In a column I wrote in October 2010, I commented on Foreign Minister Avigdor
Lieberman’s rebuke of French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and Spanish
Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos after they arrived to promote an initiative
under which the European Union would recognize a Palestinian state even before
Israel and the Palestinian Authority reach a final settlement through
negotiations. Lieberman responded by telling his counterparts that before coming
to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, they should concentrate on the
problems in their own backyards.
I argued that if Kouchner insisted on
focusing on Israel, then why not, as Lieberman suggested, review Turkey’s
occupation of Northern Cyprus as well? In 1974, the Republic of Cyprus was
invaded by the Turks, resulting in continued occupation and considerable
violations of internationally guaranteed human rights. During and after this
period, Turkey committed ethnic cleansing in occupied Cyprus, and, according to
human rights groups, deliberately violated the European Convention and the 1949
Fourth Geneva Convention.
In 2004, after the UN General Assembly adopted
a resolution proposed by Arab states demanding that Israel stop and reverse the
construction of the barrier in the “occupied Palestinian territory,” it sought
the international court’s opinion.
The court said the barrier was
“contrary to international law” because it infringed on the rights of
The court urged that Israel remove it from occupied
Of course, Turkey was among the 150 states that voted in favor of
the resolution, but nobody present thought twice about Turkey’s occupation of
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned,
hypocritically, Israel’s construction of the West Bank security barrier. As a
matter of fact, unlike Israel’s legal security barrier, which protects against
terrorist infiltration, Turkey’s similarly named illegal “Green Line” barrier
has separated the island’s Greeks from the Turkish population since
On Monday, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said that the
occupation in Gaza and the West Bank was illegal and that such an occupation was
strengthened by an illegal blockade of Gaza. Nobody in the international arena
appears to have acknowledged that it is Turkey that is an illegal occupier of
foreign lands to which it has no rights – not Israel.
Turkey also refuses
to take full responsibility for the Armenian Genocide.
United Human Rights, “the Armenian Genocide, the first genocide of the 20th
century, occurred when two million Armenians living in Turkey were eliminated
from their historic homeland through forced deportations and massacres between
In July, Erdogan even demanded an apology from Armenian
President Serzh Sarksyan for calling on schoolchildren to occupy eastern
Turkey continues to commit crimes against humanity in Northern
Cyprus, including ethnic cleansing and forcible expulsion. It is a fairly
obvious conclusion at this point that Turkey is guilty of the very crimes it
accuses Israel of committing – yet no one has called it out on its ludicrous
THIS PAST week, Turkey expelled Israel’s ambassador,
downgraded its diplomatic relations to the lowest level, suspended all defense
ties and some trade ties and strip-searched a group of Israeli passengers flying
through Istanbul’s Ataturk International Airport.
between Turkey and Israel have been severely strained since the release of the
Palmer Commission report, which determined that the raid on the Gaza flotilla
ship Mavi Marmara was “excessive and unreasonable,” but also that Turkey and the
flotilla organizers contributed to the deaths of nine activists on board. Israel
has refused to heed Ankara’s demand that it issue an apology for the
Since Erdogan’s AK Party’s rise to power in 2002, relations
with Israel have become increasingly strained. Over the years, Erdogan has
accused Israel of committing “state terrorism,” and in 2009, after Israel
launched Operation Cast Lead to halt indiscriminate rocket fire into the country
from Gaza, Erdogan called to bar Israel from the United Nations.
same year, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Erdogan described
Gaza as an open-air prison and accused Israel of murder.
And yet, even
though it acts with open hostility, Turkey is currently considered a candidate
for full membership in the EU. Some experts predict it will take a few more
years until Turkey’s inclusion in the body is complete. While many people
support the move as soon as possible, others warn that it will be impossible to
achieve unless Turkey adopts significant reforms and meets certain standards. It
must demonstrate that it deserves to be an EU member.
Human Rights Watch
is often misguided when it comes to Israel, but it got it right in June when
director Kenneth Roth sent a letter to Erdogan in which he stated, “If the
Justice and Development Party is serious about Turkey being a regional power, it
needs to show leadership on rights and the rule of law. A new constitution based
on proper consultation with opposition and civil society is the right place to
Dr. Van Coufoudakis – dean emeritus, and professor emeritus of
political science, at Indiana University- Purdue University – has condemned
Turkey, stating that “the Cyprus problem was, and remains, a problem of
invasion, occupation and continuing violations of internationally guaranteed
Additionally the European Court of Human Rights has
denounced the failure of Turkish authorities to “conduct an effective
investigation into the whereabouts and fate of Greek-Cypriot missing persons who
disappeared in life-threatening circumstances.”
It also accused Turkey of
refusing to “allow the return of any Greek-Cypriot displaced persons to their
homes in northern Cyprus.”
Unsurprisingly the United Nations has failed
to deliver a promising solution. The Annan Plan was a proposal to settle the
Cyprus dispute. The plan was named after then-UN secretary-general Kofi Annan,
who ultimately failed to implement it, as the Greek Cypriots felt the plan would
not fully resolve the issue and thus voted against it.
So why promote
entrance to the EU if Turkey represses basic freedoms, refuses to apologize for
the Armenian Genocide, purposely sent activists to attack Israel (knowingly
placing their lives in danger) and occupies Northern Cyprus? Turkish rejection
of Western values should be sufficient reason for its exclusion from the
CLEARLY WE are witnessing Turkey’s slide towards Islamism and
rejection of Westernization.
With the latest hostilities this week and
Erdogan’s remark that Israel acts like a “spoiled child,” it may seem that
Turkey is focused on attacking Israel, but in reality, it is taking advantage of
the Arab Spring and flexing its muscles to demonstrate its role as an important
player in the Middle East.
Turkey’s continued vilification of Israel and
refusal to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide is part of a larger effort to
promote its own image as an unapologetic central player in the
Islamists want to revive the glorious days of their Ottoman past,
when the Empire stretched over three continents. In this “neo-Ottomanism”
effort, Israel is simply being used as a pawn.
Unfortunately the day is
too distant, if at all existent, when Erdogan will find the courage to embrace
Western values, reject Islamization, apologize for the Armenian Genocide, end
its illegal occupation of Northern Cyprus and make amends with Israel.