TURKISH PRESIDENT Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his wife, Emine, arrive for the G-20 leaders summit in Hamburg, Germany..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has emerged as the most vocal opponent of US President Donald Trump’s long-overdue decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Erdogan being the poster boy of the campaign against Trump’s decision says something about the moral weight of the cause.
Erdogan, as rotating president of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, organized an “emergency summit” to discuss the matter, which was attended by such moral luminaries as Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, whose country is responsible for the death of hundreds of thousands of Sunnis, and Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for genocide and war crimes.
“Israel,” railed Erdogan “is a state of occupation...and the US is a partner in bloodshed.”
This is the same Erdogan who exploited a failed coup in 2016 to launch a witch hunt against any and all political opponents. Reports quoted in September by the Brookings Institute’s Amanda Sloat found that at least 150,000 people have been fired from government and academia, 50,000 or more have been jailed for alleged collusion and 150 journalists have been imprisoned. Sloat described her impressions from a visit to Turkey as “a paranoid society” living under a state of emergency that has had “a chilling effect on public opposition.”
The government’s elastic definition of “terrorism” enables it to crack down not only on Turkish nationals, but also on foreigners such as Protestant US Pastor Andrew Brunson.
Under the pretext of “public security,” Erdogan’s Turkey has for an “indefinite” period banned, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights groups from holding panels, marches, film screenings and exhibitions.
And, of course, there is the ongoing US trial involving Reza Zarrab, an Iranian-Turkish gold trader, who has implicated Erdogan as one of the political officials involved in circumventing US sanctions against Iran in a gold-for-oil scam.
Erdogan’s attack on Israel and the US is his way of shifting attention away from his many political problems.
By making himself out to be the champion of the Palestinian people and the enemy of Israel – and the US – the Turkish president has already succeeded in endearing himself to the Muslim world. While Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen are involved in sectarian clashes between Sunnis and Shi’ites, Erdogan is gaining points by chastising Arab nations for abandoning the Palestinians.
It is not the pursuit of liberty for Palestinians that motivates Erdogan. A man who denies basic freedoms to his own people has little interest in seeing the creation of a democratic Palestinian state that protects freedom of expression. Nor is there any real prospect that establishing a Palestinian state under current Palestinian rule would lead to such as state. Rather, his objective is to solidify an anti-Israel, anti-US axis.
Erdogan, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hezbollah, Qatar and the mullahs of Iran share common interests, despite sectarian and cultural differences. Rallying around the Palestinian cause is a way of strengthening this alliance and affording it legitimacy in the eyes of Muslims.
In contrast, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States, as well as Egypt, Jordan and anti-Hezbollah forces inside Lebanon, rightly identify Israel and the US as important allies in the fight against Iran and ISIS, the two most destabilizing forces in the Middle East. Iran, not Israel, is responsible for the death and suffering in the region, by its expansionist meddling in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon.
We understand Erdogan’s endgame and the worldview that motivates him. He has never claimed to be a democrat who believes in Western ideals of freedom and human rights. He has never tried to hide his support for Hamas and his close ties with Iran.
What is truly incomprehensible is the stance of progressives in the US and Europe who have joined the Erdogan alliance in condemning Trump’s decision.
What motivates them to align themselves with nihilistic Islamists against the US president and Israel?