Astarjian: Erdogan: A Modern-Day Saladin

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.

Dr. Henry Astarjian

Dr. Henry Astarjian

Dr. Henry Astarjian was born in Kirkuk, Iraq. In 1958, he graduated from the Royal College of Medicine and went on to serve as an army medical officer in Iraqi Kurdistan. He continued his medical education in Scotland and England. In 1966, he emigrated to the U.S. In 1992, he served as a New Hampshire delegate to the Republication National Convention in Houston, Texas. For three years Astarjian addressed the Kurdish Parliament in Exile in Brussels, defending Armenian rights to Western Armenia. For three consecutive years, he addressed the American Kurds in California and Maryland. He is the author of The Struggle for Kirkuk, published by Preager and Preager International Securities.
Dr. Henry Astarjian

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  1. Dear Dr Astarjian

    With respect for the heading of your article.

    You did a big mistake by resembling Erdogan to Salah Aldin (Saladin).

    The days will reach and you will say,
    “I did a big mistake”.

    I am sure you know Arabic
    And you remember a Proverb
    “Ayn altarah min al thuraya”

    Use your medical Knowledge and make a differential diagnosis.
    Salah Aldin was Kurdish
    And this is a real Turk with Ottoman Blood.
    Just few weeks ago he was throwing Armenians out of Turkey;
    Did you forget the incident!

    If a Kurdish literate read the heading of your article might will curse you.
    I think the heading should be changed by your permission.

    Probably you can say Turkish Sultan or the new Ottoman
    or as Arab newspaper wrote ” New Turkish Invasion”

  2. Dear Dr. Astarjian: Brilliant expose’. Why stop at saying that Ataturk was a freemason? Enough is published in the media affirming that, plus that he was a “Donme'”: a cryptojew (along with the rest of his gang of Young Turks”); explaining Turkey’s stance toward’s Israel, before Erdogan. Many Armenians don’t even have a clue about this “open” secret.

  3. I agree with some of the commentors, it is a rather superficial treatment.  Maybe the good doctor should have stayed with what he is good at.  There is no big conspiracy or plan by Turks or Erdogan to become the leader of an Pan-Arab union.  Anyone a little familiar with the region and history and Islam should know that.  Arab street may like Erdogan (they really really like him and his style, the man is a consummate politician to be sure!) but they hate Turks as strongly as many Armenians do.  Anything and everything wrong with them today is the fault of Ottomans, did you not know? 

    It is the political leadership not a religious or moral one that is at stake.  Vacuum was created by Israel and USA and to some degree by EU.  It turns out Turks are in a postion to fill a good deal of it.  It has much to do with their regime which derives its legitimacy from its secular and democratic traditions.  It aint the army or economy, though they help of course.  This fact is independent of Erdogan or AKP.  It is just good timing on their behalf and incompetance by everyone else. 

  4. “Jewish settlers” could be replaced by “local Jews, Jewish refugees from Islamic countries, and Jewish immigrants from Europa and America”.
    “Jewish settlers” makes it sound as if Jews didn’t exist in the region before Zionism gave them independence.
    A large number of Arabs in Israel also immigranted from Egypt and Syria at the same time (but without any laws preventing them from doing so), but hardly anyone would call the now-so-named “Palestinians” Arab settlers.
    At some point the Arabs and Turks (and that one Armenian author) will have to accept that the fact that the former Ottoman Empire consisted of more nations than Turks and Arabs.

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