leadership vacuum in the Islamic world. For the first time since Ataturk, Turkey has revealed hostility toward Israel, and the Arab world likes it. They like it very much. They consider Erdogan as their leader; Erdogan likes it. He champions the Palestinian cause, he champions the unity of the Islamic world, he has become a catalyst for the unity of all those who oppose Israel, he is to liberate Jerusalem. He is the new Saladin, who was a Kurd but waged a war against the Crusaders as a Muslim. Erdogan is a Turk, but also a Muslim warrior waging a war to liberate Jerusalem. Americans are mistaken in thinking that Turkey is a secular country. The U.S. deludes itself by thinking that it can contain Iran by supporting Erdogan’s government. The State Department deludes itself by thinking that Turkey and Israel can live in Pax Americana.
No, not when there is a new Saladin named Erdogan.