A View From Israel: Turkish chutzpa

Turkey is guilty of the very crimes it accuses Israel of committing – yet no one has called it out on its ludicrous hypocrisy.

By ISRAEL KASNETT
September 9, 2011 15:08
Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan

Tayyip Erdogan 521. (photo credit: REUTERS/Umit Bektas)

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 Palestinians.

The court urged that Israel remove it from occupied land.

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 Northern Cyprus.

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 1974.



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.

According to 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 1915-1918.”

In July, Erdogan even demanded an apology from Armenian President Serzh Sarksyan for calling on schoolchildren to occupy eastern Turkey.

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 hypocrisy.

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.

Diplomatic relations 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 incident.

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.

That 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 start.”

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 human rights.”

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 EU.

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 region.

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.


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